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THE VERDICT: QB Kyler Murray, ARI – Year Two

Is Kyler Murray the Next Second-Year Fantasy Sensation at QB? That is the question.

In each of the past two seasons, a second-year quarterback has taken the NFL (and fantasy football) by storm. In 2018, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Last year, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson paced the NFL in touchdown passes and set a league record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

Both young quarterbacks won the league’s most valuable player award and finished as the highest-scoring signal-callers in fantasy football by a massive margin. If you had them on your fantasy roster, odds are the season went well.

There’s another young quarterback entering his second NFL season who would appear to have the ingredients lined up for a breakout season.

  1. His passing-game weapons received a massive boost in the offseason.
  2. He plays for an offensive-minded head coach.
  3. He is more than capable of racking up yardage with both his arm and legs.

However, those ingredients are also the recipe for a big ol’ steaming bowl of hype, and as Kyler Murray gets ready for his second year in the pros, some pundits are talking him up as the next big thing under center.

Is Murray on the verge of taking the NFL by storm, or is the hype (and the rising average draft position that comes with it) getting out of hand?

Kyler Murray, MVP Candidate

Murray started all 16 games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, passing for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt and posted a passer rating of 87.4. He also added 544 yards and four scores on the ground, joining Cam Newton as the only two rookie quarterbacks in league history to pass for 3,500 yards and run for 500 yards. In Sharks League Scoring, Murray finished his first season as the seventh-ranked fantasy quarterback.

Not bad for a kid. And it would appear most think that was just the beginning. Per the odds-makers at Caesar’s Palace, only four quarterbacks (Mahomes, Jackson, Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Seattle’s Russell Wilson) have better odds to win the NFL’s MVP award in 2020.

As Darren Urban wrote for the team’s website, odds-makers aren’t the only folks predicting big things from Murray in Year 2 — his own head coach expects him to take a major step forward in 2020.

“When you watch the installs with him and you watch the plays from last year, you notice how far he’s come,” Kingsbury said. “There’s definitely a different confidence, a different level of command with the offense, and he feels it. Even though we haven’t been able to get on the grass he definitely feels a lot more comfortable heading into Year 2, so I’m excited to get my hands on him whenever I can.”

The optimism surrounding Murray extends to the realm of fantasy as well. In his early quarterback rankings at the Athletic, Jake Ciely slotted Murray inside his Top 5 — ahead of Wilson and Houston’s Deshaun Watson.

“While I was one of the first on the Murray as a Top 5 quarterback, I knew I wouldn’t be alone and the bandwagon would fill up quickly (and it has!),” Ciely wrote. “Murray has DeAndre Hopkins as his No. 1, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and a litany of young receivers vying for the No. 4 role … plus, that Kliff Kingsbury guy calling the shots … OH, plus, plus those legs! I’d be willing to bet that (544 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns) is his floor for 2020.”

The Arrival of DeAndre Hopkins

The biggest reason for the considerable optimism surrounding Murray’s sophomore season is the offseason’s biggest player move from a fantasy perspective.

The trade that brought wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the desert for tailback David Johnson and a second-round pick was more than just absolute thievery. It upgraded Murray’s targets in the passing game from an average unit headlined by youngster Christian Kirk and an aging Larry Fitzgerald to one of the best wideout trios in the NFL.

Hopkins has been one of the most productive pass-catchers in the league the past few years — he topped 100 catches for the third time in 2019 and posted his fifth 1,000-yard season in the past six years. The soon-to-be 28-year-old told reporters that he’s excited to get to work with Murray who (in his opinion) shares some similarities with his old quarterback in Houston.

“Both of those guys are able to get out of situations with their feet,” Hopkins said via Mason Kern of Sports Illustrated, comparing Murray’s game to Deshaun Watson. “So, that’s one of the things (that make them similar) and also that they both keep their head downfield and trying to make the play not just with their feet. There are similarities there. Obviously, they can run out the pocket and get away from things, but both of those guys also have a very strong arm. I’ve been watching highlights now. I think I watch some of Kyler’s highlights more than I’ve ever watched my own highlights.”

That’s a comparison that should appeal a fair amount to fantasy managers considering an investment in Murray. Watson piled up 3,852 passing yards, threw for 26 touchdowns and finished fourth among all quarterbacks in fantasy points last year. The year before that brought 26 more scoring strikes and another QB4 campaign. Back in 2018, no quarterback had more fantasy points per game.

And while Will Fuller’s a talented deep threat when healthy, Watson’s secondary options behind Hopkins have never been as good as what Murray has in Arizona in 2020.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last four years. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.