If you haven't already done so, please take a quick look at the Grading the numbers: First Look fan post. It provides a little background info for this post.
I am a Longhorns fan, so I have seen this guy play (and rooted against) several times. Even with DeMarco playing for the Sooners, I can remember several times that I was left thinking that this guy was something special. In fact it really ticked me off that they went straight from Adrian Peterson to this kid. It was like they didn't miss a beat.
What stands out to me on tape, is that he appears to run very stiff. His hips appear very tight, and I do not see much wiggle in his juke. What I do see, however, is an incredible burst, so much that it almost compensates for that lack of wiggle. What concerns me is that I am not sure that his type of juke translates well to the NFL. I don't really recall any other backs that have been successfully with this (not that there aren't any, just can't recall any). Typically, when a running back displays elite elusiveness, it is with lateral and hip movement. Murray has more of a start-stop and short step move that was very successful at the collegiate level. What happens when he tries this against better athletes? I am not sure. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.
It is very clear though that true change of direction ability is missing from his game. But his explosion is incredible. Murray appears to be most successful when he can plant and go without having to breakdown, utilizing his top level quickness and speed to fly down the field and run past defenders. He also appears to be unusually strong in space, running through arm tackles with ease, and blasting would-be defenders with vicious hits that any linebacker would be proud of AND keep running down the field. I don't understand why this strength is not evident in the short yardage game. I believe it may have something to do with his upright running style, but it just seems that he has the strength to really move the pile, but it just doesn't show up in that area. Hopefully this is something that can be coached, or was more indicative of the interior of the Sooners line, as opposed to something that cannot be fixed. I DO NOT want another back that consistently gets stuffed for no gains on 3rd and 1, regardless of how explosive he is.
Conclusion - fast, explosive, and strong. Needs to improve short yardage game, and prove that his tricky start stop juke can be successful at the next level.
Graded out the 5th highest back available in the draft. The only higher graded back taken ahead of Murray was Ryan Williams (8.47). Murray predictably scores out below average for agility, however based on tape I thought it would be lower. Just as predictable, he grades out with a very high quickness/burst score. Surprisingly, of all the backs entered so far, he scores out with the HIGHEST football strength score of all backs. I expected it to be high, but not necessarily the highest. Still raises the same questions about why this doesn't show up in the short yardage game, but does help explain the cut and explosion through defenders.
Comparisons to current backs:
I am shocked. Marion Barber was a workout warrior. He blew most of the drills away. It is evident that his body is breaking down, and he has lost whatever gave him the athletic edge that he once possessed, however I can now see why (and how) he was able to captivate the Cowboy nation with his exciting running ability early in his career. Ironically, Choice and Jones graded out pretty similarly. Lonyae appears to be a poor man's DeMarco Murray. Also, as evidenced in the grades, I would say that the comparisons of DeMarco being a poor man's Felix is off base, as both runners have clearly differing abilities. These two should provide an interesting 1-2 punch. This of course is all assumed upon Barber being gone, and Murray beating out Choice, neither of which are guarantees.
For comparisons sake, I am including AP's gradeout as well. Eerily similar.
From what I can see, I would expect Murray to take over the #2 change of pace back role in the offense. Felix and DeMarco are both explosive runners, and with Barber in stark decline, Murray should provide a major improvement to Barber, with close to the same result as Felix, just with a different approach. I believe that this is what Garrett had in mind when they were targeting a back in the draft. While this plan looks good on paper, it will be interesting to see how this will translate to the field. I am also curious to see how Garrett plans on addressing the short yardage area, and if DeMarco performs better with the Boys than he did in college in respect to this, and if not what the plan is. I would expect the results to at least be better than the combo of Barber and Jones.
Thanks for reading, up next is Dwayne Harris.