Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: DeMarco Murray Rising, a Year After Being Overrated


Last year, I listed DeMarco Murray as my pick for most overrated back  in preliminary rankings, after he was rising to the top seven among running backs selected. He missed six games with injury, only scored four touchdowns, and finished 27th in points scored among running backs.

My opinion on DeMarco Murray has changed very little over the last year, yet he has gone from overvalued to undervalued in the fickle world of public opinion. He is currently going in the range of the 18th running back off the board. The shine has worn off, and he has never played a full season. The “injury prone” label is no doubt contributing, a label I find to be overused. Last year, I had him at 13th in my projections; this year, he is 11th. Here’s why.

These rankings are put together with projections based on overall team projection passing and rushing, with the receiving numbers allocated among all skill players. It’s art and science, and I wouldn’t pretend it is exact. It is a way of applying reason to the process. I try to look at recent historical performance on a team level, key personnel changes, and apply regression principles. Obviously, some teams are more guess work than others. Kansas City going to Andy Reid or Alex Smith, for example, or Arizona bringing in Carson Palmer instead of what was a dreadful quarterback situation.

After I get the team projections, I then divide it up among the players, again trying to project percentage of touches/targets and role in offense. With Murray, for example, I am comfortable projecting him as the clear top choice at running back, and in line for at least 70% of the running back touches when healthy. DeMarco Murray still averaged over 90 yards a game from scrimmage last year, and that was coming back from injury. The other backs on the team averaged 3.4 yards per carry, so while Murray’s average dropped, he was the best back on the team, clearly. The issues were inside with run blocking, and the team sought to address it in the first round by taking center Travis Frederick. The early returns look promising.

The last issue is touchdowns. They are notoriously fickle for backs, and among teams that scored single digit rushing touchdowns in 2011, the average jumped to 11.2 in 2012. We saw Detroit, another team with a high passing yard total and a stud receiver, more than double the rushing TD’s in 2012 with Leshoure as beneficiary of short runs. While I don’t expect such a sizeable leap, I am projecting Dallas to score more rushing touchdowns, with Murray getting the most.  Add all of those up (useful as runner and receiver, clear top back, touchdown regression to mean, and health) and that’s why Murray is still the same guy to me, but at a much better price.

The projections are for a scoring system using a 0.5 point per reception, 6 pts for TD, 1 pt every 10 yards. Some leagues are PPR and some not, so adjust backs who are used more as receivers up or down based on which direction your league moves. For example, in a non-PPR league, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles have a similar overall projection, but Sproles is way more valuable in PPR. Here are the full rankings:

  1. Adrian Peterson, MIN (264)
  2. C.J. Spiller, BUF (255) [Related: C.J. Spiller: The Buffalo Bills Are Going to Run Him Until He Pukes]
  3. Doug Martin, TB (254)
  4. Trent Richardson, CLE (251)
  5. Jamaal Charles, KC (246)
  6. Ray Rice, BAL (240)
  7. Arian Foster, HOU (239)
  8. LeSean McCoy, PHI (229)
  9. Alfred Morris, WAS (213) [Related: Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley, and Young Backs With High Rushing Yards but Few Receptions]
  10. Marshawn Lynch, SEA (212)
  11. DeMarco Murray, DAL (210)
  12. Steven Jackson, ATL (202)
  13. Lamar Miller, MIA (199) [Related: Fantasy Football 2013: Lamar Miller and Chris Ivory are Undervalued Based on What Dolphins and Jets Did Last Year]
  14. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC (196)
  15. Chris Johnson, TEN (195) [Related: Fantasy Football: Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene Are Overvalued in Tennessee]
  16. Stevan Ridley, NE (193)
  17. David Wilson, NYG (192)
  18. Darren McFadden, OAK (191)
  19. Reggie Bush, DET (189)
  20. Matt Forte, CHI (188)
  21. Frank Gore, SF (188)
  22. Ryan Mathews, SD (181) [Related: Ryan Mathews Fantasy Football Analysis: Is There Hope for a Rebound in 2013?]  
  23. Shane Vereen, NE (176)
  24. Chris Ivory, NYJ (166) [Related: Fantasy Football: Rookie Quarterbacks Have Dominated Teams With the Largest Running Game Improvements]
  25. Le’Veon Bell, PIT (156)
  26. Darren Sproles, NO (155)
  27. Giovani Bernard, CIN (154)
  28. Eddie Lacy, GB (144)
  29. DeAngelo Williams, CAR (140)
  30. Ahmad Bradshaw, IND (138)
  31. Montee Ball, DEN (137)
  32. Daryl Richardson, STL (136)
  33. Roy Helu, WAS (135)
  34. Danny Woodhead, SD (124)
  35. Jonathan Stewart, CAR (123)
  36. Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL (121)
  37. Rashard Mendenhall, ARI (120)
  38. Andre Brown, NYG (120)
  39. Pierre Thomas, NO (120)
  40. Mark Ingram, NO (119)
  41. Benjarvus Green-Ellis, CIN (113)
  42. Denard Robinson, JAC (111)
  43. Johnathan Franklin, GB (107)
  44. Fred Jackson, BUF (107)
  45. Ronnie Hillman, DEN (105)
  46. Bilal Powell, NYJ (104)
  47. Bryce Brown, PHI (104)
  48. Isaiah Pead, STL (103)
  49. Joique Bell, DET (103)
  50. Bernard Pierce, BAL (101)
  51. Ben Tate, HOU (95)
  52. Vick Ballard, IND (95)
  53. Michael Bush, CHI (95)
  54. Marcel Reece, OAK (92)
  55. Kendall Hunter, SF (90)
  56. Ryan Williams, ARI (88)
  57. Isaac Redman, PIT (79)
  58. Christine Michael, SEA (75)
  59. Daniel Thomas, MIA (72)
  60. Knile Davis, KC (70)

 [photos via USA Today Sports Images]

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