The Oakland Raiders Should Expand Latavius Murray's Workload

Latavius Murray struggled in 2015, resulting in changes to the Oakland Raiders' backfield. But now that Murray is improving, should he regain the job as the lead dog?

After what happened last year, you can't blame the Oakland Raiders for bringing in some competition for Latavius Murray.

Murray was essentially the team's only available running back for most of the year, but he still managed to find himself on the bench for stretches of games due to fumbling issues. If you can get benched as the lone ranger, it shouldn't be surprising when the team bulks up at the position in the offseason.

The Raiders did exactly that, drafting DeAndre Washington in the fifth round and signing Jalen Richard as an undrafted rookie free agent. Now, they've got a full-blown running back by committee, and Murray has become more of a complimentary piece than the focal point.

There's only one problem with this. Now, Murray seems to have skirted those 2015 struggles, and he has suddenly become one of the most efficient backs in all of football. Because of this, it may be time to ditch the committee and let Murray take the keys once more.

We can investigate this using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the efficiency of teams and players with the team totals being weighted based on strength of opponent.

Here's how NEP works. Let's say Murray logs a three-yard run, something that will hurt his yards-per-carry average. If that three-yard run comes on 3rd-and-2, it will help increase the team's expected points for the drive, meaning it's actually a positive. NEP helps measure that, showing when players effectively do their job and when there may be more efficient options available.

Using NEP, we'll see just how good Murray has been this year and why he's deserving of additional opportunities.

A Night-And-Day Difference

In his first year as the starter, Murray was highly inefficient, and it showed through in his NEP metrics. He was 34th in Rushing NEP per carry of the 44 backs with at least 100 carries, and he was 42nd in Success Rate, which measures the percentage of plays on which the player increases the team's NEP. Those are below replacement-level, and there weren't a lot of reasons for optimism.

This year, though, he has been a whole new man. Check out the two seasons head-to-head, and it's clear we're not talking about the same guy, even after just a limited sample.

SeasonRushesRushing NEP per CarrySuccess Rate

Not only is he significantly better than where he was last year, but Murray ranks seventh in Rushing NEP per carry among the 35 backs with at least 30 attempts. He falls to 15th in Success Rate, but that's still in the top half of the league, and it's a big leap from where he was last year.

Part of this is likely due to the addition of guard Kelechi Osemele, and it's possible that he's benefiting from less work, but Murray has been a solid back this year. His success is a bit more profound when you compare him heads up with Washington, the man second on the team in carries.

Running BackRushesRushing NEP per CarrySuccess Rate
Latavius Murray400.0642.5%
DeAndre Washington22-0.0536.4%

Not only is Washington creating fewer expected points, but his Success Rate is a good chunk below Murray's mark. Richard tops both in Rushing NEP per carry, but a 75-yard run in Week 1 is helping to buoy his 17-carry sample.

Despite the production split, Murray has just 37.68% of the team's carries the past three weeks with Washington at 26.09% and Richard at 20.29%. NEP would make it appear as if some of Washington's market share should shift toward Murray, even if the increased workload does put a dent in Murray's overall efficiency.

As it stands, the Raiders are numberFire's fourth-most efficient rushing offense, so it's not as if they're dying for a change at the position. But when you've got a player who's running as well as Murray is, it may be time to make some adjustments and let Murray continue to flash his new-found abilities.