Road to QB1: Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray could finally break through in 2024 and finish as the fantasy QB1
New Orleans Saints v Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints v Arizona Cardinals / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Through his first five years in the league, Kyler Murray has consistently been an elite dual-threat fantasy quarterback but has yet to finish as the overall QB1 despite several top-five finishes. That could all change in 2024 with almost an entirely new team around him.

Arizona went through a modified transition period in 2023 after Murray missed the first half of the season nursing the torn ACL he suffered late in the previous year. Despite the injury, Murray still appeared in eight games and averaged a respectable 18.9 fantasy points in that span.

Murray has spent most of his brief career so far with DeAndre Hopkins as his top target but was left without a true alpha receiver in 2023. Instead, the quarterback showed promising chemistry with rookie tight end Trey McBride, who led the team with 825 receiving yards, and the front office addressed the issue in the offseason by selecting Marvin Harrison Jr. fourth overall in the draft.

Following three years at Ohio State, Harrison entered the draft as one of the highest-rated prospects at the position in recent history. Even in his rookie season, Harrison is expected to have an immediate impact and bolster the overall production of Arizona's receiving unit.

Having not played a full season in four years, it is difficult to take anything away from Murray's recent stats and apply it to 2024. The eight games 'K-1' played in after returning from injury were encouraging given the circumstances but left a lot to be desired.

From Week 10 to Week 18 — the eight games Murray appeared in — he was the eighth-best fantasy quarterback in 2023. He showed all the signs of having put the devastating injury behind him but still ran for just 30 rushing yards per game, a significant decrease for his standards, and turned the ball over 11 times.

How Kyler Murray can finish as the fantasy QB1

With the Cardinals essentially rebuilding in 2023, Murray gave managers reason for optimism entering his sixth season. ACL injuries have the potential to be career-altering for a mobile quarterback but the former no. 1 overall pick showed enough in his return to prevent the team from drafting a new quarterback in 2024.

Arizona will not be good in 2024 but in their current situation, Murray and the offense will be given all the opportunities they need to thrive in fantasy. The team's defensive unit is projected to be the worst in the NFL by Bleacher Report, suggesting they will be playing from behind more often than not.

Regardless of Jonathon Gannon's intentions, expect Murray and the Cardinals to be passing a lot more. Not only will they be put in positions forced to out-score opponents to win games but 29-year-old James Conner returns as the team's starting running back behind a questionable offensive line returning just two starters.

Conner enjoyed a career year in 2023 but will be entering his third season past the age where running backs typically decline. Not only will Murray be forced to throw more but with his blocking unit projected to be amongst the worst in the league, his scrambling ability will be called upon early and often.

In flashes, Murray proved that his knee still allows him to be the same athletic runner who amassed 819 rushing yards in 2020. The issue that limited the 26-year-old to just 5.5 carries per game was likely more mental than physical, which a full offseason to commit to his strength and conditioning should only help.

Even in his limited capacity the previous two seasons, Murray has never finished worse than 11th amongst quarterbacks in fantasy points per game. Moderate touchdown numbers have often limited him, never throwing more than 26 in a season and averaging just 1.25 scores per game in 2023.

A lot of his lack of production through the air in 2023 can be chalked up to his middling receiving corps, an excuse he will not have this season.

Murray reached the end zone three times with his legs last season — the same total he recorded through 11 games in 2022 — to bolster his production but could not overcome his turnovers, which included an asinine five fumbles. Turning the ball over at the same frequency as throwing touchdowns is never an equation that will lead to overall QB1 status.

With as young of a team as Arizona has, growing pains are to be expected. However, the last time Murray played a full season he finished as the QB3, making a QB1 ceiling very plausible.