Latavius Murray is one of the best #2 running backs in the NFL. In the two games in which Alvin Kamara missed last season, Murray combined for over 220 rushing yards and found the end zone four times for a total of 60 PPR fantasy points. Even with Kamara in the lineup, Murray managed to average 7 PPG in games in which he had six or more carries. So, which matchups will Murray be most worthy of a start this year? In leagues of 12 teams or more, I believe Murray will be worth FLEX consideration in a few games this year. Here are the top four I believe Murray could warrant a start in deeper leagues.
4: Week 3 vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016, when they lost in the NFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl first half champions the Atlanta Falcons. Despite this resurgence, their run defense ranked 23rd in the NFL and gave up the 9th most fantasy points to running backs.
The loss of middle linebacker Blake Martinez could mean the Packers run defense might be even worse this year than it was in 2019. Only Bobby Wagner has made more total tackles than Martinez since Martinez’s rookie year in 2016.
A game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers is likely to be a close and high scoring affair, which could mean Latavius Murray may not get the carries he needs to post a good fantasy score. However, the Packers lackluster run defense could mean the Saints look to Murray in addition to Kamara to carry the load on offense against the Pack on Sunday Night Football.
3: Week 15 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The defending champions will be coming to the Superdome in a Week 15 matchup in December. Naturally the Super Bowl champions will be a very solid and complete football team, but if there are any flaws with the Chiefs, it would be their run defense. The Chiefs ranked 26th in the NFL last year, and also allowed the 4th most fantasy points to RBs. Frank Clark and Chris Jones are both very good defensive linemen, but a lack of quality linebackers and defensive linemen outside of Clark and Jones could mean the Chiefs run defense may be below average again this season.
This generally did not matter for Kansas City as their offense would usually outscore their opponents anyway, but in their four losses in 2019, they gave up an average of 180 rushing yards per game while only surrendering 111 yards per game in wins. Any game with the Chiefs is likely going to be a shootout, especially against Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome, so this could mean the Saints will need to throw the ball more to keep up with Patrick Mahomes. However, a consistent rushing attack was the key to beating the Chiefs last year, and the Saints could look to use both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray heavily in order to accomplish this.
2: Week 4 @ Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions had a disastrous season in 2019. Despite starting 2-0-1, the Lions only won one more game the rest of the year, and lost nine games in a row to finish the season. They did improve their offense and secondary through the draft and free agency however, but one area where the Lions are still weak is their front seven. Their only defensive lineman of note is Trey Flowers, and they also lost Damon Harrison to free agency during the offseason. Harrison was one of the better run defenders in the league and his absence creates a very big hole in the middle of the Lions defensive line. Danny Shelton was brought in from New England and while a solid player, is not at the level Snacks was last season.
A game against the Lions could also become a blowout very quickly, as the Lions posted the 9th worst point differential in the league last season. A lopsided game in New Orleans favor could mean more action for the ground game and in turn, Latavius Murray. The Lions were the 21st ranked rush defense last season, but also surrendered the 5th most fantasy points to running backs. Personnel changes and bad football could mean Latavius Murray is worthy of a start in Week 4 in the Motor City.
1: Weeks 7 & 17 vs./@ Carolina Panthers
The Panthers had the honor of giving up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2019. Even with solid players such as Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and All-Pro Luke Kuechly, the Panthers struggled against the run so much that even the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed fewer rush yards than the Panthers. Another contributing factor to why the Panthers run defense could potentially be one of the bottom three in the NFL this year is that all three players I previously mentioned are now gone. Poe and McCoy both signed with the Cowboys, and Kuechly abruptly retired at the end of the season. Left behind is an aging Kawann Short, who spent all but two games last year on IR, and young players Brian Burns and first round pick Derrick Brown. Even though the Panthers will get Short back in addition to drafting Brown, it is unlikely they will be able to fill the hole left by McCoy Poe and Kuechly by themselves.
Sean Payton will almost certainly look to exploit the Panthers weak run defense this season which could mean increased carries for Latavius Murray. I would favor the Week 17 contest in Charlotte as it is possible the Saints could have their playoff position locked up by then. Even with a first round bye still at stake last year, Murray still got 17 carries as opposed to Kamara’s 8 carries in the last week of the 2019 season in Carolina. Depending on the Week 7 matchup with Carolina, and the Saints playoff standings come Week 17, Murray could be worth a start in many leagues playing their championship games in Week 17.
Do you think Latavius Murray will be worth a fantasy start at any point this season? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @HaydenReel.