Does DeMarco Murray's Game Translate to the NFL?
Oklahoma RB might not be an every-down back at the next level.
"As our own Dave Miller wrote on Friday, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops would like to see RB DeMarco Murray hit 1,900 yards rushing in 2010, a tall task for a guy who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards just once in his career. However, we’re not here to try and figure out if Murray can hit the 1,900-yard rushing mark as a senior. We want to figure out what kind of running back he can be at the next level.
There’s no doubt Murray can be a dynamic playmaker with the football in his hands once he gets into the open field. He possesses a great initial first step when asked to press daylight, gets up to speed very quickly and showcases impressive balance when accelerating around the corner. When healthy, the guy has the initial burst to consistently outrun angles in space and create yards by the chunk.
However, playing in Oklahoma’s spread offense, Murray is given the luxury of consistently running against seven man fronts – at most -- and isn’t often responsible for making a defender miss behind the line. So more often than not, he’s asked to press the outside on perimeter runs and use his natural speed to out-pace defenders to space and/or turn up the field. However, what becomes clearly obvious when watching Murray try to break down is that he’s consistently forced to gear down, slow his feet and regain his balance before accelerating up field. And the main culprit for that is his overall pad level. Murray runs too high both inside and in the open field and doesn’t display the type of body control needed to clean change directions or break tackles through contact.
Too often on tape you see Murray quickly pick up a head of steam pressing a hole inside, only to be tripped up and tackled by the fingertips of a defender closing on the play from the backside.
However, the result of Murray’s high pad level doesn’t stop there. You can directly correlate the consistent string of injuries he sustains year in and year out to the massive amount of pounding his body absorbs. Like any running back, it’s not always how hard you run but how little contact your frame absorbs. NFL running backs generally have to run behind their pads in order to expose as little of their frames as possible when asked to take on defenders and run between the tackles. And although Murray generates a ton of initial acceleration attacking the line, he simply shows too much of his body to defenders, which makes him much more vulnerable to bigger, injury-inducing hits (see Justin Fargas).
Plus, the fact that he’s overly instinctive in tight areas brings us to the conclusion that maybe he isn’t cut out to be an every-down, inside-the-tackles-type option in the NFL.
So where does that leave him in terms of NFL potential? Well, besides the impressive speed and acceleration in the open field, he does have the ability to consistently catch the football out of the backfield and can also create mismatches when split out in the slot. Also, the guy does have a little shimmy to his game once he gets up to full speed in the open field and knows how to give a slight shoulder fake to a defender and explode into daylight. He also displays a willingness to block in the pass game, and although he isn’t real physical and struggles with leverage, he does possess the body control to stick his head in and chop down defenders on contact.
Overall, I think Murray projects ideally as third-down type of back who you can split out in the pass game, flick the ball to out of the backfield and work on special teams as a return man. He should also be able to gouge some big plays in the draw and screen game and definitely has some value as playmaking-type sub-package option in the NFL."
Negatives: Shows too much of the ball when he's running, NFL defenders will rip the ball away from him too often... Has an upright running style that allows him to be knocked off center and has a hard time breaking tackles... Has a hard time getting out of arm tackles, needs to be stronger through the hole... Below-average leg drive, doesn't push the pile, gets driven backwards by larger defenders... Not a good pass blocker, usually goes out for passes on third downs... Tons of injury concerns, his upright running style leaves him vulnerable to a ton of hits, and he has missed time each year he has been at Oklahoma, needs to shake these concerns with a big senior season... Has struggled in big games, had 27 yards on 20 carries against Stanford in the 2009 Sun Bowl, only had five carries for -3 yards against Texas before getting injured, and only had 14 yards on seven carries against Texas Tech... His average per carry has fallen each season he has been at Oklahoma... Likes to break too many runs to the outside, needs to work more between the tackles."
The 2009 season did not go quite as well as opposing defenses keyed in on the ground game after the injury to quarterback Sam Bradford. Murray's yards-per-carry average went down a lot, but he still proved to be a dangerous back that is always a threat to get to the end zone. In 2010 Murray finally got the ground game all to himself. Through ten games he has not disappointed and has rushed for 911 yards on 207 carries. Murray has also caught an impressive 52 passes and has accounted for a total of 17 touchdowns.
What separates Murray from Brown -- besides the fact that Brown is more of a downhill runner -- is Murray's ability to catch the ball. His explosiveness makes Murray a great secondary back and that could be enough for him to sneak into the first round. However, Murray is more than just an explosive back. In 2010 he proved that he can carry the ball 20 to 25 times per game and be the workhorse in the backfield."
His greatest knock is durability — he is extremely tight-hipped and stiff to the point of almost being awkward in his gait and could have as difficult of a time staying healthy in the NFL as he has in college, missing time at the end of the season as a result of multiple injuries."
Probably a 2nd Rounder, and perhaps even a 1st. In either case, any Running Back that gets drafted before the 3rd Round is, by rule, overdrafted, as I believe that any Running Back can consistently Move the Chains and control the ball behind a great Offensive Front Line, whereas the reverse is most emphatically not true.
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