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Oakland Raiders

Fantasy Football: Latavius Murray just a flex option in Week 3

December 06 2015: Running Back Latavius Murray of the Oakland Raiders during a 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Stadium in Oakland, Ca. (Photo by Rob Holt/Icon Sportswire)
Rob Holt/Icon Sportswire

Fantasy football owners drafted Latavius Murray this year, typically, with eyes on securing a dependable second running back. Murray may not have the pedigree of some of his peers, but with 1,300 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in 2015 he was one of the league’s most productive runners.

So far in 2016, Murray’s done well for those who invested in him. The 26-year-old has managed at least 60 scrimmage yards and a score in each of his two games played. Probably the best news for Murray owners is how well the Raiders tailback’s been running. The 2015 Pro-Bowler is running at 5.3 yards per carry clip.

Given his own successes and widespread injury at the position, Murray figures to be started in many leagues this Sunday. Of course, if you’re one of the many owners who’s now down an Adrian Peterson, Jonathan Stewart, Danny Woodhead, Ameer Abdullah, etc. then you probably have no other choice. But if you do have a few other solid options then it’s well worth considering them over Murray.

Awaiting Murray and his Raiders are the Tennessee Titans. The Titans, led by the imposing Jurrell Casey, boast one of the league’s more imposing run defenses. The Titans started their season off by absolutely smothering Adrian Peterson. The former NFL Most Valuable Player was limited to a paltry 31 yards on his 19 carries.

Tennesse didn’t fare quite as well in Week 2 against Detroit, surrendering 137 rushing yards. However, it’s important to note how the Lions reached that figure. Detroit went with a full-blown committee approach, with four runners gaining between 31 and 38 yards. Excluding quarterback Matthew Stafford (who ran for 31 yards on two scrambles), that means three running backs had at least four, and no more than 11, totes.

For the Lions, that’s all well and good. 137 yards on the ground, especially on just 23 total rushes (six yards per carry), is outstanding. For fantasy purposes, though, using four runners to get there means that none of them had all that strong a fantasy day. Efficient days, sure, but without a touchdown, not ones that are usable for fantasy purposes.

The Raiders might rely on Murray to be their workhorse against Tennessee, but what Detroit showed and what we’ve seen out of Oakland suggests it’s not likely. Murray’s averaging 11 carries a game after two. Many expected that the Raiders would reduce his touches after his production waned late in ’15 and the early returns suggest they were right.

Behind Murray, two rookie running backs have made their share of plays for Oakland thus far. DeAndre Washington (14 total touches, 76 scrimmage yards) and Jalen Richard (12 total touches, 122 scrimmage yards) have both produced. Murray is the leader in Oakland’s backfield, but, especially after Detroit’s success using multiple backs, it seems likely that the Raiders will deploy all three at some point today.

With at least 10-12 touches all but assured for Murray, he’s a solid flex option. 50-60 yards is within reason. That said, he’ll likely need a touchdown to be a fantasy difference-maker in Week 3. Given that Tennessee’s yet to allow a rushing score, this may not be the week to count on Murray finding the end zone.

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