Likely the only way running back Latavius Murray puts up huge numbers this season for the Saints is if Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara gets injured. Here are Murray’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well New Orleans’ Week 1 odds.
Murray was a sixth-round pick out of Central Florida by the Raiders in 2013. He finished his college career with a total of 2,424 rushing yards, 37 rushing touchdowns, 50 receptions, 524 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns.
In the 2013 draft, Murray was just the 15th running back taken. His best season with the Raiders was in 2015 when Murray had 1,066 rushing yards and six touchdowns along with 41 receptions for 232 yards. The next year, he rushed for 788 yards and a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns. His pass protecting ability was rated third best in the NFL among running backs.
The Vikings then signed him to a free-agent deal before the 2017 season. He was solid in his two seasons but nothing special. Murray played the third-highest amount of snaps in his career in 2018 (43.9 percent) and compiled 578 yards and six touchdowns on 140 carries last season. Despite his position as a between-the-tackles rusher, Murray was sparingly used in the passing game, where he totaled 141 yards on 22 receptions in 2018.
In March 2019, the Saints signed Murray to a four-year, $14.4 million contract to replace the departed Mark Ingram. Murray was eager to sign with the Saints in free agency because of the opportunity to play in Sean Payton’s offense. Alas, he’s clearly behind young superstar Alvin Kamara on the depth chart – although the Saints never expected Kamara to be as good as he has become.
“I know my role, I know exactly why I’m here. And I’m just making sure I contribute when my number’s called … and not taking it personal,” said Murray, who also split time with Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon in Minnesota.
Kamara was a bit banged up last year, and Murray had two big games. During Week 7 against the Chicago Bears, he rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-25 road victory. The next week vs. the Arizona Cardinals, Murray rushed 21 times for 102 yards and a touchdown and caught nine passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in the 31-9 win. It was the first time in Murray’s career he rushed for 100 yards in back-to-back games.
Murray ended the season with eight starts, having played all 16 games for the third straight season. Murray rushed five times for 21 yards in the Saints’ Wild Card loss to the Vikings, adding one reception for four additional yards.
Murray finished his first season with the Saints with 637 rushing yards and five touchdowns along with 34 receptions for 235 yards and a touchdown. Murray set a career-best rushing yards per attempt since his rookie year. Kamara, on the other hand, set career low marks in yards and touchdowns in 2019.
Over the course of his seven-year career, Murray has appeared in 93 games with 56 starts for the Raiders, Vikings and Saints, carrying 1,043 times for 4,337 yards (4.2 avg.) with 39 touchdowns and catching 162 passes for 639 yards (6.9 avg). Murray’s 31 rushing touchdowns since the 2016 season rank sixth in the NFL.
Kamara is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Even as he dealt with injury and played just 14 games in 2019, Kamara finished No. 15 among NFL players in scrimmage yards last season (1,330). That said, there is talk that Murray could be used more this season just to help Kamara stay fresh and healthy.
“When he got his opportunity, he was able to excel, he was able to go out and produce,” former Saints Pro Bowl running back Deuce McAllister said this offseason of Murray. “You just want to see more of him. That was the biggest thing when you go back and look at this overall season, they probably should have used him more. … You’ve got to figure out a way to get him at least 10, 12, 15 legitimate touches in a football game.”