Murray and Mathews: early fantasy reaction

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Liz Loza
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In an attempt to further erase Chip Kelly from the annals of Philadelphian history, the Eagles are reportedly finalizing a deal to trade RB DeMarco Murray to the Titans. While the terms of the deal won’t be revealed until Wednesday, it appears as though Philly is the early winner.

The No. 1 fantasy back two years ago, Murray struggled mightily in his first season away from Dallas. After leading the NFL in rushing yards in 2014, the former Cowboy closed out 2015 as fantasy’s RB18. Coming off of a year in which he averaged the fewest yards per carry of his career, Murray complained about not getting enough touches. While that certainly affected his production, his burst has been lacking since late 2014, when Dallas wore him down to the tune of nearly 400 totes.

The Titans have promised a more run-focused offense in 2016, expressing their desire to be both exotic and smashmouth. Noting the below-average talent comprising Tennessee’s backfield, it’s not a surprise to see the organization acquire a stout downhill runner. Admittedly, Murray is more explosive than the plodding Antonio Andrews and more proven than David Cobb, but his odometer reading should give fantasy owners pause. In addition, the Titans’ offensive line is a work in progress that, according to Football Outsiders, allowed its backfield to be stuffed 22 percent of the time.

The development of Marucs Mariota and a steady workload should aid in Murray’s ability to bounce back from a disappointing 2015, but chasing his 2014 season is straight-up silly. If his legs were fresher, I’d be more excited about his landing spot. As it stands now, however, I think he’s a low-end RB1, with more appeal in PPR leagues due to his pass-catching ability.

With Murray heading south, Ryan Mathews' stock is on the rise. It’s not 100 percent that Mathews will stay in Philly, but at the moment there doesn’t appear to be any movement. The better back when utilized, Mathews averaged 1.5 YPC more than Murray on 87 fewer touches, and scored the same number of rushing touchdowns.

The fewer touches piece is key. Mathews has proven that his body can’t stand up to fifteen-plus touches per outing, as evidence by the thirteen games he’s missed over the last two seasons. In fact, 2013 was the only year he was able to play in all sixteen games. In that year, he was the fantasy RB12.

If that’s his ceiling, then he’s an evident RB2 heading into 2016, assuming he can stay healthy. If owners are scared away by Mathews’ durability issues and let him fall far enough, he’s an incredible value. But if the market swings in the other direction and fans of the virtual game fall in love with his potential, then he’s someone to avoid. It’ll be interesting to see his value fluctuate as the situation evolves.

Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF