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DeMarco Murray's Outlook For 2014

By Jared Smola 12:08am EDT 8/20/14

Demarco Murray is interesting in that if you’re selecting anywhere after 4 in your draft you’re probably going to come face to face with him and the question is going to cross your mind…. “Am I feeling lucky? Is 2014 the year Murray is able to stay healthy the entire season and am I willing to bet my second round pick on that?”

At Sports Injury Predictor we like to take these nagging questions about risk and quantify them as best we can. It’s worth saying that Murray finds himself in the second round (and not in the 10th like oft injured Darren McFadden) because of the ENORMOUS upside he has as the lead back in a Scott Linehan offense. Those running backs are pure PPR gold as no one blesses the pass like Linehan does. And for a team projected to behind the score like Dallas is, those screens, dump offs and wheel routes boost Demarco Murray’s already high ceiling.

If only the conversation could end there but unfortunately playing through a full season has been Murray’s kryptonite. Our Injury Predictor algorithm has Murray as our 8th most likely Running Back to get injured in 2014 due to three main reasons:

  • Previous injury history
  • Size
  • Projected workload

Injury History:

  • College – tore his patella tendon in 2007 and his hamstring in 2008
  • 2011 – pulled his hamstring missing 2 games and then fractured his ankle missing another 4
  • 2012 – sprained his left foot and ended up missing 6 games
  • 2013 – sprained his MCL and missed 2 games

A quick look at these injuries occurring in such a short amount of time and you don’t need an injury prediction algorithm to tell you that there is a high chance of Murray getting injured this season.

What is interesting about these injuries is that the sequence of injury events he has suffered follows a correlation that we have identified in our injury “Correlation Matrix”. This is the part of our injury prediction algorithm that correlates injuries with each other based on which injuries occurred first. If you had to list the top 3 injuries Murray was most likely to suffer from in his rookie year after he came down with the hamstring injury it would have been a) repeated hamstring injuries b) ankle injury c) knee injury. He has checked all three of these boxes in that order in the last 3 years.

This year he has a very high chance of injuring his knee as MCL injuries have a high statistical chance of reoccurrence the following year as well contribute to other knee injuries occuring.

Size

At Sports Injury Predictor we have our own way of thinking about size and we call it the SIP Ratio. The rule is that the higher the player’s SIP ratio is the less likely they are to get injured. Murray finds himself in the bottom third of all Running Back SIP Ratio’s (18thout of 69) with a SIP Ratio of 1.041473. To give you an idea of players who have a slightly higher SIP Ratio than Murray – Ryan Mathews, Knowshon Moreno, and Chris Ivory

We’re not suggesting that size is the main factor here but there is a logical train of thought here that suggests that on average bigger players will better be able to withstand the trauma of an NFL season as opposed to smaller players. The numbers seem to back that up for the Running Back position.

Projected Workload

Murray’s workload is going to be high this year. There is a lot of talk about how Linehan likes to work with 2 Running Backs, but there is not a lot of depth behind Murray. Dunbar is coming off his own severe knee injury, Randle is just a guy and Ryan Williams has missed more games due to injury since entering the league in 2012 than Demarco Murray and Darren McFadden have had since then combined.

So Murray is going to be the bell cow. And with that comes risk. Statistically every time he touches the ball he is one step closer to getting injured. Which is true for every player, however when you put the whole injury puzzle together you get a player that is being set up to fail fantasy owners one more time in 2014.

As likely as he is to get injured he may still have a healthy year. You see that happen sometimes where a player who has had back to back seasons marred by injury is able to power through. Marshawn Lynch is a great example of a player who started off unable to make it through a full season for his first 3 seasons and then was healthy ever since. Heck Ryan Mathews was even able to pull off a healthy season last year so anything is possible!

Between the coaching staff looking to get him in space, his G-d given ability to run between the tackles and outside, along with a quarterback who will dumping off passes all day, Murray has a ton of upside. According to Rotoworld he has an ADP of 18 which places him in the middle of round 2 in a 12 team draft. This feels like the price is right based on the injury risk vs. reward but if you’re drafting Murray look to mitigate the risk either by handcuffing with Dunbar or investing in a few lower tier backs in the hope that one of them hits a starting gig at some point in the season.

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