DeMarco Murray was the No. 1 Fantasy running back last year. He's in his prime at 27 and plays in an explosive offense for the Eagles. He could easily have another dominant season in 2015.
But he won't be on any of my Fantasy teams.
Murray is being drafted as the No. 12 overall pick according to the Average Draft Position on CBS Sports, and that's too early based on the potential pitfalls he could face. Going from the Cowboys to the Eagles is a slight concern because of the downgrade in offensive line, as well as sharing touches with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. He was the only show in Dallas last year.
But the biggest worry is Murray's workload from 2014, and I'm nervous about a breakdown based on the track record for running backs with that kind of heavy lifting. It's not good.
Including the playoffs, Murray had 497 total touches (433 carries and 61 catches), and he had 392 carries in the regular season alone. To put that in perspective, he had double the touches of Jamaal Charles last year (246), although he played three more games when you factor in the postseason. Still, you get the idea Murray was carrying the Cowboys in 2014 -- and potentially running his body into the ground.
You've heard us talk about the Curse of 370 carries before, and what happens when running backs get 400 touches. Murray hit both of those benchmarks and then some.
Terrell Davis, who had 499 total touches in 1998 for the Broncos (392 carries and 25 catches in the regular season and 78 carries and four catches in the playoffs), suffered a torn ACL the following year and never returned to form. He said in an interview with CBS Sports last year that too much work in one season "takes a toll" on a running back.
"Somebody said every back has a limited amount of touches," Davis said. "At some point it's going to catch up to you. The question is when."
The Eagles have said they want to manage Murray's workload this year, and they have that luxury with Mathews and Sproles. One report from Philadelphia suggests Murray will get about 17 carries a game, which averages out to 272 for the season if he stays healthy. Starting there, let's ballpark his numbers. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry in Dallas last year, which would give him about 1,278 yards this season. He also scored a touchdown about every 30 carries last year, which would give him nine touchdowns in 2015.
Those stats are respectable if he gets there, but keep in mind that LeSean McCoy, who Murray is replacing, averaged 4.2 yards per carry last year for the Eagles and scored about once every 63 carries. McCoy also got crushed as a receiver because of Sproles, going from at least 48 catches for four seasons prior to 2014 to just 28 last year. Murray had at least 53 catches each of the past two seasons.
But this is all assuming Murray stays healthy. He missed 11 games over the course of the three previous seasons prior to 2014, and his body could be in trouble from last year's workload, especially with nearly 500 total touches.
In full disclosure, I was burned by this theory last season with Marshawn Lynch, who had 403 total touches in 2013 in helping Seattle win the Super Bowl. Lynch had 301 carries and 36 catches in the regular season and 65 carries and one catch in the playoffs.
Instead of breaking down last year from all that work, Lynch was remarkable with an increase in Fantasy points from 222 in 2013 to 264 last season, and Murray can easily follow suit. But Lynch is closer to the exception than the rule.
There were 18 running backs who had 400-plus touches on 28 occasions from 2003-14. Of those 28 times, only six -- Edgerrin James (2004), LaDainian Tomlinson (2005), James again (2005), Adrian Peterson (2009), Ray Rice (2011) and Lynch -- produced an increase in Fantasy points the following season.
The 22 other examples where a running back hit 400 touches over that span produced negative results. Two running backs -- Tiki Barber and Ricky Williams -- retired following consecutive seasons with 400 touches. And nine times a running back suffered an injury -- Arian Foster (2013), Peterson (2013), Michael Turner (2009), Steven Jackson (2007), Larry Johnson (2007), Shaun Alexander (2006), Clinton Portis (2006), Curtis Martin (2005) and Jamal Lewis (2004) -- that caused him to miss games following a 400-touch campaign. Some of those injuries could be attributed to the heavy workload the year before.
Of the 20 times a running back played the year after getting 400 touches and saw a decline in production, 15 had their Fantasy points drop by at least 30 percent and 10 by at least 40 percent. The worst was Johnson, who went from 329 Fantasy points in 2006 - he had 475 touches, including the playoffs, which was the highest total during the past 10 years -- to 95 Fantasy points in 2007 on 188 touches in just eight games due to a foot injury.
Now, in looking at just his carries, the Curse of 370 is definitely troubling - and Lynch avoided that in 2013. There have been 17 times since 1988 where a running back has carried the ball at least 370 times in the regular season - Atlanta's Michael Turner was the last to do it in 2008 before Murray last year - and all of them declined in production the following season, whether due to injury or inconsistent play.
Not all of them were terrible. While nine played in 12 games or fewer due to injury, five still managed at least 1,200 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Again, Murray could reach those stats, but you're drafting him in the first round for much more.
All of this makes for a big red flag for Murray heading into this year, and it makes me want to invest in Mathews in Round 9 based on his ADP. Should Murray be forced to miss any time we could see Mathews as a Fantasy star.
It's worth it to draft Murray toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 because when healthy he should produce at a high level. But he won't be the same running back we saw with the Cowboys last season, and he could suffer a breakdown. He is not worth drafting in Round 1.