Kyler Murray’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

Kyler Murray’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

One of the NFL’s most dynamic and electric players, fantasy football managers are excited about the outlook for Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray as he heads into the 2021 season. As one of a handful of quarterbacks with QB1 upside (though with a premium price), should fantasy managers consider drafting Kyler Murray at his current ADP?

Kyler Murray’s fantasy outlook for 2021

It’s easy to sit back and see Murray’s QB2 finish and know he had an excellent fantasy season in 2020. That much is obvious. But I don’t think people realize how good it could have been, which might come as a surprise.

By the time the season came to a close, he had ended the 2020 campaign just shy of 4,000 yards passing, with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In addition, he rushed for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, at one point, he was on a record pace.

From Week 1-11, Murray recorded seven QB5-or-higher performances while never scoring below 23 points in all 11 games as the QB1 (29.2 ppg). This even includes his Week 11 game against Seattle, where Murray suffered a shoulder injury (sprained AC joint) that derailed his season. Through Week 10, Murray was averaging 0.69 fantasy per dropback, No. 1 over this time. He was averaging 32.2 points per game, something no one has ever done for an entire season.

If you were to take his Week 1-11 stats (which is not a small sample size), Murray was on pace for 546.9 fantasy points, 409.7 competitions, 4,494.8 yards, 32.3 TDs with an additional 1,052 yards rushing with 17 touchdowns — absurd numbers.

But as we know, it did not pan out this way. Murray’s shoulder injury compromised not only his arm but also his willingness to take off under duress. From Week 12 and on, Murray was the QB17 in fantasy, watching his per-game totals fall to 20.2 points with 265.2 total yards and 1.6 total touchdowns.

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Murray could be even better in 2021

That’s not a statement many defensive coordinators will like, but it’s the truth. First of all, the Cardinals boosted their offensive line, which was sneakily solid last season after an abysmal 2019 season. D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum continue to play well, and they upgraded their weakest position by trading for Rodney Hudson. The Cardinals OL ranked in the top 10 in both time to pressure per dropback (2.45 seconds) and yards before contact per carry (1.97 yards).

Then, we get to the pass catchers. Oh boy, this is getting scary. Not only does Murray have DeAndre Hopkins to target for a bazillion times a season, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury also went out and signed A.J. Green and drafted Rondale Moore out of Purdue (pick No. 49 overall).

Green still has good ball in him — that I do not doubt. He is coming off a 104-target season and is not the WR1 in the pecking order for the first time in his career. He will be an air yards machine. Then you have Moore, who is the most dynamic of the entire receiver class. Yes, even over Jaylen Waddle.

This offense could be deadly with Murray at the center of it all. Not only is he a phenomenal passer, but his rushing floor is one of the highest in all of fantasy, averaging 51.2 yards per game last season with 11 rushing touchdowns. He’s now the only QB in league history to throw for 3,500 passing yards and run for 800+ yards in the same season.

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Murray is one of six QBs that could end the season as the QB1 overall. However, if I were to bet on who is most likely to dethrone Patrick Mahomes in 2021, my money would be on Murray for fantasy.

Fantasy projection

Although the Cardinals did bring in James Conner to pair with Chase Edmonds in the backfield, I don’t think this means they will run more in 2021. If anything, this should mean more dropbacks for Murray with the additions of Green and Moore.

For as pass-happy as we think Kingsbury is, the Cardinals threw the ball only 56% of the time, which was below the 58% league average. But their pace jumped from 11th-quickest to No. 2, running a play every 25.06 seconds, which led to the fourth-highest number of plays ran overall (1,083).

Combining the offseason moves and the need to keep up in a loaded NFC West, it’s more likely we see the Cardinals jump in passing volume to closer to the 60% range. Furthermore, just because they signed an additional RB doesn’t mean Murray will be phased out of the red zone. He saw 24 attempts inside the 20-yard line last season, which he converted into 9 touchdowns.

I am very bullish on Murray and the Cardinals’ offense as a whole in 2021, and it is reflected in my projections. Currently, Murray is slated for around 620 attempts for 4,500 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Moreover, he could generate 815-830 rushing yards and 9 more scores on the ground.

Kyler Murray’s ADP

According to Sleeper, Murray is currently the QB3 with an ADP of 41.4 in half PPR formats. In superflex leagues, where quarterbacks have increased value, he has a 6.8 ADP. Similarly, on Fleaflicker, Murray is the QB3 with a 35 ADP. On the high stakes NFC format, he is the QB3 with an ADP of 44.7.

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Should you draft Murray for fantasy in 2021?

Look, I love Mahomes and what he brings to the field. He is as consistent as it gets and has arguably the highest floor. But I don’t think he is the runaway QB1. The case could be made for Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, and Murray to end up on top by season’s end.

Because of this, Mahomes in the middle of the second round is one of the worst values in fantasy drafts. If you are telling me I can draft Murray two to three rounds later, sign me up.

I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those early quarterbacks, so it’s somewhat of a dealer’s choice. Yet, if you look back on what Murray was doing when healthy and consider his fantasy outlook for 2021 along with the additional skill players, he might be my choice based on his ADP.

Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.