Kyler Murray is a Top 3 Fantasy QB in 2020 - Roto Street Journal
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Kyler Murray is a Top 3 Fantasy QB in 2020

You would’ve been hard-pressed to find a site higher than RSJ on Kyler Murray‘s Fantasy upside, and the Air Raid offense as a whole, in 2019. The Wolf had him all the way up at QB7 (+6 ECR).

Turns out, we we’re likely a year early, because the true fantasy explosion is coming in 2020.

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Sure, we weren’t necessarily wrong, as Murray finished as the QB7 on the year. Still, he only had 5 games above 20 FPs, and never finished above the weekly QB4.

Even still, Murray had complete garbage at his disposal. Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald are solid… No.2s at best.

Enter DeAndre Hopkins

Murray sorely lacked a bonafide number one weapon last year. Too often, he was left to scramble without any WR separation — according to PlayerProfiler, the Cardinals ranked 30th with 1.31 yards of separation.

Hopkins remains a Top-3 WR in the league, if not the best. While he isn’t an elite separator, few — if any — possess Hopkins body control and ball skills. Even if he’s covered, he’s not, as Hopkins has ranked 16th and 8th in contested catch percentage the past two years (and this feels low). Hopkins will give Murray the ultimate “chuck it up and let me work” valve when he’s under duress.

In fact, according to ESPN, “Murray was just 27th in passer rating out of the pocket and 21st in TD% out of the pocket last season, despite being fourth in out-of-the-pocket pass attempts. Since 2018, Hopkins is tied with Tyler Lockett for the most TD receptions when his QB is out of the pocket.”

Additionally, Murray rarely had the chance to flash his deep arm. The Air Raid is at its most dangerous with an elite deep weapon; although solid in the short and intermediate games, Kirk and Fitzgerald simply aren’t field stretchers. Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler may have been drafted for this role, but Butler was lost for the season before it began and Isabella never materialized.

Consequently, Murray ranked 23rd in percentage of passes that were thrown deep (18.1%), limiting a key component that makes this offense so dangerous. Meanwhile, since 2017, Hopkins is tied for second among WRs in deep TD receptions (only Tyreek Hill has more).

Broken plays and deep balls: with Hopkins bringing these key additions, we should see Murray and the entire Air Raid offense hum like never before. He’s as sure handed as they come, uncoverable in the Red Zone, and will give Murray a go-to weapon he sorely needed last year. Moreover, Hopkins will command defensive attention, allowing Kirk and Fitzgerald to thrive against softer coverage.

Kurt Warner raved about how Hopkins’ addition “simplifies the game” for Murray.

“Having a No. 1, having a difference-maker — and for me, with a young quarterback and really for any quarterback — having a guy where you say to yourself, ‘There is no bad matchup for DeAndre Hopkins,’” he said on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Monday. “There’s not a guy out there that you say to yourself, ‘Well, if that guy’s guarding him we don’t have the advantage.’

“And so that’s where it starts is that for any quarterback you want to make the game as easy as possible, and the best way to make it easy for a quarterback is to go, ‘Oh, DeAndre Hopkins is one-on-one? Forget about everything else! Throw it to that guy!’

Nevermind Kenyan Drake‘s return, and the value he provides as an explosive safety valve. In fact, Murray scored 21, 26.8, and 26.7 in Drake’s first games with the team, including two gems against San Francisco.

The weaponry reinforcement is great.

Yet, what most be most impactful is both he and Kingsbury gained a year of NFL experience. Outside of brief glimpses, the “Air Raid” offense never felt like it hit its fullest gear.

Kingsbury acknowledged as much, even prior to adding Hopkins:

“I think it can be special,” Kingsbury said when asked about year two in his Air Raid system. “You see how teams are building around their quarterbacks, like they did with Mahomes and Lamar, like we are trying to do with Kyler. Not trying to make the quarterback fit the system but make the system fit the quarterback. That can be an ideal situation, when guys have that type of synergy.

“I think it was a work in progress, no doubt,” Kingsbury explained. “I don’t think we got where we wanted to be completely offensively, but I think having an entire offseason with our players understanding what we want to be, the tempo, and year two of the quarterback, we’ll be able to expand the playbook quite a bit.”

Kingsbury noted that quarterbacks in year two of his offense tend to feel more comfortable and the offense becomes more natural — which should terrify opposing defenses. If you look at Mahomes’ collegiate stats under Kingsbury from freshman to sophomore year, his completion percentage increased by seven points, while his total touchdowns jumped from 2.2 per game to 3.5 per game.

“In our offense, traditionally in year one to year two, our quarterbacks have played at a much higher level, and I am expecting him to do the same,” Kingsbury said of his stud quarterback.

Between a natural Year 2 step forward for both coach and QB, to the addition of a Top-Three WR in the game, Murray’s primed and ready for his true takeoff. He has uncanny arm strength and accuracy, and offers “Konami Cheat Code” leg points.

The lone worry? This offensive line. RotoWorld’s Ian Hartitz wisely points out how hyped Baker Mayfield was this time in 2019… and how the line woes anchored them down all season. Indeed, Kingsbury is far more competent than Freddie Kitchens could ever hope to be, but the line could be the difference between an elite and a solid campaign.

Still, the draft is as deep a tackle-class in recent memory. Here’s hoping they do it right. For now, Murray is up to my QB3, and one of the only QBs I’d consider by Round 5.

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