Murray, Mathews crowd Eagles' fantasy backfield

The DeMarco Murray watch is over ... and it couldn't have ended much worse from a fantasy football perspective.

The 2014 rushing leader has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and will enter a crowded backfield that includes newly-signed Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Despite the success that running backs have had in coach Chip Kelly's system in the past, this move is a virtual "death blow" for a few reasons. First, let's talk about how it affects Murray, who led all running backs in fantasy points last season.

The Oklahoma product touched the football 449 times during the course of the year and finished with 294.1 fantasy points. Let's do the math ... that's 0.65 fantasy points per touch. Now, let's look at the Eagles offense. In 2014, this unit ran the football 474 times, or 82 more times than Murray alone. Let's round that total up to 500 (the Eagles rush attempts in 2013) and split those carries up among the 2015 backfield of Murray, Mathews and Sproles.

Murray is a virtual lock to the lead all Eagles backs in carries, so let's give him 275 of the projected 500 attempts. That would leave Mathews with around 175 carries and Sproles with 50. Now, let's take a look at potential reception totals. In 2014, Eagles runners put up a combined 70 receptions. With Sproles in the mix, Murray's opportunities as a receiver out of the backfield are going to decline. It's a fact. In this scenario, I'll project him to lose more than half of the 57 receptions he had a year ago.

So, let's do the math.

If I project Murray to receive 275 carries and catch 25 passes, that gives him 300 touches ... or 40 fewer than LeSean McCoy had last season. And I think that's even a bit generous. Now let's multiply those 300 projected touches by the 0.65 fantasy-point-per touch average from 2014. That gives us 195 fantasy points, or close to 100 fewer points than he scored last season. Once again, I am being generous with Murray's touch totals (barring injuries to Mathews or Sproles), and he's still projected to score more than six fewer fantasy points per game.

Now, there will be a lot of fans out there who disagree with this assessment because Kelly's offense generates a ton of plays and "more than enough to go around." I would answer that question much like WWE's Mike the Miz ... "Really?" The Eagles already led the league in total offensive plays (1,127) last season, so how many more can he squeeze out of his team?

Not enough for three running backs to sustain consistent fantasy production. Not even close.

Aside from all of the stats I've thrown at you regarding offensive snaps, carries and touches, I haven't even brought up the fact that Murray is a breakdown candidate after a massive workload in 2014. If we look back at the history of NFL runners with 390-plus carries in a single season, well, the following year's production is often times a disappointment. Of the 10 instances in the Super Bowl era where at back has reached that mark, just one (Eric Dickerson, 1984) was able to duplicate even 90 percent of his previous season's production. Gerald Riggs (77 percent) and James Wilder (74 percent) were the lone runners other than Dickerson to duplicate better than 70 percent.

Not to be a "Negative Nancy" again, but there is very little to like about this move from a fantasy value perspective when it comes to Murray or Mathews. It also hurts the overall depth of the running back position, and it wasn't deep to start. Had Murray remained in Dallas and Mathews was the top runner in Philadelphia, well, that would have been a best-case scenario. But with these two together in the same backfield, even under Kelly, would you really feel comfortable leaning on either of them in a prominent role?

When it comes to Murray and Mathews, most notably the former, it's buyer beware.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.