Fantasy Football: Latavius Murray goes to Vikings, but don't expect vintage Adrian Peterson production
The Vikings replace Adrian Peterson with Latavius Murray, and Jamey Eisenberg looks at Murray's Fantasy value in Minnesota.
After a quiet start in free agency, the running backs are finally finding new homes. Eddie Lacy went to Seattle, Rex Burkhead signed in New England, and early Thursday morning Latavius Murray agreed to a three-year contract with Minnesota.
We’re still waiting on destinations for other prominent running backs like Adrian Peterson , Jamaal Charles and LeGarrette Blount , but Murray signing with the Minnesota Vikings is likely the end of the Peterson era in Minnesota. Murray will now try to fill Peterson’s big shoes, and Fantasy owners hope he will be just as successful.
Why Seahawks picked Lacy
For the past 10 seasons, Peterson was the starter for the Vikings, and he had 11,747 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns and 245 catches for 1,945 yards and five touchdowns. He was among the best running backs over that span, including finishes as a top-10 Fantasy option in three of the past five seasons.
It didn’t end well for Peterson in Minnesota after he was limited to three games in 2016 because of knee and groin injuries and averaged a career-low 1.9 yards per carry when in the lineup. Part of his poor rushing average could be due to Peterson, 31, getting older, but the Vikings also had a miserable offensive line.
That problem now belongs to Murray, who is coming to Minnesota after four seasons in Oakland. He leaves behind one of the best offensive lines with the Oakland Raiders , who were ranked No. 4 in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus. By comparison, the Vikings offensive line was ranked No. 29.
Minnesota addressed its offensive line in free agency by signing left tackle Riley Reiff from Detroit and right tackle Mike Remmers from Carolina for a combined $88 million in new contracts. That duo will join left guard Alex Boone and Joe Berger , who will either be at center or right guard, according to the Pioneer Press. For the spot not occupied by Berger, options are Nick Easton at center, Jeremiah Sirles at right guard or a player not currently on the roster at right guard.
Fantasy owners hope that group will be successful for Murray, who was the No. 13 running back in standard leagues last season with 195 carries for 788 yards (4.04-yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns and 33 catches for 264 yards. In 2015, Murray was the No. 11 running back with 266 carries for 1,066 yards (4.01-yards per carry) and six touchdowns and 41 catches for 232 yards.
Last season was choppy for Murray, who shared playing time with rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard . Murray had 15 touches or less in each of his first four games before missing two outings with a toe injury. He returned in Week 7 with seven games in a row with at least 16 touches, but he only had one game with that total in his final three outings.
He scored at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league in nine of 14 games, but he was mostly touchdown dependent with only four games with more than 60 rushing yards, including two with at least 100 rushing yards. And he had seven games with at least 80 total yards.
In Minnesota, Murray will likely share playing time with Jerick McKinnon , who paired with Matt Asiata in 2016 to help replace Peterson (Asiata is currently a free agent). McKinnon had 159 carries for 539 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and 43 catches for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Asiata added 121 carries for 402 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and six touchdowns and 32 catches for 263 yards.
As you can see, the rushing average was better for McKinnon and Asiata compared to Peterson, although it wasn’t great. And combined, McKinnon and Asiata were productive with 1,459 total yards and 10 total touchdowns despite the poor offensive line play, which is encouraging for Murray. McKinnon and Asiata combined for at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league eight times.
The Vikings will likely use Murray on rushing downs and let him work at the goal line, and use McKinnon as a change-of-pace rusher and on passing downs. But with 74 catches over the past two seasons, Murray can still be part of the passing game as well.
By signing with the Vikings, Murray remains on the radar as a No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he’s worth drafting around Round 5 in all leagues. McKinnon is worth a late-round pick as a handcuff, with his value higher in PPR formats.
We hope the offensive line is improved in Minnesota this year. And we hope the Vikings will commit to Murray, maybe like they did with Peterson before he got hurt.
No one should expect Murray to play like Peterson in his heyday, but he can still be a starter for your Fantasy team. And we’ll see if Peterson can now land somewhere to keep him Fantasy relevant in 2017.
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