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Stop That Hype Train! Kyler Murray


When it comes to the young quarterbacks in the NFL, few are as exciting as Kyler Murray. The dual-threat quarterback started his career with plenty of recognition, going from a first-round pick in the MLB playing quarterback for a season at Oklahoma to a Heisman-winning first overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 draft.

After choosing to forego his baseball career, Murray immediately made an impact in the NFL, throwing for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions while adding 544 yards and four additional touchdowns on just 93 carries. Murray took home the rookie of the year honors on an offense that was being run by a first-time head coach (Kliff Kingsbury) and an offense that lacked a true alpha wide receiver. He finished as QB7 in fantasy leagues, averaging 18.58 points per game and scoring 297.28 points overall.

The momentum from a successful 2019 season has carried over to the 2020 draft for fantasy gamers. During the offseason, The Cardinals packaged David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Texans for the services of DeAndre Hopkins. That move provides Murray with a true number one receiving option, accelerating his hype. Murray is currently going off the board as the QB3 in NFFC draft data around the fourth to the fifth round. While he does have tantalizing upside (and the rushing ability to truly excel as a dual-threat quarterback), there are some red flags to consider hinting that Murray could find himself to be a bust at that ADP.

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Improved Defense

One of the major benefits of the Cardinals’ offense in 2019 was the fact that the Arizona defense was so bad. The Cardinals ranked in the bottom-10 in the NFL in terms of points against (442), yards against (6,432), passing yards against (4,551), rushing yards against (1,922), team interceptions (7), and first downs (375). According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals spent 28:51 of every game trailing the opposing team, which ranked 24th in the NFL.

Often, a bad defense can lead to a good fantasy offense, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Teams that are trailing need to throw the ball to catch up fast, which leads to more stats (and fantasy points) for the quarterbacks. That was especially true for Arizona. They averaged 25.71 seconds between plays, the fourth-fastest mark in the NFL. The Cardinals recognized this problem and sought to address it ahead of the 2020 season.

The Cardinals added a variety of playmakers on defense throughout the offseason. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was brought in to anchor the defense, Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell were signed join Jordan Hicks as athletic tacklers with pass-rushing acumen at the linebacker position, and a top-10 pick was used on Isaiah Simmons, the versatile defensive chess piece out of Clemson. The Cardinals will have plenty of upgrades on defense in 2019, which could hinder their offense.

If opposing offenses take longer to score, it will result in fewer plays for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals’ offense to run. Despite being fourth in terms of seconds per play, the Cardinals only finished .66 seconds behind the fastest team in the NFL (Carolina). Beyond that, a stronger defense will result in closer games, which means a more balanced offensive game plan (more on that later) and more designed rushing attempts for Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds.

Yes, the Cardinals will still utilize Kyler Murray in the run game. But, as with most dual-threat quarterbacks, the bulk of their rushing attempts come from breakdowns in the passing game which could lead to a reduced role as a runner for Murray.

 

Bad Offensive Line

Any way you look at it, the Cardinals offensive line struggled during the 2019 season. According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals finished as the 26th offensive line against in the passing game and the 22nd offensive line in the run game. The Cardinals also offensive line had an 8.4% sack rate, leading to Kyler Murray suffering 48 sacks, tied for the third-worst in the NFL. Some of these sacks can be attributed to a young, athletic quarterback trying to make plays, but the weak offensive line cannot be ignored.

Looking to 2020, the Cardinals return four of their five starting offensive linemen from last season. They also added a third-round rookie in Josh Jones out of Houston and signed Kelvin Beachum to compete for a spot at tackle, or at the very least, serve as an upgrade as a swing tackle for the team. A year of familiarity playing with each other is never a bad thing for an offensive line, but if they are truly bad it could lead to problems for Murray and the Cardinals offense again in 2020.

 

Sophomore Slump

Finally, the second season is usually where we find out what players and head coaches/ play-callers are made of. At the end of 2018, hope was high in Cleveland after Baker Mayfield set the rookie touchdown record and Freddie Kitchens parlayed a strong offensive finish into the head coaching job in Cleveland. Then Baker Mayfield struggled in 2019, opposing coaches figured out Kitchens’ play-calling, and the Browns sputtered to another sub-.500 finish and brought in a new coach with a new scheme. The Bears also face a prove-it year in 2020 after feeling optimistic about a second-year head coach (Matt Nagy) and a solid 2018 campaign from Mitch Trubisky (in his second full year as a starter) before falling flat in 2019.

These concerns should also exist for the Cardinals. Not only is Kliff Kingsbury entering his second season as a head coach in the NFL, but it will also only be his second season at the NFL level. Yes, his offense was probably more successful than anyone could have hoped in 2019, but can he make the proper adjustments to avoid teams keying in on his tendencies in year two? Kyler was largely accurate in 2019 (64.4 completion percentage), but he also struggled to get the ball in the end zone and took an extremely high number of sacks trying to extend plays.

Another issue to monitor is the obvious difference in the Cardinals game plan depending on how the game was going. In their 10 losses (and 1 tie), Murray averaged 33.5 pass attempts a game (369 total attempts made) and threw for 2,688 yards and 15 touchdowns. But he also accounted for 11 of his 12 interceptions and 44 of his 48 sacks in those contests. He also compiled 48 carries for 264 yards and three of his four rushing touchdowns. In the team’s five wins, Murray averaged only 26 attempts a game but threw five touchdowns compared to one interception. He took only four total sacks in five games and was also more efficient as a runner (48 carries for 280 yards and a touchdown).

 

Summary

As previously stated, if the Cardinals can improve as a defense, then it could lead to a more efficient game plan for Murray. Efficiency isn’t necessarily bad for the Cardinals as a football team, but in terms of fantasy, it could limit Murray’s already capped ceiling. If Murray is being drafted as QB3 in NFFC leagues (rightfully behind Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes), he has to improve upon all of his statistics from last season to surpass the names that he finished behind (Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, Russell Wilson, and Josh Allen) beyond out playing big names that finished behind him (Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady) as QB1’s.

The addition of DeAndre Hopkins is obviously a massive help, but a limited offseason and lack of preseason may lead to a longer period before they truly being to gel on offense. Moving teams is historically difficult for wide receivers because of route timing and ball placement and that issue may be even more compounded with a lack of practices to truly time up plays together. The success of Kenyan Drake at the end of last season could also eat into the team's total passing game since they will be able to utilize the run which was instrumental in all five of their wins.

While Murray could certainly finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback during the 2020 season, it is far from a slam dunk and signifies a big risk during the early rounds of your fantasy draft. Let's pump the brakes on this hype train before it goes flying off the tracks.



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Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More