Alfred Morris burst onto the scene in Washington in 2012, rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns and cracking the top five fantasy backs as a rookie. Since then it’s been mostly downhill for the former sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, culminating with career lows across the board last season.
As a result the Redskins moved on from Morris and he landed with NFC East rival Dallas. Initially he seemed destined to fade into obscurity behind first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott and holdover Darren McFadden, but McFadden’s latest injury—a broken elbow suffered while trying not to drop his cell phone over Memorial Day weekend; you can’t make this stuff up—puts Morris back on the fantasy radar.
Here’s the problem: the Cowboys have leaned heavily on a feature back and not so much on a supporting cast. In 2012 DeMarco Murray shouldered 51% of the carries while Felix Jones accounted for 35%, the biggest share for a secondary Dallas back in the past four years. Murray’s workload climbed to 70% in 2013 and 82% in 2014 before the Cowboys let him leave via free agency. That led to McFadden’s career-high 239 carries last season as he accounted for two-thirds of the team’s running back carries.
Given that Jerry Jones spent the fourth overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft on Elliott, you have to believe he’s slated for at least the majority of carries—and more likely a Murray-sized portion. That leaves McFadden and Morris battling over table scraps, though McFadden’s injury nudges the door open for Morris to hoard the leftovers.
Note that we’re talking about carries here, not backfield touches. Morris has 47 career receptions, has never scored a receiving touchdown, and has zero shot of moving into the Cowboys’ third-down back role even if Lance Dunbar isn’t fully recovered from last season’s knee injury.
So the best-case scenario for Morris gives him around 100 carries as Elliott’s caddy. That’s half of Morris’ least-busy season, and with Alfred his fantasy value has relied heavily on volume, volume, volume. His career-low 202 carries last season netted a career-low 763 yards—a career-low 3.8 yards per carry—and a career-low one touchdown.
Don’t look for Morris to take a goal-line role that might provide sneaky fantasy value. For his career Morris averages 2.8 yards per carry in the red zone, and 1.9 yards per carry inside the 10. Things really dropped off last season as he averaged 2.7 yards per carry in short-yardage situations and went just 1-for-12 scoring on carries inside the 10 yard line. Bottom line, he’s no longer an effective-enough short-yardage back for the Cowboys to take Elliott off the field at the stripe.
Morris’ change of scenery leaves him as a handcuff in what is potentially a three-man backfield in Dallas. For Alf to reclaim even a fraction of his former fantasy glory he’ll need the Cowboys to bring along their top pick slowly (unlikely) or have him go bust entirely (also unlikely). On the bright side, the oft-injured McFadden has already lived up to his end of the bargain by pushing Morris into the RB2 position for the time being. But with no receptions to speak of and diminishing skills in the short game, even if the carries are there for Morris the productivity isn’t likely to be.