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2019 Cardinals fantasy preview: Kyler Murray brings potential and questions

Liz Loza
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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Arizona Cardinals.

Ohhhh, there’s a lot to like (and hope for) in the 2019 Arizona Cardinals for fantasy gamers. There’s a new quarterback under center in exciting dual threat Kyler Murray, who will be paired with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who rose to notoriety as Patrick Mahomes’ head coach in the outrageously high-scoring Texas Tech Red Raiders. Kingsbury will try to translate his exciting offensive system to the NFL, and the Cardinals have the pieces in place to make it work (at least, on paper).

Fantasy gamers as a whole are expecting a resurgent season from running back David Johnson in this new system. The Cardinals also have a plethora of talent at wide receiver, led by the ageless Larry Fitzgerald.

Rookie Sensation?

Several prognosticators are all in on Kyler Murray’s dual-threat abilities and involvement in Kliff Kingsbury’s high-flying Air Raid offense. Should prospective investors FOLLOW or FADE the first-year passer at his 117.4 ADP (QB11) in standard Yahoo leagues (4 pts/pass TD, 1 pt/25 pass yards)?

Liz: SELL. There’s no denying Murray’s electric ability. He certainly has the potential to crush it in the future. But forgive me for not being all-in on a rookie QB who will be guided by a rookie HC.

Additionally, as discussed on the most recent episode of the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast, the Cardinals opening schedule is not one that will allow Arizona’s offense many opportunities. Facing DET, BAL, and SEA in three of the first four games, Murray will be fighting to touch the ball against three solid defenses fixated on playing keep-away. Furthermore, he’ll be scrambling (which he’s admittedly fantastic at) behind an offensive line that, despite improvements, PFF still rated as a bottom-three unit heading into 2019. I understand being enamored by a player’s ceiling, but at a position this deep I’d rather wait and see. He’s currently my QB13.



That is to say, I'm buying -- and I don't mean that in some sort of detached or theoretical way. I outbid the room for Murray's services in this industry auction ($25) and he was my first round pick in this rookie dynasty draft, despite the fact that I had no great need for a quarterback. Murray's fantasy upside is just silly. He was the clear top QB prospect in this year's draft and he's close to an ideal fit for an up-tempo Air Raid offense. Murray is a thrilling runner with a huge (and accurate) arm. It's hardly a stretch to forecast 4800-plus combined passing and rushing yards for him in his first NFL season. Three of five Yahoo fantasy analysts rank him as a top-10 QB, so it's not as if I'm alone out here on Kyler Island.

Arizona has managed to stockpile talented young receivers in recent offseasons (see below) and of course the team still features Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. Murray will have no shortage of exceptional weapons. Quarterback is a swing-for-the-fences position in standard fantasy formats, because replacement value at this spot is so high. Get yourself a share or two of Kyler and the Cards, people.

DJ rebound on tap?

Many gamers were burned by David Johnson (6.3 ADP, RB5) last season as the running back fell well short of lofty expectations. In a new offensive system, OVER or UNDER 5.5 final RB rank for the multidimensional back this season? (OVER = outside the top-5; UNDER = inside)

Liz: UNDER. Hamstrung by an ineffective offense that misused his talents for the first half of the season, Johnson still managed top-nine fantasy production. Despite facing stacked fronts nearly 32 percent of the time, the Northern Iowa product successfully evaded more than three tackles per game (RB20) and continued to convert in the end zone to the tune of 10 TDs.

In a retooled offense that relies on short passes and a fast tempo, Johnson should catch plenty of balls. He’ll also have some room to run with a mobile QB like Kyler opening up holes. Nearly two years removed from the ACL injury that robbed him of his 2017 season, the bounce back is real. Johnson is the Yahoo Consensus RB5 heading into 2019.

Brad: UNDER. Some have unfairly soured on Johnson after what they feel was a disappointing 2018. Despite the dysfunctional offense, criminal misuse and putrid advanced profile (RB54 in elusive rating; RB52 in YAC/attempt), he still finished RB9 in total PPR points. The repeated belly slams into overloaded fronts amazingly didn’t destroy his fantasy value. When you average 19.3 touches per game you can overcome even the most dire situation. Volume always speaks, kids.

For good reason, numerous DJ rebound articles have been penned this offseason. Placed in a more creative environment, he’s destined to be a fantasy juggernaut. Reports of 30-35 touches per game are pure lunacy, but he should command at least 20-25 grips each week. More importantly, he will be more efficient. The Air Raid offense is predicated on short routes in order to maximize high-percentage throws and uptempo. It also masks sickly offensive lines through spacing. Whether by design or via improvisation, Johnson will exploit defenses on a team that will often scoreboard chase. Eclipsing 85 receptions is likely. When in competitive affairs, he will also find room to run. Playing alongside a running QB, who can open up running lanes on RPOs, is a major plus.

Slap it all together and it’s not outlandish Johnson reaches his 1,000/1,000 goal, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk in the ultra-exclusive club. Reaching double figures in TDs is also achievable. Zero in on him after the big four RBs (Saquon, Zeke, CMC, Kamara) fall off the board.

Wide Receiver Wrangle

In an offense sure to pass at a prolific rate, which wide receiver would you prefer to target at his respective price point: Christian Kirk (72.9 ADP, WR33) or Larry Fitzgerald (88.8, WR38)?

Brad: KIRK. Young, explosive and occasionally useful in his first season, Kirk is about to catapult into another tier. He was hindered terribly by Josh Rosen and the offense’s general inadequacies, posting one of the worst catchable target percentages of any eligible wideout in the game (70.6%, WR86). His system familiarity and Murray’s accurate arm raises his floor tremendously. Assuming his target share swells into the 22-24 percent range, a 65-950-6 median output is possible. If the Air Raid clicks and Arizona throws it some 60%-plus times, his ceiling is much higher. He’s undoubtedly one of my favorite mid-draft WR3s.

Andy: Am I allowed to endorse BOTH? That's really how I feel. If I'm right about Murray's potential in his rookie season, then this team is going to deliver multiple starting-quality fantasy receivers.

I'd like to take a moment to remind you that Fitzgerald, in addition to being on the short list of history's greatest receivers, is just one season removed from catching 109 passes. And the year before that, he led the NFL with 107. And the year before that, it was another 109. Fitz turns 36 at the end of August, so his age is certainly a concern. But it's worth remembering that he's finished as no worse than a WR2 whenever he's been paired with a competent QB. I'm not quite ready to bet against him.

Also, just for the record, I'll happily take Andy Isabella at his late-round ADP as well. He was a monstrously productive collegiate receiver and he ran a blistering 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine. Down the road, he has a chance to be excellent.

[Join or create a 2019 Yahoo Fantasy Football league for free today]

Best Ball Bargain Bin

Brad: ANDY ISABELLA. Short, plucky and blessed with amazing speed, Isabella should provide some deep-league value out of the gate. His nation-leading 4.15 yards per route while at UMass last year and inside/outside versatility fit beautifully with Arizona’s revamped system. Kirk and Fitzgerald will overshadow him in targets share, but the rookie is a 60-catch candidate who could develop a bubbling chemistry with Murray as the season unfolds. Think of him as a poor man’s version of Brandin Cooks.

Liz: Is this where I resurrect my Kevin White take? Nah? Cool.

How about Chase Edmonds then? A capable receiver who can cut and juke his way past defenders, Edmonds appears to have earned the RB2 duties in Arizona. Having been compared to Devonta Freeman, the Fordham product is undersized, but compactly built with impressive balance and above average power. Earning praise from Kingsbury for his pass-catching ability during OTA’s, Edmonds would have obvious value were Johnson to miss time.

Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Arizona Cardinals 5 wins OVER (-120) or UNDER (+100)

Liz: PUSH. Five wins feels exactly right. That’s two better than last year. The NFC West is a loaded division. Both the Rams and the Seahawks have good defenses. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals bullying either of those squads. When I look at Arizona’s schedule, I see three extremely likely wins. The rest are toss-ups. Given the youth of the operation, I’ll be bearish.

Andy: Sure, I’ll take the OVER, despite the newness of so many key pieces. Is a 6-10 season too much to ask? Heck, no. When you have a quarterback, you have hope.

More Fantasy Team Previews

AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots

NFC East: Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Washington

AFC South: Colts | Texans | Jaguars | Titans

NFC South: Buccaneers | Saints | Panthers | Falcons

AFC North: Bengals | Steelers | Ravens | Browns

NFC North: Lions | Vikings | Packers | Bears

AFC West: Chiefs | Chargers | Raiders | Broncos

NFC West: Rams | Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks

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Follow Andy: @AndyBehrens

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