ESPN ranks Kyler Murray 10th-best quarterback ahead of 2022
After three seasons of steady improvement, Kyler Murray propels the Cardinals’ quarterbacking unit to 10th on Mike Clay’s rankings on ESPN.com.
Last season was great, despite an unspectacular finish. For seven weeks, Murray was in the MVP race and sporting an undefeated record. However, after a 116.8 passer rating, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions through Week 7, the former No. 1 pick had an 86.5 passer rating, seven touchdowns and five interceptions in his final seven games.
Nonetheless, 2021-22 led to career-bests in passer rating (100.6), interceptions (10), completion percentage (69.2) and touchdown rate (5%).
While 10th may seem low given the trajectory of Murray’s career, he ranks ahead of former MVPs Lamar Jackson (11) and Matt Ryan (16). Nevertheless, top-10 quarterback play is what the Cardinals need if they hope to return to the postseason — after making it in 2021 for the first time since 2015-16.
For Murray to continue his ascension into league superstardom, he’ll have to do it without his favorite target from a season ago, as Christian Kirk departed for the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. The Cardinals replaced Kirk with 1,000-yard receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on draft night. However, he’ll have to pick up more slack with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six weeks of the season.
That being said, Clay ranks the Cardinals receiving corps as the fourth-best unit in the league, and the tight ends at No. 6. Thanks in large part to the aforementioned acquisition of Brown, but also tight end Zach Ertz, who saw a bump in production after a midseason trade from Philadelphia. The 31-year-old had 56 receptions — 30 for first downs — for 574 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games in the desert last year. He looks to build on his relationship with Murray with an even better season this year.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals are 20th on Clay’s rankings for offensive line. However, having a dynamic quarterback can alleviate a lot. A large part of Murray’s early-season MVP case was from plays he made with his legs; as a runner and a passer. He often escaped pressure and found an open receiver for large chunk plays.
On the other hand, Murray has had injuries in consecutive seasons, hindering his performance down the stretch quite a bit. While his ability to improvise is a blessing in a lot of ways, it can also be dangerous if relied upon too heavily. The offensive line is going to need to step up and keep their quarterback from needing to do too much to make plays.
Though unfortunate, if Murray does go down, they’re not necessarily in a bad spot with backups. Colt McCoy went 2-1 with a 103.2 passer rating in his three starts under center for the Cardinals last season and has a 90.1 passer rating in 24 games since 2014. Behind McCoy is Trace McSorley, former sixth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens back in 2019.