• The fantasy community is falling in love with Cardinals rookie QB Kyler Murray. But how early should you draft him? Two experts debate.
By Adam Ronis and Frankie Taddeo
August 19, 2019

Adam Ronis: Adam Ronis has won six figures playing fantasy football and has hosted fantasy shows on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio since 2010.

There's risk with any rookie quarterback—adjusting to the NFL can take time—but it's easy to see why there's a lot of excitement for Kyler Murray. Kliff Kingsbury takes over as Cardinals coach and brings the Air Raid offense. The pace is expected to be fast. The more plays run, the better for fantasy. 

The Cardinals averaged 56.4 plays last season, which was 31st in the NFL. Murray ran an Air Raid offense at Oklahoma last season and lit it up. He passed for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns, averaged 11.6 yards per pass attempt and rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. A running quarterback presents a high floor. Just look at what Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen did last season. Jackson didn't attempt many passes and Allen was one of the top quarterbacks in the final few weeks of the season and barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes. Cam Newton is a perennial QB1, and he has topped 24 touchdown passes once and hasn't passed for 4,000 yards since his rookie season. 

Murray is more intriguing because he can run and throw. He's also on a team with a horrible defense. The Cardinals are going to give up a lot of points, and it allows Murray to pass frequently and possibly pick up a lot of rushing yards against prevent defense.  

There are going to be many leagues where people take Murray too early. In other leagues, he could fall after the latest preseason disaster in which the Cardinals quarterback went 3-for-8 for 12 yards and a four-yard carry. He had two false start penalties for false clapping and took a safety. If you believe in Murray, and want to draft him anyway, this was the best thing that happened. Newton had a terrible preseason in his rookie season and finished as a Top 3 QB. Deshaun Watson looked awful in the preseason in his rookie season.

A good game would have increased the draft cost more. The Cardinals are running a lot of no-huddle in practice, but haven't shown much in the preseason games. There's no reason for them to show their hand. We have seen several rookie quarterbacks have success in recent seasons. Just last season, Baker Mayfield had 27 touchdowns passes in 14 games. 

Not only is Murray a great athlete, but he also has a great arm. His throws are accurate, and when on the run, he is shifty. Arizona's offensive line is an issue, and the hope is Murray's mobility can nullify the pressure. The Cardinals’ offensive line allowed 52 sacks last season, fifth-most in the NFL.

Here's the biggest thing about drafting Murray. If he doesn't work out, it's not going to crush your fantasy team. With so much depth at quarterback, swinging for the fences and shooting for upside is fine. In high-stakes leagues, Murray will cost an early pick among the quarterbacks. In many other leagues, he can be had at a fair price, then paired with a safe quarterback in case Murray doesn't work out. 

The investment in Murray isn't going to cost a pick in the first seven rounds in most leagues. Just remember the high floor running quarterbacks have and Murray projects to be a good passer with a lot of volume, too. If things work out and Murray passes 550-600 times and rushes for 500-700 yards, he's going to be a Top 12 QB.

Frankie “Fantasy” Taddeo: Taddeo is the 2017 and 2018 PlayFFWC.com Top 100 Players in the World Invitational champion.

The most perplexing development during high-stakes Fantasy Football World Championship drafts is the infatuation for Cardinals QB Kyler Murray. According to FullTime Fantasy’s Advanced ADP, Murray is picked around the end of the 10th round and as high as round 8 or 9. There have been drafts where Murray has gone off the board among the top-three quarterbacks! Wait, what? I know he is talented and everyone is drooling over the prospect of Murray calling the signals for Kliff Kingsbury's high-powered offense. However, fantasy owners are flawed in their thinking that the rookie QB will finish with more fantasy points this season than Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz or perhaps even the likes of Lamar Jackson. It is just not going to happen.

Successful Formula

Successful fantasy football players regularly win because they analyze boards as they unfold and target upside plus value. Annually, I do not prescribe to drafting quarterbacks until rounds 10 or later. One of the advantages of drafting mid-summer is the ability to see where owners are throwing their strongest early support. Via my projections every offseason I target a quarterback who I think has the best breakout potential while not being selected among the top eight to 10 at the position. In 2018, winning owners selected Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes in rounds 11-14. Mahomes went way after Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan—each of whom flew off draft boards. Drafting breakout players in those later rounds is easily the biggest key to any championship draft.

2019 Approach

I am not suggesting the athletic and dynamic Murray will be a bust in 2019, but his current price of round eight or nine is just way too much of a risk. Let's take a quick review of previously heralded quarterbacks to start right away in their rookie seasons. Colts QB Peyton Manning back in 1998 had a QB rating of 71.2 while throwing a league-leading 28 interceptions. In 2014, Raiders QB Derek Carr started 16 games and proceeded to only complete 58% of his passes leading the Raiders to one of the worst overall records in the league. Fantasy owners are placing unrealistic expectations by drafting Murray this high. Instead, I think it is more prudent to target either Falcons QB Matt Ryan or Eagles QB Carson Wentz in 2019. Let me explain. First, the boys out in the desert have Ryan installed as co-favorite with Mahomes to lead the league in passing yards this season. When the boys behind the counter present us with this information, they are right more often than not. Why are they taking this stance with Ryan? Well besides having one of the premier wide receiver tandems at his disposal in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, they are looking at a critical angle. What's that angle you ask? How about playing thirteen games indoors! With an improved offensive line, dangerous wideouts and no threat of inclement weather, Ryan could easily be looking at a top-five finish. Coming off another season cut short by injury, Wentz may offer the best value among QBs to target this year. Wentz, my breakout player at the position, is poised to return to the MVP level he was at when he was the darling of every fantasy owner only a few seasons ago. With arguably one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Zach Ertz and a healthy Alshon Jeffery at his disposal, Wentz is the QB to target in rounds 10-13. So far he is being undervalued in drafts and that suits me just fine.

What to do with Murray?

Don’t be that guy in your draft. My projections have Murray failing to beat out fellow NFL QBs in all fantasy relevant categories sans rushing touchdowns. Murray has the talent to develop into a star and will have some top-10 weekly finishes, but it will take several seasons for him to be a consistently reliable option. I would be comfortable drafting Murray as my QB2 with upside if he were still on the board in rounds 12 to 14 only after targeting one of my aforementioned QBs above. 

My projections have Murray finishing behind Mahomes, Rodgers, Watson, Ryan, Goff, Mayfield, Wentz, Jackson, Winston and Prescott. I have Murray placed in the back end of the tier consisting of Trubisky, Darnold, Cousins and Wilson. As a back-end tier-two QB, there is no way you should be spending valuable round eight or nine draft capital on an overinvestment like Murray. It's flawed thinking to assume he will be a trustworthy elite fantasy option. He might be, but you don't want to pay full retail price for him.

Looking for a more accurate measure of where experts are drafting a certain player? Advanced ADP is based on the 10 most recent high-stakes fantasy football drafts. Things change fast. Find out the exact window of opportunity for the key players you are looking to target the most. Check out Advanced ADP at FullTime Fantasy.

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