Cardinals’ Kyler Murray a top-15 signal caller in quarterback tier ranking

Aug 1, 2020, 6:47 AM | Updated: 1:06 pm
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray during the team’s Red and White Practice Saturday, August 3, 20...
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray during the team’s Red and White Practice Saturday, August 3, 2019, at State Farm Stadium. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Kyler Murray, the joker?

That’s how one defensive coordinator described the Arizona Cardinals quarterback in a recent ranking.

Looking at 35 projected and potential NFL starters, 50 coaches and evaluators ranked each QB top to bottom in The Athletic’s 2020 quarterback tiers.

Coming in as a Tier 3 QB, Murray came in No. 14 on the list.

The ranking is made up of five tiers. A Tier 1 quarterback is regarded as a top player at his position, while Tier 5 is reserved for the players who quite the opposite. Luckily for those ranked, none fell into that category (though some had Tier 5 votes).

For Murray, landing in the third category means NFL coaches and evaluators see him as a legit NFL starter but more of a running game and/or a defensive component to win.

“I think the kid is going to be really good,” a defensive coach said. “He knows when to run, he knows when to pass, he does not turn the ball over much and that little joker can throw. They are going to be better. I’m not ready to give the kid Tier 2 yet, but I think he is a legitimate starter and he will jump fast.”

Murray received one Tier 1 vote, 19 Tier 2 votes, 25 Tier 3 votes and five Tier 4 votes after not receiving a ranking in 2019.

His inclusion in the ranking makes him one of 17 signal callers drafted since 2013 to make the list coming off of their rookie seasons.

Last season, Murray put together a respectable rookie campaign. In 16 starts, he completed 349 of his 542 passes (64.4%) for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns. He tossed 12 interceptions.

“His movement and escapability drives defenses crazy and he throws the ball deep extremely well,” an offensive coordinator said.

It’s clear Murray is a threat with the ball in his hands, but what caused NFL coaches and evaluators to drop the QB into the Tier-3 conversation was his running game in 2019.

Despite four touchdowns on 93 carries last season, Murray’s 544 rushing yards were second only to Baltimore Ravens starter Lamar Jackson, Murray saw is stock drop.

One offensive coordinator sees the positives in him running the rock but also acknowledges the wear and tear that it could potentially put on a QB.

“I like him because he is competitive, he is super accurate, he can run. The only problem for me, and I know this doesn’t skew into your quarterback evaluation, is that he is good when he runs the football, but when he does that too much, he can’t last.”

But while the argument is out for Murray to increase his playmaking ability with more running opportunities, he was one of just three NFL quarterbacks to record at least 90 rushing attempts and was second among signal callers in yards per carry (5.8) in 2019. That’s more than the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson.

The biggest discrepancy among the top running quarterbacks in the league comes in the touchdown department. Jackson and Allen finished the season with seven and nine touchdowns, respectively, leaving Murray tied for third with four others.

If Murray, can increase his touchdown total on the ground, while continuing to progress as a reliable NFL passer, he should see a bump in the rankings come 2021.

Elsewhere in the NFC West, Wilson — tied with the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes as the ranking’s top QB — was ranked in the first tier with 50 votes. The Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (No. 16) and the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo (No. 17) joined Murray in the third tier with 37 votes.

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