There was a time not too long ago when DeMarco Murray was a major question mark from a fantasy football standpoint.
In usage, that is. The dreaded word "committee" is something that has cropped up in regards to Murray over the offseason—and for good reason. New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan loves to run the football at times but with a rather disheartening adherence to the "C" word.
The man who has the final say, though, has put his foot down. Head coach Jason Garrett has made it clear that Murray is the No. 1 running back, and he might just use him in what is becoming quite a rare fashion, as captured by CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora:
Murray owners can go ahead and wipe the sweat from their brow. That average draft position of 2.01 is about to take a jump, too.
See, Linehan spent last year in Detroit, and lead back Reggie Bush was able to tally 277 total touches between carries and receptions, but Joique Bell was not far behind with a total of 219. With runners such as Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams on the roster, the forecast was rather bleak for the starter.
Before folks really digested Linehan's committee approach, the hype for Murray was through the roof. It enters the stratosphere this time when the prior hype combines with the hint from Garrett that the usage rates might not resemble the "C" word after all.
Last year was Murray's best by far, even with his once again missing multiple games presenting a red flag:
All things considered, Murray might just break his career-high touches number next season, which is scary when one remembers that he scored the ninth-most points at the position last season and that he breached double-digit production in 10 games.
Of those eight backs in front of him, Murray played in fewer games than all of them except Adrian Peterson and took fewer handoffs than all.
As his profile at ESPN notes, the only risk yet again is health. "When he is 100 percent, the Cowboys have proved they're willing to give Murray a big-time workload. He averaged 21.3 touches per game after Week 10 last year. That's RB1 material...if he can stay healthy."
Believe it or not, those in the know have gone as far as to hint that Murray could be in the 300-carry club next season.
"I think that his confidence level is up," running backs coach Gary Brown told Steve Hunt of the Tulsa World. "It's just a matter of getting him out there and getting in those 300 carries like a lot of these guys are getting and let's see where he falls then."
Not convinced Murray is set to join the ranks of Peterson, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy next season?
Take it a step further and look at his offensive line.
Tackles Doug Fee and Tyron Smith are back in the fold. Both ranked in the top 20 at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) last season. Center Travis Frederick ranked in the top 10 at center—but No. 1 overall in the run-blocking category. Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau? He ranked No. 22 overall at the spot, and rookie Zack Martin is as talented as they come.
Murray's overall talent and the situation around him hint at elite fantasy production. Garrett's endorsement as the lead back only puts things over the top.
At a position that has become ridiculously hard to draft because of dreaded committees, Murray stands in the presence of a select few as a safe beacon for owners. There are injury concerns, but that is a silly argument to justify skipping on him given the violent nature of the position itself.
Given his upside we have yet to witness and the nod from perhaps the most important man in the organization, there is no excuse for Murray to not be the fifth or sixth back off the board in all league formats.