Talent has never been an issue for DeMarco Murray. Over his first 3 seasons as an NFL rusher he has averaged an obscene 4.97 yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns in that time span. The biggest roadblock to Murray being a truly dominant force in the NFL has been the inability of his body to hold up at this level. Plagued by injury throughout his young career he has missed 11 games in his first 3 years.
Make no mistake Murray is on a tear. No one could have predicted the extent to which the Dallas o-line has dominated its’ first 7 opponents that include the defending world champions no less. Murray has ripped off 7 consecutive games of 100 yards rushing and is looking great as he helps a visibly slower and older Tony Romo. Murray is on pace to rush for 2,093 yards over the course of the season.
What makes this all so very interesting is that this has the marks of Darren McFadden’s white hot start to the 2011 season.
McFadden lit up the NFL in the first 6 weeks of 2011. He averaged 128 total yards and 0.83 TDs per game putting him on track for 2048 total yards and 13 TDs on the year. He put his team on his back and led them to a 4-2 start for the first time since the Raiders marched to the Superbowl in 2002. No stranger to being injured McFadden had missed 10 games in his first 3 years due to injury.
In week 7 he went down to a lisfranc sprain and was never the same player again.
Beyond the similarity of their rushing stats and games missed, if you take a look at their physical profiles (which you can find on playerprofiler.com) you will see that these players have physical traits that are very similar too. So similar in fact, that if you search on Darren McFadden in top right corner the site calls out that his “Best Comparable” is Demarco Murray.
The following table lists their combine scores:
|Demarco Murray||Darren McFadden|
|40 yard dash||93rd percentile||99th percentile|
|Speed score||92nd percentile||97th percentile|
|Explosiveness score||75th percentile||78th percentile|
Are you getting the feeling that either McFadden and Murray are twins separated at birth or McFadden IS Murray which is why you never see them on the field at the same time…?
But that’s not all. Another area of similarity between them is the location of the injuries they have suffered. They both suffered injuries to their hamstrings, ankles and feet in their first 3 years.
If we use a heatmap to see what this looks like from a structural weaknesses point of view you get a very clear idea of the general similarity of these two players.
It’s an eerie similarity for two players who have so many other things in common.
Is Murray going to get injured in week 8? Probably not – but the longest he has ever stayed healthy for was up to week 13 which was in his first season and he only started as the lead back from week 8. If it is going to happen it will do so sooner rather than later. What is there to do about it?
Firstly, if you’re the Dallas Cowboys you decrease his touches per game. This is a strategy that is used by a lot of teams who have delicate running backs. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw are two of the most injury riddled players in the league but their snaps are being monitored and controlled to make sure neither of them is exposed to being worn down.
Demarco Murray is being given such a huge workload that even if there weren’t the pre-existing injury concerns, it’s an unsustainable rate for any back in the NFL to absorb. With every touch his statistical likelihood of injury goes up and being called upon to rush on average 27 times a game introduces an exponential element of risk that should be avoided even without the fragility he has shown in the past.
Secondly, if you play fantasy football you’re picking up Joseph Randle like a cheap pair of underwear and cologne (if he’s still out there). Murray is probably untradeable at the moment but it shouldn’t break your bank to get hold of what could be either a great trade piece or someone who gets to run behind arguably the best offensive line in football.