Kyler Murray Fantasy Outlook 2023: Should you draft Cardinals' QB amid injury worries?

Kyler Murray Fantasy Outlook 2023: Should you draft Cardinals' QB amid injury worries?

Kyler Murray hasn’t just fallen from NFL stardom since his back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances in 2020 and ’21 — he has free-fall plunged like Patrick Swayze in Point Break (which came out over six years before Murray was born). Now, entering his age-26 season on the PUP list, the question becomes “Is he a sleeper and bounce-back candidate or the leading candidate on the ‘Do Not Draft’ list?”

SN Fantasy has been answering these kinds of questions about risk-vs-reward and boom-or-bust fantasy players all preseason, including Jonathan Taylor, Alvin Kamara, and Javonte Williams. For those in deep leagues and 2-QB formats — or the crowd that goes no-QB until late in the draft — Murray could be an intriguing player to target.

The age-old question, of course, is at what point in the draft he starts becoming a value. His current ADP is in the 150s — somewhere around the Brocky Purdy and Bryce Youngs of the league, around the fourth or fifth tier of QBs. It doesn’t help his stock that Murray ended July by saying he has “no timetable for a return” from his ACL injury. Not exactly a chipper summertime update, Cobra Ky. (Side note: check out our fantasy team names)!

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Maybe updates like those just further contribute to his status as a massive late-round value and IR stash until he returns to full health. We’ll dive into that theory and more as we break down Murray’s 2023 fantasy outlook and decide whether he’s a smart draft pick in fantasy football leagues.

Kyler Murray injury update: When will the Cardinals QB return?

Murray will be nine months into his ACL rehab come Week 1, and most experts project his return to the field around Week 5 unless he suffers setbacks between now and then. The team is keeping Murray on the PUP list when the regular season begins, meaning he won’t be eligible to return until then. Assuming he stays healthy after that, that will give fantasy owners 10 weeks of Murray in the regular season and obviously the chance for three weeks with the QB in the playoffs.

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It’s worth noting that Draft Sharks’ injury predictor lists Murray as a high risk, citing not just his most recent ACL and meniscus issues but also his past hamstring and ankle problems. Even if he’s not as prone to running under new head coach Jonathan Gannon and offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, he will always be a risk given his body type and injury history.

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Kyler Murray’s 2023 fantasy ranking and ADP

Entering the season, SN Fantasy has Murray listed as the No. 24 QB. His upside is obvious — he finished the 2020 season as the QB2 and sat within the top 10 of QBs in points per game in ’21. He has a sneaky cannon of an arm for a short guy, but his dual-threat ability as an explosive runner will always be his biggest fantasy appeal.

Murray has averaged 21.2 fantasy points over 57 NFL starts, due in large part to his above-average receivers helping him out downfield. He benefited greatly from the presence of DeAndre Hopkins during Nuk’s reign in the desert, and his rapport with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown since the Cardinals acquired him from the Ravens has produced fantastic results. Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz also helps out (when healthy) as a red-zone threat and sure-handed, short-yardage pass-catcher.

But concerns exist with Murray, too, beyond the obvious fact that he’s injury prone. Murray regressed as a passer last season, struggling with efficiency, ball security, and deep-ball accuracy. Check out his concerning deep-ball stats last season, according to PFF:

Kyler Murray’s Deep Ball Stats, Rankings (PFF)Deep Pass Category Stat RankDeep Passing Yards 311 28thDeep Passing TDs 1 T-28thDeep Passer Rating 23.7 32ndDeep Completion % 26.7% 31st

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That’s not great for a QB most fantasy owners draft for his explosiveness and big-play ability. Most remember his incredible 60-yard Hail Mary heave to Hopkins for a game-winning TD against the Bills in Nov. 2020. Hail Murray, Miracle Murray, whatever you want to call it — that’s the kind of stuff that attract people to the 26-year-old former Heisman winner.

But he won his Heisman Trophy over five years ago, and his last Pro Bowl was two seasons ago. Along the way, he has endured a half-dozen different injuries, half of which sidelined him for multiple games. Even before his latest injury, the stats above suggest he’s just not that good — and certainly not a trustworthy QB1, even in deep leagues.

Delving deeper into his stats, he led the NFL in turnover-worthy play rate (15.6 percent) last season and an unfathomable 57 QBs had a higher net yard average per passing attempt than Murray’s 6.1. Only six of his 390 passing attempts went for completions of 30-plus yards.

FantasyPros has Murray’s ADP at No. 153, right around the 20th-23rd QB picked. In their consensus ADP rankings, he goes right after Brock Purdy (QB21), Derek Carr (QB22), and Matthew Stafford (QB23) and just before C.J. Stroud (QB25) and Jordan Love (QB26). My, how the mighty Kyler has fallen.

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Kyler Murray’s fantasy outlook 2023

If you go into the 150s feeling underwhelmed about your QB1 — or your QB2 in a 2-QB league — you might want to grab Murray as a stash. When his receivers are healthy (and more important, when he’s healthy), he’s still capable of making some noise when his coaches scheme the right plays for him. Don’t be the one punting QB until Week 5 and then putting your rest-of-season faith in Murray. Last season proved he’s no savior.

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We’re more than likely fading the fifth-year QB altogether, not just because of his health but also because he’s not that great of a deep passer anymore. A new offensive scheme and a shaky offensive line likely won’t do him many favors either. He averaged just 2.2 seconds of pocket time last season, a big reason why he always seems forced into tucking the ball and running. He will still make a highlight-reel throw or two each game, as well as some eye-popping scampers, but the lows — like poor throws, deep-ball inaccuracies, awful pocket awareness, and bad reads — don’t make the highlight reels.

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Fantasy is as much about avoiding poor value as it is about pinpointing strong value. You can draft an RB breakout and a WR sleeper and completely whiff on QB and TE and find yourself out of the playoff picture. You simply cannot put all your eggs in the baskets of untrustworthy QBs. If they’re falling to the 150s, chances are they’re not QBs that will wind up on many championship squads.

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You want a QB sleeper worth targeting? Go after Geno Smith in the 100-110 range. Smith ranked as one of the best deep-ball passers in the league and finished as the QB5 last season — and Seattle added rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba to his wideout corps — and yet some fantasy pundits have him ranked as low as 153. I’ll take a guy who just put together 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, an NFL-best 69.8 completion percentage, and the Comeback Player of the Year award over an injured mobile QB any day.