Over the 52-year history of the Dallas Cowboys only a select few branded with a blue star achieved immortality on the ground. Unforgettable memories immediately resurface upon their mere mention.
Tony Dorsett. Herschel Walker. Emmitt Smith. Felix J …
Again, a very select few.
However this year, many novice and experienced owners alike believe DeMarco Murray is destined to earn his membership into the franchise's exclusive rush club.
Fanciers, however, better hold their horses. …
After human pinata Felix Jones (Mmmm, crow tastes good) succumbed to his 300th injury — quite the career milestone — in New England Week 6, the door of opportunity promptly flung open for the inexperienced Murray. Taking advantage of the situation, the rookie didn't run, he sprinted through it.
The following week against a very friendly St. Louis run defense, the Oklahoma product looked like Adrian Peterson and Billy Sims combined repeatedly gashing Rams en route to a team record 253 yards on 25 carries. It was the 10th-most prolific rushing performance in NFL history.
In Fantasyland his historic Week 7 sparked a frenzy.
Droves of owners plucked the rusher off waivers believing he would carry them to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, Murray didn't quite live up to the suddenly inflated expectations.
During the next six weeks, he was a good, but not a great commodity to own. Though his 104.9 total yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry were an impressive haul, Jason Garrett's insistence on throwing inside the red-zone limited him to just one touchdown. His subsequent 11.3 per game mark while in the catbird seat barely ranked inside the RB top-20. Felled by a broken right ankle versus the rival Giants in Week 14, his tenure as the starter, which began with a bang, ended with a whimper, dashing championship aspirations for millions.
Despite the disappointment, the fantasy community appears prepared to saddle Murray once again. With his average draft position (ADP) flirting with the first round in 12-team leagues (13.6), enthusiasm and optimism about the young rusher remains palpable.
But buyer beware.
To be fair there is plenty to like about Murray in 2012. His surgically repaired ankle has healed and likely won't limit him when training camp opens in two weeks. The Cowboys offense looks prolific, which should lead to ideal points-scoring conditions on the ground. And, most importantly, the plowshare will enter exhibition play as the unrivaled starter, meaning a sizable workload is in the offing. If all breaks right, a top-10 campaign is possible.
But there are several factors that conjure skepticism. Here are four reasons why drafting DeMarco could destroy your season:
The primary reason for his physical shortcomings stems from his running style. As Greg Cosell recently told NBC Rotoworld, Murray is an upright, straight-line runner who lacks open-field wiggle, a manner that leaves him vulnerable to devastating hits, particularly below the belt. In a way, he's the Darren McFadden of the NFC, an extremely talented player who simply can't stay healthy. You may pay for 16 games, but only cash 10, an unappealing prospect for owners hoping to minimize risk. Draft Murray and make darn sure you hog-tie, fasten, super-glue Felix Jones to him later on. The backup may have a larger role than most believe.
Jason Garrett. Admittedly, touchdown volume is incredibly hard to predict. It would seem very unlikely with an established running presence Garrett would again call "pass" near the goal-line an obscene number of times, but it's certainly possible. Recall, this is coach that made a number of baffling decisions a season ago (e.g. at Arizona). Last year, Tony Romo ranked fourth in passes inside the 10. And Dallas backs checked in at No. 26 in attempts inside the five. When it comes to play-calling, trustworthy Garrett is not.
Dez Bryant. The primary reason why Romo may be pressed to throw as much inside the 20 this year as last is Bryant. The Dallas brass, including Garrett, has made it no secret they want Dez to become the team's No. 1 vertical option. His improved work ethic and incredible physical gifts could propel him into superstardom, which, if achieved, would likely lead to more red-zone looks and touchdowns. That happens and Murray's scoring output could be hindered greatly.
Playoff schedule. Yes, defensive makeovers can occur overnight, but Murray's slate of opponents during the most critical weeks of the fantasy season is a major turnoff. Overall his schedule is fantasy friendly (8th-easiest according to FantasyPros), but clashes at Cincinnati (Week 14) and home versus Pittsburgh (Week 15) could again bounce Murray backers from the money rounds. If he starts off strong, consider him a strong sell-high candidate.
When @YahooNoise followers were presented with "Who would you choose between: Murray, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch and Trent Richardson?" earlier this week, the results were mixed. The breakdown of the 56 responses: Forte (19), Richardson (18), Murray (10), Lynch (9). Obviously it's a small sample, but it proves how tough picking a RB in the late-first, early-second is this year. There is no sure-fire answer.
Undoubtedly, every running back carries risk. Investing in those with the least amount is what savvy gamers strive to do. From the Noise's perspective, Murray's floor, primarily due to his injury-laden past, is lower than other backend RB1s (Yes, even Richardson). He could be Felix Part II.
This year, the "D" in "Big D" won't stand for DeMarco.
Fearless Forecast (12 games): 208 attempts, 934 rushing yards, 28 receptions, 193 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio
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