Early in the 2019 predraft process, we weren't really sure what to make of Kyler Murray, his commitment to the NFL, and the rumors Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals could pick him No. 1 overall after the club selected Josh Rosen at No. 10 overall the previous year.
By March, it was essentially etched in stone that the Cardinals would pick Murray. And despite minimal help, he pieced together a good enough season to win Offensive Rookie of the Year running away. He got more than double the amount of votes as second-place finisher Josh Jacobs.
The fate of the Cardinals is firmly in Murray's hands, let's explore everything about his environment with Kingsbury's team and what Murray needs to do to take the next step as a quarterback.
How Murray has improved since he was a prospect
These positive developments in a quarterback's game are noteworthy because they indicate the distinct possibility of future growth.
Here's a snippet ofbefore the draft, and my stylistic comparison for him was Steve Young:
Young was an ultra-efficient, frightening dual-threat quarterback at the collegiate level who could win from inside the pocket and could erupt with his legs thanks to high-level athleticism. That is Murray to a T ... Young could take over a game with pinpoint accuracy or as a scrambler in the NFL. Murray only showed it for one year in college, but I truly believe he has "take over the game" type skills as a refined passer and runner. Young was pretty unique. So is Murray.
Murray did take over some games as a rookie, an impressive feat for someone who only started one season in college. He also had a few stinkers but mostly played steady football. Each game featured a small collection of jaw-dropping throws, particularly down the field. He certainly made his fair share of rookie mistakes too by way of misreading coverages. He finished with thein my season-long evaluation of all the plays of first- and second-year quarterbacks (out of 17 who played). He had two "D" outings, a pair of "D+" games, and three "A-" contests. After a slow start, he played consistent football until back-to-back "D" games popped up near the end of the year.
Trapasso joined Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to talk about what Murray and other young QBs must do to take the next step; give it a listen below and be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.
Arizona went big-game hunting on the trade market and struck up a deal with Bill O'Brien (smart idea) to land DeAndre Hopkins. Home run. And the Cardinals have an abundance of pass catchers as secondary targets from 2019 like future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and youngsters KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella, and Hakeem Butler
Arizona didn't add a wideout in the draft after tripling up on the position last year. Well-rounded Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones in Round 3 was a steal. Explosive, reliable receiving back Eno Benjamin at No. 222 overall was an even bigger heist to complement Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds.
I'm not sold on Arizona's offensive line -- unless Jones starts early -- yet the skill-position groups are loads of fun for Kingsbury's wide open Air Raid offense.
Speaking of that offense, Murray will enjoy the luxury of staying in the same scheme in Year 2, the same system (basically) he ran at Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley.
The vertical shots will be frequent, but so will the screens. The high-percentage throws were, at times in my estimation, overused in Arizona's offense last season.
Improving his weaknesses
This might sound crazy because of his athleticism and the fact that he averaged 5.8 yards per attempt as a runner in 2019, but Murray has to get more polished moving inside the pocket and making better decisions about when and when not to run.
The Cardinals' blocking was mostly bad last year, but Murray ran into pressure quite often. Many times after he didn't like what he initially saw, he instantly morphed into a runner. That tendency needs to be coached out of him. As of December 9 -- heading into Week 15 -- Murray had the most sacks (21) PFF had charged to a quarterback since 2006, a figure six higher than the second-highest full-season total by Dak Prescott in 2018.
Also, as he gets more experienced, Murray should get better recognizing complex coverages and deciding where he needs to go with the football. Football Outsiders had him with 15 "adjusted interceptions" (not counting tipped/Hail Mary picks but adding passes dropped by the defense to the interception total), not a brutal number on the surface but given the amount of essentially non-interceptable screens he threw, 15 picks is decently high.
Strengthening his strengths
I saw Murray play almost identically in his rookie season to that of his lone season in the shotgun for Oklahoma as the starter. Heading into his rookie campaign, how he'd perform against pressure was a big question mark, because he was only under duress on 19% of his dropbacks with the Sooners, a very low figure.
Per PFF, Murray faced pressured on 30% of his dro backs and managed a rather hefty "big-time throw" percentage of 6.5%, well above the NFL average of 4.8%.
Those phenomenal throws on plays in which the defense generates pressure often change the game in a significant way. If they continue to be one of his hallmarks, the Cardinals offense will be extremely difficult to defend. I'd like to see Murray take more downfield shots -- and thereby not lean on the screen-game so much -- in Year 2. He had the eighth-lowest intended air yards (7.1) out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks, per Next Gen Stats.
Because I'm a firm believer in the powers of a strong supporting cast for a young quarterback, Murray is in a situation to blossom in his second season in the NFL thanks to Hopkins' arrival. I am worried about an offensive line mostly untouched from a season ago and his propensity to get too anxious when his first read is covered.
I can't overstate how vital it is that Murray -- a still relatively inexperienced quarterback -- gets to play in Kingsbury's Air Raid system with which he's very familiar.
Lastly, Arizona's defense should be better after finishing 23rd in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA last season, which should allow Murray to not feel he needs to force the football into precarious situations as he's playing catch-up.
I expect a leap from Murray in 2020, maybe not to legitimate superstardom but to a place where we comfortably view him as one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and where Cardinals GM Steve Keim is retained.