There were high hopes for running back DeMarco Murray heading into the 2012 season, but another injury forced him out of six games. After rushing for only 663 yards, Murray isn’t getting the same love as he did prior to the year. But why not? He’s still a big, fast running back with youth on his side.
The key to projecting Murray in 2013 is determining his snap count. That’s also the hard part. Most will argue that you can’t project Murray to play all 16 games because he’s injury prone, but that’s really difficult to argue. Yes, he’s suffered injuries in his first two seasons in the league, but he could just be unlucky, too. Two seasons is hardly a significant enough sample for us to declare with any sort of confidence if Murray is injury prone or not.
That doesn’t mean we should project Murray to play every snap because 1) running backs as a whole get injured often and 2) the Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle. If the Cowboys run 1,100 offensive plays this year, Murray will probably be on the field for around 660 of them—60 percent. That number factors in the risk of injury.
In his rookie year, Murray touched the ball on 51.0 percent of his snaps, and that number dropped to 40.7 percent in 2012. If it evens out at around, say, 44.0 percent in 2013, Murray would touch the ball 290 times.
Murray has historically caught 2.61 passes per game. If we project him to play 14 games in 2013, he’s looking at around 37 catches. That would leave 253 carries. Murray’s career YPC is 4.8, but that number will probably continue to fall with the Cowboys failing to upgrade the offensive line in a significant way. At 4.4 YPC, Murray would rush for 1,113 yards on 253 carries.
It’s difficult to project Murray’s touchdowns because they don’t occur often; he’s scored on just 1.6 percent of his career touches. Plus, the Cowboys could give short-yardage work to Randle, who was excellent in that role in college. Murray’s touchdown rate should still increase, but probably just a little to around 2.0 percent. That would give him around six total scores on the season.
Final 2013 Projection: 253 carries for 1,113 yards (4.4 YPC), 37 receptions for 263 yards (7.1 YPR), six total touchdowns
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.