As far as coordinating offenses goes, Kliff Kingsbury is a genius.
It's coaching his defense, and winning, that has given him some trouble.
Perhaps not since Chip Kelly's arrival in Philadelphia has an NFL team made such a big commitment to a collegiate coach with no pro coaching experience. Kingsbury's Air Raid offenses have posted ridiculously gaudy numbers, but they haven't resulted in wins. Unlike Kelly, who was a proven winner with his hurry-up offense before arriving in Philly, Kingsbury was 35-40 at Texas Tech, including 1-2 in bowl games. He never had more than eight wins in a season.
A former NFL backup quarterback, Kingsbury has been a pass-heavy schemer who uses spread offense concepts featuring fast receivers who run precise routes to stretch defenses. A strong-armed, accurate quarterback is a must, and it's even better if he can make plays with his feet. The offense tends to move quickly and pick up chunks of yardage -- it ranked in the top 16 in yards per game in each of Kingsbury's six seasons at Texas Tech, including four top-10 finishes. The Red Raiders also ranked among the top-25 in scoring each of the last four seasons.
In fact, if you really wanted to dig into Kingsbury's past, you'd find that the coach once recruited Murray when the quarterback was 15 years old! It's almost as if this union has been on a destined course since 2012.
By virtue of his incredible numbers at Oklahoma, you already know Murray understands what Kingsbury will ask of him. That part of the Cardinals offense isn't just fixed, it's on an accelerated track compared to the typical rookie quarterback joining a pro team. Combine that with the Cardinals' deepened, younger receiving corps and David Johnson's sure-thing status as their running back, and the Cardinals offense should be somewhere between "pleasant" and "Holy Guacamole!" for Fantasy managers.
If there's anything that still needs fixing in the desert, it's the offensive line. The front five is a rag-tag group that actually isn't horrible on paper, but riddled with injury risk and inconsistent blocking. Fortunately, Kingsbury has been working around sub-standard offensive lines for years and understands how to overcome them.
Here's how Kingsbury's tendencies looked in his six seasons at Texas Tech:
Kingsbury actually got tame in his past two years, dialing down to a 56-44 pass-run ratio after being at 62-38 pass-run in his first four seasons. Losing Mahomes might have been part of the reason for the drop-off. While Kingsbury would be wise to remember he has David Johnson on his sideline (a point we'll get to in a little bit), this is a pretty good indicator that the Cardinals will take to the air with Murray frequently.
Murray profiles as a breakout Fantasy quarterback with more potential than any player available after Round 6 or 7. Not only should he throw a bunch, but his legs will lead to plenty of rushing stats. Do not be shy about taking Murray and another quarterback on Draft Day -- even if it means taking Murray first with a pick in Round 8 or 9.
You shouldn't believe that Kingsbury "forgot" about his run game, but it's not quite the priority for him that it is for other coaches. During Texas Tech's days with Mahomes and others, running backs really didn't get a ton of work. DeAndre Washington posted back-to-back 1,000-yard efforts but never averaged more than 18 carries per game. After Mahomes' departure, Kingsbury did lean on his run game a little more (26.1 running back carries per game) but didn't have anyone produce even 800 yards. Last season he had to mix and match his backs with mediocre results.
Kingsbury inherits one of the league's best backs in Johnson. He'd be foolish not to use him. Not only is Johnson a physically gifted power runner but he's also a polished receiver, complete with a 65.6 percent career catch rate and a 10.8 yard career receiving average. Johnson also has experience running out of the shotgun formation and is more than cool with zone running, both of which are staples in Kingsbury's system.
Expect a full 180-degree difference in how Johnson is not only used with Kingsbury, but also in how effective he is in the offense. This is why he's going to be a first-round pick, especially in PPR leagues.
Speaking of Johnson and his potential in the passing game ...
In college, Kingsbury's Air Raid offense relied heavily on receivers, a little bit on running backs and barely on tight ends. In fact, from 2014 through 2018, offensive linemen caught more passes than tight ends! If not for Jace Amaro leading the school in receiving in 2013, tight ends would have zero catches under Kingsbury. And let's face it, Amaro was far more a receiver than he was a blocker.
Not that you were drafting Ricky Seals-Jones or Charles Clay in the first place, but these two shouldn't be on your radar. Maybe Seals-Jones could be worth a look if he has a good camp since he has experience not only in the system, but also catching passes from Murray when the two were together at Texas A&M.
As for the running backs, it stinks the number wasn't closer to 20 percent, but that could be a byproduct of Kingsbury not having established pass-catchers at the position.
Obviously you can tell Kingsbury was all about throwing to his receivers. It's not definite he'll stay that way in the pros, but tendencies are hard to break. It would be a mild surprise to see Kingsbury ditch receiver-heavy formations for more traditional looks. If anything, it's proof he prefers speed over bulk.
This should bring great target volume to Christian Kirk, who is a quicker-than-fast slot-capable wideout with very good hands. Kirk should see a small bump in his 13.7 receiving-yard average and a big bump in his 5.7 target-per-game average. Late Round 6 isn't too soon in PPR drafts.
Unfortunately, Kirk is the only sure thing in the Cardinals passing game for now. Larry Fitzgerald is back for another campaign but only offers size and good routes, not speed. He should be viewed as a touchdown-or-bust receiver best suited to begin the year on the Fantasy bench. Let someone else draft him before Round 11.
Of the Cardinals rookie receivers, Andy Isabella seems like the best fit, followed by KeeSean Johnson. Both of them have good quickness, run slick routes and can make plays after the catch. Isabella worked in a spread offense at UMass, so that could give him an edge in understanding Kingsbury's playbook.
Hakeem Butler was also drafted by the Cardinals and gives them some size to create mismatches. It remains to be seen how quickly he adapts to Kingsbury's system.
Kingsbury should use his smarts to attack defensive weaknesses and creativity to confuse opponents week after week. And he's going to have to attack because his defense doesn't particularly come off as a dominant unit. Expect a bunch of high-scoring games, including right away in Week 1 against the Lions and Week 2 at the Ravens.