Yesterday, I gave safety Barry Church a draft grade as if he were a rookie player. I used Church’s measurables alone, ignoring any of his NFL production. The reason for that is because initial performances can be misleading. In a small sample of games, players often overachieve or underperform relative to their respective level of talent. We see this all the time with players like Eddie Royal (initial overachiever) and Michael Crabtree (initial underachiever).
Today, I’ll take a look at running back DeMarco Murray. On the field, Murray has shown the ability to play at a very high level. He’s averaged 4.8 YPC in his two seasons in the league and he has caught 60 passes in only 23 games. To many fans, however, Murray has been a bust because of 1) his injuries and 2) an inability to find the end zone.
From a physical standpoint alone, Murray is an above-average athlete. At 213 pounds, Murray ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. That’s an outstanding weight/speed combination—a trait that’s extremely predictive of NFL success for running backs. Actually, running backs in Murray’s range of speed have been around six times as productive as those below 4.50. That’s a remarkable difference and suggests Murray’s initial NFL efficiency isn’t a fluke.
Murray also ran a 4.18 short shuttle, so he has short-area quickness. When you combine that with his 34.5-inch vertical and 10-4 broad jump, you have the makings of an explosive athlete. Perhaps Murray’s biggest weakness from a physical standpoint is his height; the best NFL running backs have actually been short and stocky. Murray’s 6-0 frame could be one of the primary reasons he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
Re-Grade: Third Round
I think Murray is an outstanding player in for a big 2013 season, but running back isn’t a valuable position. Only a handful of running backs should even be considered in the first and second rounds simply because the position is so dependent on teammates that it isn’t scarce. Why draft a running back in the second round when you can have one who will be just as efficient in the fifth round?
In any event, Murray’s measurables suggest he’s better than his bulk stats show. The key will be health, but with it Murray’s elite athleticism should be enough to allow him to break through this year.
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.