Is Kyler Murray Now A Best Ball Bargain?

May 29th 2023

Tom Strachan

Every year in Best Ball there are certain players that provide the biggest storylines to drafts. In 2022 Tony Pollard and Rhamondre Stevenson were players who paid off their ADPs handsomely, while Justin Fields was the later-round quarterback who came up big for those who drafted him. Typically the players that have the biggest impact in Best Ball are those who push through a wall of ambiguity to be a more consistent performer or someone who displays a higher ceiling than before. As the calendar slowly creeps toward training camp much attention should be paid to the headlines around those recovering from injuries, and perhaps none more so than Kyler Murray.

Kyler Murray tore his ACL and Meniscus in mid-December after a miserable campaign for the Cardinals, and as we sit here at the moment, there feels like a myriad of ways his 2023 season could play out. With an ADP of 148, putting him as the QB20 in Underdog drafts. With that in mind let’s consider some of the possible paths that lay ahead for Murray and the Cardinals in 2023.

1) Kyler Murray is fully recovered in time for Week 1

Perhaps this is one of the more unlikely scenarios, and I’m by no means a doctor, but by all accounts, Murray’s progress has been good in his recovery and the team seems optimistic this could be in the range of outcomes. The nearest possible comparison for Murray’s injury would be Joe Burrow, who in 2020 tore his ACL & MCL along with damaging his PCL and Meniscus on November 22nd. Burrow’s injury was more severe than Murray’s but yet he still returned to action by the first week of the 2021 season and performed at a similar rate that he did pre-injury. Burrow’s game is quite different from Murray’s with far less reliance as a dual-threat, but if Murray is out there scoring points from Week 1 and not leaving a zero on your bench, he’s automatically more viable for any roster build and could turn into one of the bargains of the summer.

2) Murray is on the field in Week 1 but barely rushes

Dovetailing off of the previous hypothesis, if Murray is out there in Week 1, or even early on in the season it would not at all be surprising to see him rushing less than he has done so previously. Murray has averaged 6.8 rush attempts per game throughout his four-year career in the NFL, along with 0.41 rushing touchdowns per game. This averages out to over six fantasy points per week before we get into Murray’s passing work. Murray has averaged 20.0 fantasy points per game over the last two years, but if we are forced to reduce that workload by 50% we’re looking at 17 points per game, or worse if Murray is unable to hit even 50% of his previous averages.

3) Murray isn’t ready to start the season

The Cardinals don’t have a bye week until Week 14, which eliminates the possibility that they could rest Murray until after a bye week should they have had an early one. The Cardinals are unlikely to hold Murray out longer than necessary as the quarterback will need to get used to a new offense for the first time in his NFL career, and while it might have been tempting if they had a bye week around the middle of the season now it feels more likely Murray starts well before their bye week. Particularly as waiting till the bye week would give Murray tough games against the Niners, Eagles and Seahawks in three of the four fixtures the Cardinals will play post-bye. But if Murray isn’t ready to start the season, when do they put him into the mix? It’s tricky to say as the Cardinals have a tough run of fixtures to open the season with the Commanders, Giants, Cowboys, Niners, Bengals and Rams the first six teams they will play. You could make an argument that the Cardinals could be 0-5 before their second divisional game of the year, against the Rams which might be seen as a must-win game, but that relies on the idea the Cardinals see winning games as a crucial part of 2023 when in reality they might be content to let the chips fall how they do and concentrate on building for 2024. In this version of events, it feels like Murray’s return could be slow-played and the first ‘friendly’ game of the season looks to be Week 10 at home to the Falcons. Would you draft Murray higher than he is going if you knew you’d not get him for Weeks 1-9 and then also lose him for a bye week in Week 14?

4) Murray’s recovery doesn’t go to plan and the Cardinals fully embrace the 2023 tank

It feels unlikely that a new management team of both head coach and general manager wouldn’t want to see what they have in a player of Murray’s ceiling. While it’s fair to question Murray’s ability to bring together a squad and lead an offense, it’s also true that Murray has been the kind of electric talent that has kept the Cardinals competitive and also been a top 12 fantasy quarterback every year of his career. The Cardinals have to want to see whether Murray is still the man to build around going forward and it feels like they’ll do all they can to see him on the field, but if that isn’t possible, the Cardinals are already set up with an eye towards the 2024 draft with 11 total draft picks, including two first-rounders, one second-rounder, and three third-rounders, giving them six in the top 100. 

5) The offense stinks and none of this matters

It feels likely that Kyler Murray will be on the field by Halloween, playing in a new offense for the first time in his career, on a struggling Cardinals team that could lose as many as nine or ten of their first ten games. Moving on from DeAndre Hopkins has left the offense reliant on Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, who is in the last year of his contract, and happens to be represented by the same agent who was responsible for last year's A.J Brown, Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf contract stand-offs, if he decides to force the issue can we really have high hopes for Greg Dortch and Rondale Moore? It’s entirely possible to say that this is going to be a bad year for the Cardinals and Murray might be unable to extend plays like he did previously as he learns to trust his knee once again. Murray has averaged over four fewer points per game in games without Hopkins throughout his career, and if we’re getting less rushing production, things could be ugly.

At this point with everything we know and don’t know, If all of that combines together, then the positional ADP of QB20 seems fair, but when Murray is being drafted behind Derek Carr, Kenny Pickett and Jordan Love it’s also true that Murray’s ceiling can be worth chasing. There’s a long hot Best Ball Summer ahead, and in some of the short-window tournaments such as The Poodle or Puppy’s, it might pay off to take an aggressive stance in one, while playing it more similar to the market in others.