New season, new breakout quarterback

Patrick Mahomes burst onto the scene in 2018 and quickly emerged as the #1 fantasy QB heading into the 2019 fantasy football season.

Many fantasy football participants who won or competed for their league championship in 2018 had breakout quarterback Patrick Mahomes on their roster.

Mahomes was typically drafted late and delivered beyond expectation for his average draft position.

The goal when drafting any fantasy football player should be to return more value than invested at the position you drafted the player.

You must navigate the AVAILABLE player pool to find the hidden gems in each round

I will outline why drafting Kyler Murray in the later rounds of your draft can lead you to landing 2019’s breakout quarterback.

Kyler Murray’s doubters

Kyler Murray is a rookie quarterback with a rookie head coach.

Both Murray and Kingsbury will face a steep learning curve in transitioning from college to the NFL at the same time in 2019.

Murray is too small and could get injured the first time a 300 pound lineman tackles him.

How well will Murray be able to see over the offensive line and evaluate the exotic defensive coverages in the NFL?

Speaking of the offensive line. The Cardinals offensive line ranks 30th by Pro Football Focus heading into the 2019 season.

While Murray was the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Murray’s rookie season could be looking more like the 1998 first overall pick, Peyton Manning. Manning was sacked 22 times and threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

The previously stated concerns regarding Murray’s rookie season are legitimate.

I don’t think Murray is going to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs like 2018 breakout quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

But I do not believe you should dismiss the rookie quarterback when drafting your fantasy football team.

If you follow the “draft a quarterback late” fantasy football strategy, Murray should be available when you are looking to select a quarterback.

Let’s examine why Murray has the potential to defy the detractors and be a QB1 in the 2019 fantasy football season.

Easy defensive schedule

In the article “Best 2019 sleeper quarterbacks: Why you should resist drafting a QB too early” I reference Warren sharps appearance on Gill Alexander’s “A Number’s Game”.

Sharp’s analysis points toward the Cardinals facing the #1 easiest passing defensive schedule in the NFL!

Any defense in the NFL will be a huge step up in difficulty from college but Murray facing the weakest passing defenses should make the transition a little easier.

Another key factor from Sharp’s information in the July 24th show was the Cardinals will face the 4th easiest rushing defensive schedule.

This stat would be a non factor for the majority of NFL quarterbacks but not for Murray.

Murray is a dual threat quarterback who tallied 1001 rushing and 4361 passing yards in his Heisman winning season at the University of Oklahoma. 

If the Cardinals are going to have a successful season, Kingsbury will have to create opportunities for Kyler to not only pass but run against the softer defenses.

Rushing > Passing

The importance of a rushing quarterback in fantasy football can be the difference between a QB1 and a QB2. 

Specifically, rushing yards accumulate points quicker and rushing touchdowns count more than passing touchdowns in standard leagues. 

Murray’s play making ability with his legs is the key that can unlock fantasy points against an all around easy defensive schedule in 2019.

Kliff Kingsbury

Kingsbury’s track record

No one is sure what to expect from rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense but we can look back on his head coaching numbers to determine a gauge.

Kingsbury was not fired from Texas Tech due to a lack of offense as his teams averaged 38 points and 520 yards per game.

The greater issue was the Texas Tech defense as the defense gave up points just as fast as the offense could score them.

Tech’s defense allowed 37 points and 487 yards per game.

This is a cause of concern for the Cardinals in 2019 as the Cardinals were ranked as the 28th overall defense by Pro Football Focus and the 21st overall defense by Football Outsiders in 2018.

History is foreshadowing a Kingsbury defense near the bottom of the league.

Could this be good news for Murray owners?

If the Cardinals are giving up points, Kingsbury will have to design plays to stay in the game.

Pace of play

Cardinals running back David Johnson stated the offense plans on running 90 plays a game.

No team has ever averaged 80 plays a game in NFL history.

90 plays a game is an unsustainable mark but we get the picture…

The Cardinals want to play fast!

More plays = more fantasy point opportunities

Murray’s fit

Kyler Murray will play in an ideal situation for a fantasy quarterback.

He has an offensive minded head coach who will attempt to execute an “Air Raid” style offense.

As mysterious as this new offense may seem, Murray said it best.

“It’s an offense. We work at it, we practice it, and it’s our job to execute it.”

-Kyler Murray

Bill Belichick summarizes Murray’s thoughts even better.

Kingsbury will give the Cardinals offense a formula to score points and it’s up to the players to execute.

This leads to the next reason Murray will be a breakout quarterback… the Cardinals have the talent to execute.

Offensive Weapons

Larry Fitzgerald

Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be entering his 16th NFL season.

While he may not have the explosive yards after catch ability, his hands are still reliable.

Fitzgerald had 2 drops on 112 targets in 2018, which was a disappointing season by Fitzgerald’s standards.

Fitzgerald will provide Murray with a reliable target who knows hows to get open and will catch anything thrown in his direction.

Fitzgerald’s Character

The intangible Fitzgerald brings to Murray by being in the locker room can not be underestimated.

Fitzgerald has proven to be a high character individual as he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2016.

Murray gaining tutelage from a man like Fitzgerald will be invaluable for his progress through the NFL learning curve.

Christian Kirk

Christian Kirk’s God-given talent is undeniable.

Out of high school, Kirk was a 5 star recruit heading into Texas A&M where he started all 13 games from his freshman through junior season.

Kirk averaged 950 yards and 9 touchdowns per season despite a questionable quarterback situation all three years at Texas A&M.

Not only was he a star receiver but Kirk was a special teams asset as he returned punts and kicks.

Kirk manged to put up decent numbers in his rookie season with the Cardinals despite a deficient offensive situation.

If you are unfamiliar with Kirk’s ability to make plays, it would be worth while to review his tape.

Kyler Murray will be the most talented quarterback Kirk has played with in his career. Kirk should be on your radar as a sleeper receiver in 2019.

David Johnson

Johnson was arguably listed as the 1st overall pick entering the 2017 fantasy football season as he was an All Pro RB #1 in the 2016 fantasy season.

Johnson has the talent to provide a solid run game to the Cardinals offense and provide Murray with a playmaking pass catcher out of the backfield.

Not only does Johnson catch passes out of the backfield but he often lines up as a wide receiver and creates mismatches for linebackers in coverage.

Johnson had 80 receptions on 120 targets in the 2017 season

If Johnson remains healthy he will be a major threat in Kingburys’ “Air Raid” offense as he will be utilized as both a running back and receiver.

Murray’s Collegiate Passing Efficiency

Was Kyler Murray’s Heisman season the product of him compiling big numbers against a soft college schedule?

How well is Murray going to perform in the NFL?

There are three statistics I want to look at to see how well Murray may translate to the NFL and better answer the two questions above.

Throwing when pressured

Throwing with a defender in your face is a given in the NFL.

Looking at this stat can identify if Murray feasted only when he was comfortable in college.

Murray lead the 2019 draft class with a 56.1% completion percentage and a 103.3 QBR when throwing under pressure.

Average Depth of Target

Michael Lombardi points out in his book, “The Gridiron Genius”, average depth of target for a quarterback is vital to a quarterback’s success.

If a quarterback has his eyes down the field, he is confident and looking to push the ball closer to a first down.

If a quarterback’s depth of target begins to drops, it indicates uncertainty in his ability to successfully push the ball down the field.

Taking shots down the field and not being a “Checkdown Charlie” is even more important in today’s NFL with favorable pass interference and defenseless receiver rules.

Murray was 7th overall in the 2019 NFL draft class averaging 11.66 yards per target in 2018.

Deep Ball Accuracy

While looking to see if Murray is pushing the ball down the field, it is also important to see how accurate he was when doing so.

A deep ball is considered a pass that travels 20 yards or more down the field in the air.

Murray was the 3rd most accurate quarterback in the 2019 NFL draft class completing almost 50% of his deep ball passes.

It is important to note while Murray ranked 3rd in accuracy, he ranked #1 in deep ball attempts with 77.

Are any of the names from the leading depth of targets list also on the leading accuracy list???

Only Murray…

Murray demonstrates his mobility and deep ball accuracy under pressure against Alabama in the 2019 College Football Playoffs

When to draft Kyler Murray

Average Draft Round: 10th

The market seems to have faith that Kyler Murray will have a successful rookie season as he is a consensus low end QB1 or high end QB2.

I wish the public was sleeping on Murray but it looks as if his breakout potential is accounted for in his current average draft position (ADP).

Do not plan on waiting to draft Murray past the 10th round.

If you want to ensure you draft the #1 breakout quarterback candidate for 2019, you should aggressively target Murray in the 9th round and look to grab Kirk Cousins as insurance with your final pick as outlined in “Best 2019 sleeper quarterbacks: Why you should resist drafting a QB too early”