Since the day DeMarco Murray left the Cowboys in 2015, many rookie running backs and free agents have been projected to land in Dallas to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. After countless times of the fantasy industry being wrong with those projections, today the Dallas Cowboys signed former Washington running back Alfred Morris. So how does the signing affect his value and the other pieces involved? Lets take a look.
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In 2016, Morris will be entering his fifth season in the NFL. After starting his career with three seasons of 1,000 or more rushing yards and seven or more touchdowns, Morris had the worst season of his career in 2015, failing to eclipse 800 rushing yards and only reaching the end zone once. It was widely assumed that Morris would be leaving Washington in free agency, but the landing spot was unknown while he was being drafted at RB48 and 155 overall in March DLF Dynasty Mocks. With Morris now slated to be the starting running back in Dallas behind that amazing offensive line, his value will likely see a nice rise, especially for win now dynasty teams.
One of the main concerns with Morris, especially in PPR leagues, has always been his lack of involvement in the passing game. In his four seasons in the NFL, Morris has only caught 67. That concern will likely stay in place with the Cowboys having a pair of pass catching running backs in place in Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden. Even if Morris isn’t involved in the passing game, I expect him to see most of the running game volume McFadden had in 2015 when he ran for 1,089 yards and three touchdowns on 239 carries. Morris is a more talented runner at this stage of his career and will likely be able to be more efficient in the running game and better in the red zone. In dynasty leagues, he was being traded for mid-late 2nd round rookie picks prior to the signing, but with the hype that will likely surround Morris signing in Dallas, he could go from being drafted at RB48 to the early RB30s range in April. He could possibly be traded for a late first or early second, with owners expecting to use him as an RB2 for a couple of seasons. Although, he is only entering his fifth year, Morris was an older rookie and will turn 28 at the end of the 2016 season.
Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar
The biggest loss in value in the Dallas backfield will be Darren McFadden. While few fantasy owners actually thought the Cowboys would go into another season with McFadden as the starting running back, it was still a small possibility before this signing. With Morris in town, McFadden will likely be relegated to third down and passing work. Earlier in the off-season, the Cowboys re-signed running back Lance Dunbar who was quietly having a nice start to the season in 2015, catching 21 passes for 215 yards before suffering a season ending torn ACL. Dunbar is primarily a receiving back and that will remain the case with the Morris signing. The real question for dynasty owners will be which back will see the bulk of the receiving work between Dunbar and McFadden, and I am betting on it being Dunbar. Both backs are worth end of bench roster spots on your dynasty team and not much more.
While a Morris departure was expected this off-season, his signing in Dallas means he officially won’t be returning to Washington, creating an interesting situation in the Washington backfield. The team hasn’t really been rumored to pick up many of the free agent running backs that have been available, which means they have a lot of faith in 2015 third round pick out of Florida, Matt Jones, and/or they plan to invest at the running back position again in the 2016 NFL draft. While I do think that they will draft a running back, I think the odds are slim that they select a back in the top 100 for the second time in as many years. I was a Matt Jones buyer early in the off-season, and while his rookie season of 490 rushing yards, 304 receiving yards and four total touchdown may not seem impressive on the surface, via Pro Football Reference and @14TeamMocker’s Rotoviz article on Jones, he is one of 16 running backs to have greater than 400 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards in a single season under the age of 23.
A list that includes Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Marshall Faulk among others is pretty impressive for a young back, especially one who looks like he will get RB1 carries in 2016 following the departure of Alfred Morris.
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Jerry has already burst the bubble on some of this analysis.
“Owner Jerry Jones still views Darren McFadden as the team’s starting running back despite Tuesday’s signing of Alfred Morris.”
Morris is only 18 months younger. I think it’s safe to say he’s never been as talented as McFadden, now or in the past. Less injuries, sure, but Morris is a terrible option in the passing game.
His greatest production came from the threat of the read-option. He averaged just over 3.7 yards per carry in 2015 with an offensive line that ranked in the top half of the league.
Or, more succinctly, plodding committee option working behind an offensive line that will conspire to assassinate the value of everyone running behind it barring a high draft selection.
I think Morris is nothing more than handcuff to McFadden
I can’t believe anyone would put much stock in what Jerruh says in March. Or January through December, for that matter.
Standard scoring league, I’m a contending team with Gurley, McCoy and Freeman at RB. Alf was a late season flier. Would you trade Morris for Matt Jones straight up, or hold expecting Morris to contribute to a title run?
That’s my thinking too…BUT. I think the dynasty community is really being too quick to discount Alf – who has been a standard scoring stud every season save last year – and hype Jones, who to this point really hasn’t done anything.
I’ll still float the deal, but I think the Alf hate is recency bias and groupthink at its finest.
Morris is a one trick pony in a football league that is phasing out the importance of said one trick ponies, if you don’t believe we watch how far Derick Henry drops in the real NFL draft next month.. Jones is what Morris was in WAS, but with a set of good hands and pass blocking skill (another trick Morris didn’t have). Not saying the guy is going to be elite but my money’s on him being much more valuable from a fantasy (and dynasty) perspective over the next 2-3 years then Morris will be, unless Dunbar and McFadden both go down (always a very real possibility with their track records) and no one steps up, maybe just maybe then he could find top 24 value PPR or maybe even top 15 in non-PPR
In other terms, make that trade immmmmmmediatly and if your not sold on Jones in a few months trade him before season as the 3-down workhorse hype starts building. You could almost assuredly get a 1st rounder in 2017 with the right buyer. Me personally I’m holding all shares as I think he will be a valuable back as he can do all things required of a modern day NFL back and he’s in an offense that wants to emulate what Carolina/Seattle/Sanfran does and run run run with a stout D.
Should I take it as a sign that you didn’t write anything about Chris Thompson other than listing his name beside Matt Jones?