October 16, 2014
Fantasy Stud DeMarco Murray is off to a fantastic start; but Fantasy Owners and Dallas Cowboy Fans should be ready for heart-break.
With Running Back DeMarco Murray on a record pace to have 424 rushing attempts, 56 receptions, and 2,093 yards; there are a lot of excited fans and fantasy owners giddy for more. I caution you all to push the pause button and get your back ups ready. By our SEP injury rating calculation, DeMarco Murray rates even lower than the injury poster child Steven Jackson; and we fully anticipate him to be on the sideline as a spectator this year.
Our SEP injury rating system is in the works. The unique injury rating system is currently being fine tuned for accuracy and tested against past evidence, however the rating system is functional enough to show the glaring probability that Murray will miss 3 or more games this year. The SEP injury rating system combines Science, Evidence, and Performance to rank a players injury probability amongst their peers while also predicting how many games the player will miss due to injury. Each player is rated on a 100 point scale with a multitude of factors assessed including their height, weight injury history, age, etc. The end result for DeMarco Murray is an 83.5 rating, which indicates he will miss some time this year. For comparison purposes, Steven Jackson who is 5 years Murray’s senior and a veteran to the injury report, is scored at an 88.5. Division mate and 2013 rushing title holder LeSean McCoy has a SEP rating of 90.0. The SEP injury rating system will soon help you pick your fantasy player with your eyes wide open to how much you can depend on him. We expect this comprehensive injury rating will be a valuable tool for fantasy owners, and all the way up to actual NFL franchise owners. While we doubt that any system can predict each an every injury in a violent sport like football, there are many factors that allow a reasonable projection of injury probability. With the skillful use of Science, Evidence and Performance; theinjuryreportdoctor.com and our SEP injury rating system will take injury evaluation and outlook to the next level.
Now that we have gotten our SEP injury rating teaser out of the way, lets get back to DeMarco Murray. The combination of Murray’s touches, his injury history, and even his speed works against him. For those who payed attention in Physics class, you will remember that f= m x v2 (Force equals mass times velocity squared). Murray is a not only a big running back at 227 lbs (the average NFL running back is about 215 lbs) but he is also one of the faster running backs with a reported 40 time of 4.41. While Murray may not stand out as much as a Calvin Johnson or a Julio Jones, he would definitely fall into my category of being a “Freaky Talent”. The verdict is still out on whether he is also “Supremely Skilled”. As I have stated in the past, these “Freaky Talented” athletes are like race cars, they are pushing their bodies to the max and need frequent pit stops and repairs. Now I am no racing expert (although after watching the movie “Rush”, I feel like I know a little bit….good movie!), but right now Murray is circling the track and skipping the pit stops to change his tires and whatever else they change at those stops. The facts of the matter are that Murray generates a lot of force when he runs, considering his size and speed (f = m x v2). At this pace he will generate his force against an opposing defender who likely generates even more force, over and over again throughout the season. He is on a pace for far greater than 500 episodes of impact with other players and the ground. If these objective (factual) factors are not convincing enough, just simply watch him run. Murray runs with the physicality of an Adrian Peterson, while also seeming to be taller than he is with a more upright style like the legendary Marcus Allen. These are very flattering comparisons to two of the greatest running backs of all time, but in my opinion the mixture of the 2 styles is troublesome. As you can see in the video below, Murray tends to have to get low to deliver his impact to a defender rather than staying low. In my opinion, he would be better served to either stay lower with his same physical style or be more elusive with his more upright posture. On the occasions in which he is getting hit, rather than delivering the punishment; he leaves the defender a wide area of impact based on his upright posture. There are not many positions in football in which having less leverage is a good thing, and by having a more upright posture than the defender during impact; Murray is likely to lose the leverage battle often. Despite Marcus Allen having a Hall of Fame career, his statistics tell the story that an upright runner in the NFL has their limitations. If you look at his career, he failed to go over 1000 yards or get more than 225 carries for 13 out of his 16 seasons. Thats right, I am telling you that the great Marcus Allen only had 3 – 1, 000 yard seasons and they were within his first 4 years in the league. http://www.nfl.com/player/marcusallen/2499399/careerstats Some may look at this as surprising in a league that was more run centered during that time. I look at it as a sign that a running back with this style and posture is not built to be a work horse, especially when they look for contact.
If your still not convinced, I would finally say that there is no better teacher than history itself. Look no further than two letters–GP a.k.a. Games Played. DeMarco Murray has NEVER completed a full professional season. He has suffered all of the “usual suspect” injuries such as ankle sprains, hamstring pulls, sprained knees, etc. The more disturbing piece of this is that he has not been a true RB 1 until last years 2013 season (Remember Felix Jones…what happen to him?) and still was unable to stay on the field.
I admit, it is possible that the Dallas Cowboys could adjust their game plan and cause a small improvement in Murray’s SEP injury rating over the course of the season, but that remains to be seen. Many have applauded the Cowboys tactics of drafting Offensive Linemen and relying on their running game, but I think they are off base on this specific tactic with DeMarco Murray unless the objective is to get him injured. In a league that has significantly leaned toward the passing game, top running backs are averaging about 225 carries and 45 catches per year. Even those who hover near these averages are suffering injuries and most teams are well prepared with a 2, 3, or sometimes 4 back approach. With Murray, on pace for almost double the average rushes, it appears that the Cowboys believe this is the 90’s and that Romo, Bryant and Murray are the new Big 3. But even the great Emmit Smith never went over 400 carries in a season. Only 2 running backs have crossed this threshold in the modern NFL and only 5 have gone over 400 carries in a season in NFL history http://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/rush_att_single_season.htm Maybe Murray is special and can join this group; and joining this group would most definitely mean playing all 16 games. Those who have achieved this, have not faired well the following year as 3 out 5 did not play a complete season the following year.
Larry Johnson, who was the most recent back over 400 carries is also the all-time leader with 416 attempts during his 2006 campaign with the Kansas City Chiefs. He never played another full season after his record setting season. His following year was derailed by a foot injury that cost him 8 games and subsequent years were riddled with injuries and other miscellaneous issues.
I think it is very clear that this pace is not sustainable when you study the Science, the Evidence, and the Performance related to this issue. I would look for injuries and games missed for DeMarco Murray by week 13, if not sooner.
If you own DeMarco Murray, you should obviously play him. My advice is to have a good stable of back ups and to keep an eye out for good running back pick ups as the season progresses. Keep in mind that you not only are waiting for DeMarco to get injured but his offensive line showed its first chink in the armor this week with Right Tackle Doug Free going down for the next 3-4 weeks with a right foot injury. You need to look no further than to LeSean McCoy’s numbers to find out what happens to backs when their offensive linemen get hurt.
Even beyond a serious injury, I think you see little injuries and a gradual decrease in touches to come first. If the offensive line is mostly in tact, you can simply stash one of his back ups Lance Dunbar or Joseph Randle (if he can stay out of department stores). The bottom line is you have to be ready. Sure Coach Garrett is talking about lightening Murray’s load, but talking and doing are two different things and my bet is they run him into the ground.
As for the indirect effect of a Murray’s decline or injury, you can count on Tony Romo looking like Tony Romo by the end of this season. I think Romo will remain a decent fantasy quarterback when Murray gets hurt but if the back up running backs can not get the job done like Murray, 3rd and longs likely means more sacks and interceptions for Romo. Romo owners may need to think hard before thinking that Romo throwing more in Murray’s absence is a good thing.
Finally, for those who are submitting their ticket for the Cowboys to end their season in Arizona at the big game….you may want to sit tight. Unless Dunbar or Randle are more talented than I believe, the decline of the running game will expose many of the deficiencies that the Dallas Cowboys still have. In my opinion, none bigger than the defense who is helped by a ball control approach which keeps then fresh and aggressive when its their turn; and of course Tony Romo. I don’t think the door is closed on Romo’s recent back injury and that door may be knocked of the hinges if he is forced to revert to his gun slinging self.
So in summary, keep an eye on any signs of Murray slowing down and any more injuries to the Cowboys offensive line. Most importantly, PROCEED WITH CAUTION FOR ALL MOVES THAT INVOLVE DeMARCO MURRAY OR THE COWBOYS! They are approaching the top of the roller coaster ride, and in the words of Isaac Newton- “What goes up must come down”