Originally written on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 4/22/12

DeMarco Murray was spectacular yesterday. The Cowboys’ rookie running back shredded the St. Louis Rams for 253 yards, including a 91-yard scamper on his first carry of the game. I will proudly pat myself on the back for seeing this one coming* and recommending him as a start to many people who inquired last week.

* – Okay, so I didn’t see 253 yards coming; no one did. But considering the amount of good RBs on bye, the matchup, Felix Jones’ injury, and the Cowboys’ lack of trust in Tashard Choice, the writing was on the wall for Murray to put forth a startable performance. Boy did he ever.

Murray was only started in 42% of Yahoo leagues yesterday, and he is owned in only 58% of leagues. The latter figure will preclude Murray from being mentioned in Andy Bottoms’ weekly Waiver Wire Pickups column (due to be posted later this afternoon), which is why I wanted to take a few minutes to write about Murray this morning, who will undoubtedly be in high demand on waiver wires where he remains over the next 48 hours, and with good reason.

But here is a side of the Murray fury that is sure to be overlooked: if you already have Murray, or if you are awarded him on waivers come Wednesday morning, you may be best served by selling high on him immediately. It’s possible his value it at its absolute highest right now.

The Positives

There are many reasons to be excited about DeMarco Murray and why you should absolutely use a #1 waiver priority on him:

  • 253 f’ing yards.
  • He plays for an explosive offense, meaning opposing defenses can’t stack the box to stop him.
  • The #1 running back in Dallas is the oft-injured Felix Jones.
  • Murray’ competition for carries when Jones is out is the untrusted Choice and and some other no-name rookie who gobbled up some garbage yards against the Rams.
  • The Cowboys’ bye has already passed, so no weeks off from here on out

It should go without saying that if he’s on waivers, no matter your waiver position, you go after him. And if you’re in an FAAB league, don’t be shy about bidding a pretty penny for his services. Every year there are unsung backs who emerge from the woodwork midseason or later and carry teams to the playoffs. Murray could well be that guy this year.

Reasons To Sell High

But Murray also is a guy you should consider selling high, especially if you have depth at running back and can find a team that is desperate for RB help.

For example, let’s say that you have Adrian Peterson  and Fred Jackson, a reasonable RB combo for a team to have, and you also have Darren Sproles, Jackie Battle, and Mike Tolbert on your bench. You have tremendous RB depth, to the point that Murray is far from an automatic start for you even with Felix Jones injured. If you can find a team that needs a second (or even a first) running back, and they have a QB or wide receiver who would immediately improve your starting lineup, be bold and offer Murray to them.

The fantasy football community’s general opinion on a player can change from week to week. We all know that. Murray is the current flavor of the week, and nothing gets fantasy football owners excited like a young running back coming on midseason who is available to acquire. We are also at the crunch time point in the season where people with teams on the brink are willing to make bold moves to fortify their lineups for the stretch run. But it’s important to act quickly if you want to get maximum return on Murray, because there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that he can be a top 20 running back from this point until the end of the season.

Among the reasons for skepticism:

  • The Rams are the worst defense against the run in the NFL. The worst. Ryan Torain gashed them for 100+ years several weeks ago and hasn’t done a damn thing since. Granted, 253 yards is impressive against anyone, but it’s not like he did it against the Ravens. Let’s have some perspective.
  • The Cowboys’ offensive line cannot be trusted to run block against good competition, as the team’s rushing yards per game average before Week 7 proved. Not only are they are starting a lot of young guys who haven’t played a full season together, they are dealing with injuries to those guys.
  • The Cowboys’ red zone offense leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, red zone proficiency doesn’t mean much when you can take one to the house from 91 yards away, but big plays like that are hard to predict and typically few and far between. Running backs who produce fantasy points consistently usually a) get carries inside the red zone and b) convert them with relative efficiency. Murray and the Cowboys’ offense have not proven they can do either this year.
  • Though injury-prove, Felix Jones is not out for the season. He was supposedly out 2-4 weeks as of mid last week, meaning Murry should have one or a couple games as the Cowboys’ feature back before Jones returns to steal touches.

As you can see, there is good reason to have a balanced opinion on the future of DeMarco Murray. A 253-yard performance against any defense is not to be taken lightly, and Murray has proven that he has significant potential to help fantasy owners for the rest of the season; but there are also numerous objective reasons to have healthy skepticism about his ability to top, maintain, or even come close to what he did in Week 7 from here on out.

The final verdict is this:

  • First, get DeMarco Murray off waivers if you can. He’s worth up to a #1 waiver wire priority and/or a large chunk of your remaining FAAB budget.
  • Second, target teams in your league that are a) still in contention and b) in need of a running back who would immediately enter their starting lineup.
  • Third, shoot for the moon. The idea here is to sell high, not just sell. Treat Murray like a top 10-15 running back in your own mind and ask for a player in return of commensurate value. The goal is to find another owner who agrees with that inflated (at least in my opinion) value and nets you a more proven stud at another position of need.
  • Fourth, don’t be upset if you can’t get a king’s ransom in return for Murray…and only trade him if you can. If you can’t, just be happy that you’ve go another source of running back depth with the potential to be a second half stud.

**********

* – DeMarco Murray image credit: Layne Murdoch/Getty Images via ESPN.com

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