Old Faces, New Places: Latavius Murray, Jared Cook, Saints

Old Faces, New Places: Latavius Murray, Jared Cook, Saints

Player Analysis

Old Faces, New Places: Latavius Murray, Jared Cook, Saints

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The New Orleans Saints added familiar names at running back and tight end in the offseason, and both players will make their respective mark in fantasy football leagues this fall.

(Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports)

Latavius Murray

When the Saints declined to renew the contract of veteran running back Mark Ingram in free agency, it was evident this offense had a major hole to fill. While many gamers may have expected Alvin Kamara would become a full-time guy, the signing of Murray partially put a damper on that situation.

Kamara may still have a substantially larger role in the offense — after all, Drew Brees is in the overtime phase of his career, suggesting Sean Payton will pull out all the stops to give him the best shot at another ring. No matter how much more often or creatively Kamara is deployed, Murray will be asked to shoulder a substantial workload.

Year
Team
G
Att
Att/G
Rec
Rec/G
Tchs/G
2011
New Orleans Saints
10
122
12.2
11
1.1
13.3
2012
New Orleans Saints
16
156
9.8
6
0.4
10.1
2013
New Orleans Saints
11
78
7.1
7
0.6
7.7
2014
New Orleans Saints
13
226
17.4
29
2.2
19.6
2015
New Orleans Saints
12
166
13.8
50
4.2
18.0
2016
New Orleans Saints
16
205
12.8
46
2.9
15.7
2017
New Orleans Saints
16
230
14.4
58
3.6
18.0
2018
New Orleans Saints
12
138
11.5
21
1.8
13.3

The table is a look at Ingram’s involvement over his time with the Saints, focusing on rushing attempts, receptions and per-game touches. The average number of touches per contest over his entire career is 14.6. Even if Murray is asked to meet that figure, which is substantially down from Ingram’s 2014-17 pace, we’re still talking about a hearty share of the action. That 14.6 touches-a-game figure would have ranked 22nd in 2018’s NFL. Since Murray isn’t much of a receiver, Ingram’s career average of 12.5 carries per game would have ranked 21st last year. The peak of his rushing role with Kamara in the fold was 2017’s 14.4 attempts an outing, and this figure would sit 17th in 2018’s hierarchy.

The point being, if Murray matches Ingram’s role touch-for-touch, he’s in the RB2 territory for handles. Efficiency is extremely important in today’s NFL split backfield. According to PlayerProfiler.com‘s stats, Murray ranked 45th in 2018’s yards per touch, 47th in “true yards per carry” (focuses on consistency of positive gains, removing 10-plus-yarders), and 78th in fantasy points per opportunity. Those same rankings in 2017 were 51st, 38th and 90th. Murray consistently saw seven defenders in the box (11th most) and was the 14th-most productive back in these situations. Seeing 50.7 percent of his carries against standard seven-man fronts, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which ranked second in the league. Translation: His 6-foot-3 frame helps as much as one would expect in a mass of humanity.

While the offensive philosophy won’t experience wholesale changes without Ingram, few teams adapt as well on an in-game and week-to-week basis as the Saints under Payton. Murray will see games with 20-plus touches and others in the single digits. Game flow and matchup exploits will dictate his weekly utility. The “hot hand” situation also is a major factor that can be difficult to predict. If Kamara is destroying a defense, Murray’s touches are going to be depressed or reserved for late in the game so Kamara’s work is tapered.

Fantasy football outlook

Murray’s average draft position is 7:10 in PPR, making him the No. 36 back taken. He fares much better in standard scoring in terms of value, which doesn’t show up in the ADP. Given his modest volume of touches and limited role in the passing game, Murray’s fantasy potential is optimized in leagues that favor touchdowns. Oddly, though, this isn’t translating in the ADP charts. He is going one spot later among his positional mates, and Murray’s raw number is 8:01.

Use this to your advantage, but be aware every draft is different. These are just average figures, so putting tremendous stock in them can cause trouble. The league’s size, experience of players involved, and positional runs will make Murray’s placement fluid, as with any other.

Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports)

Jared Cook

Veteran tight end Jared Cook joins the fold after a career season in Oakland. In his 10th year, the journeyman posted personal bests in targets (101), receptions (68), yards (896) and touchdowns (6). He scored as many times over his previous 58 games combined. He’s now 32 years old and will have high expectations.

Cook was a fantasy tease for the majority of his nine seasons prior to last year’s breakout. The Raiders struggled in pass protection and didn’t have much to work with at wide receiver, which helped lead to getting Cook more involved.

The Saints helped make Jimmy Graham a household fantasy name several years ago, but it has been a mostly rocky road for the position ever since in The Big Easy. The offense has evolved in personnel and features a pair of ball hogs in Kamara and Michael Thomas. There are less heralded weapons to be wary of cutting into the share of Cook’s action, too, in Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Ted Ginn and Taysom Hill — all of whom will find ways to frustrate fantasy owners at different stages of 2019.

Cook’s fantasy football takeaway

With an ADP of 7:05 in standard scoring, making Cook the eighth tight end chose, on average, gamers clearly believe he will pick up where he left off. He is also TE8 in PPR and goes only two spots sooner. Here’s the situation … tight ends are as volatile as ever this year, and unless you land one of the elite names, players like Cook tend to stand out in the sea of mediocrity and/or relative unknowns.

His touchdown ability could buoy a top-10 placement, although if playing the matchups or taking a risk on an unknown is palatable, there are better options later in drafts that will allow one to utilize Cook’s early seventh-round pick on another position. Expect a streaky, underwhelming performance … there’s a reason it took him 10 seasons to finally enjoy a standout effort.

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