I live right outside of Philly. I was born and raised an Eagles fan and always will be, so it pains me to say anything good about any player on the other three teams in the NFC East, especially someone from the Cowboys. But I have to give credit where credit is due and talk about a rookie who I think will have fantasy football sleeper impact as soon as 2011.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Cowboys rookie RB DeMarco Murray.
A red-shirt freshman in 2006, Murray's first active year in 2007 started off with a bang after he scored fifteen all-purpose touchdowns and averaged a whopping 6.0 yards a carry. It didn't come without an injury, however, after Murray suffered a dislocated knee cap against Texas Tech, missing the remainder of the season and spring workouts.
In 2008, Murray was a beast on the ground, racking up his first 1000-yard season with 1,002 rushing yards, while rushing for fourteen touchdowns and averaging another healthy 5.6 ypc. He also showed his value as a pass-catcher, catching 31 passes for 395 yards. But again, his season didn't come without another injury after he suffered a hamstring injury on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 Championship game. He also wound up missing the BCS Championship game against Florida.
Murray's rushing stats took a dip in 2009 after putting up a mere 705 rushing yards, which wound up second behind Chris Brown (791). But he did make up for it by finishing second on the team in receiving yardage with 522, behind only Ryan Broyles.
During his senior season, Murray made up for his 2009 debacle by setting career highs in carries (282), rushing yards (1,214), rushing touchdowns (15), receptions (71), receiving yards (594) and receiving touchdowns (5).
On top of that, Murray also wound up setting records in four categories:
- All-Time Leader in Points Scored (390)
- All-Time Leader in Touchdowns (65)
- All-Time Leader in All Purpose Yards (6,718)
- All-Time Leader in Receiving Yards for a Running Back (1,571)
The Cowboys were so impressed with Murray's resume', they wound up drafting him with the No. 71 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Even though he was drafted a bit later than some experts had predicted, Murray fell into a great situation as a Cowboy. Marion Barber is expected to be released after showing there is close to nothing left in the tank. Tashard Choice is still one of the better pass catchers in the league, but he hasn't been consistent enough for the coaching staff to give him a bigger role. That only leaves Felix Jones, who is expected to be the starter. But like Murray, he has shown that he isn't exactly the pillar of health when given a full plate in the backfield.
Murray is expected to start off on punt returns in 2011, but it sounds like there is a really good chance he can create havoc for Jones if he can get rid of the injury-prone tag that plagued him all through his Oklahoma career.
Here is what some in the Dallas media and coaches are saying about Murray:
ESPN Dallas - "He’s a complete back," Jason Garrett said. "He’s a guy who is big and sturdy. If you get a chance to be around him, you see how long he is and how big his hands are. He is a physical-looking halfback and a guy, again, who has versatility both as a runner, as a receiver and as a third-down blocker. We are going to create competition on our football team and bring him in there and see where he stacks up against the other guys."
Fox Sports Southwest - The Cowboys won't say this publicly, but they need the former Oklahoma star to quickly become their feature running back. Felix Jones was selected in the first round because the Cowboys thought he'd complement Marion Barber. But it would be a huge surprise for Barber to return to the Cowboys for another season.
While I would be shocked to see Murray flat out win the starting job over Jones as soon as this year, he could do just enough that would make him an intriguing option in flex leagues and, especially, dynasty leagues with Jones' contract set to expire in 2013. Plus, Garrett is expected to use Murray a lot in the passing game, which will help his value immensely in PPR leagues.
The skies the limit for Murray. But in order for him to have true sleeper value, he is going to have to spend more time on the field and less time in the trainers' room.