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Latavius Murray’s fantasy value depends on Vikings’ offensive line

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Murray could be a top 10 fantasy back in Minnesota, it just depends how their offensive line plays.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings officially closed the door on an Adrian Peterson reunion early Thursday morning, signing former Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray.

From a real football perspective, this move makes plenty of sense for both parties. For Minnesota, they get the starting caliber running back they were looking for. For Murray, he gets out of the timeshare in Oakland and joins a backfield with no clear number one back.

But we don’t care about real football here. We care about fantasy! So, what impact does this signing have on Murray’s value?

Sadly, it’s not great.

For starters, Murray goes from one of the best offensive lines in football to the absolute worst. The Vikings averaged a pitiful 75.3 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per attempt last year, both last in the NFL. For Murray to be productive, he’s going to have to get used to breaking tackles, something he hasn’t done consistently throughout his career.

Murray is also coming of a down season where both his carries and yardage went down. However, that downtick in yardage was nicely made up for in an uptick in red zone carries and touchdowns. While Murray’s yardage went down almost 300 yards, his touchdowns doubled (6 in 2015, 12 in 2016). Obviously from a fantasy perspective, that part of his game you’d like to see continue.

And it could with the Vikings. The Vikings do like to run the football once they get into the red zone. It’s what’s given Matt Asiata any semblance of fantasy value in deeper leagues. Murray might not be able to recreate his 12 touchdown season, but I could certainly see another double digit season in the works.

Luckily for Murray, the Vikings don’t have much at running back behind him. Jerick McKinnon seems a lock as a third-down back but likely won’t challenge Murray for carries. This will be a pleasant change from Oakland, where Murray received only 48.6% of team carries, second to last in the NFL among running backs with 150 or more carries.

Murray has the talent and skill to be a top 10 fantasy running back in 2017. Heck, he was 13th in total points last year despite being handcuffed for most of the season and missing two games. His value will come down to the Vikings’ offensive line and what kind of turnaround they can make this offseason. Fantasy owners should be hoping it’s a big one.