Kyler Murray
Will Kyler Murray Attain Elite QB Status In 2021? (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Will Kyler Murray Attain Elite QB Status In 2021?

Kyler Murray is a unique athlete. The Oklahoma starter and Heisman winner was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics before choosing football and being drafted first overall by the Cardinals, all while being five-foot-ten on a good day. Murray had a bad record in his rookie season, as the Cardinals finished last in the NFC West with a record of 5-10-1, but Murray’s stats were not bad. He completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,722 yards with 20 TDs and 12 INTs on easily the least talented team in the division. Murray also rushed for another 500 yards and 4TDs in his rookie year.

The Cardinals started off hot in the 2020 season, as they entered week 11 with a 6-3 record and looked primed to compete for the NFC West title, but they proceeded to lose five of their last seven games and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Murray’s stats improved in 2020, as he completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,971 yards, 26 TDs, and 12 INTs. Murray also exploded in the run game, rushing for 819 yards and another 11 TDs.

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2021 will be different for Murray, as the time has come for him to make the third-year leap that other quarterbacks, like Josh Allen, Matt Stafford, Baker Mayfield, and Philip Rivers made in their third year as the starter. Allen completed 55.8% of his passes during his first two years in the league but jumped up to 70% in his third season. Allen also went from throwing 20 TDs in 2019 to 37 TDs in 2020. Stafford had his best year as a pro in his third year, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 41 TDs. Mayfield’s reliability as a franchise quarterback was in question, but he also took a big leap in his third season, throwing for 26 TDs and cutting his interceptions from 21 in 2019 to 8 in 2020. In Rivers’ third year as a starter, he threw for 4,000 yards and the most TDs of his career with 34. With all these quarterbacks on cheap deals, their respective teams were able to maximize the talent around them. Josh Allen got Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, Baker got Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Stafford had guys like Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, and Rivers had Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates.

The Cardinals have put a great team around Murray, and with the offense only becoming more natural to him, Murray has the chance to take the same leap as the quarterbacks listed above. Their offense has Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, AJ Green, and Deandre Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the league, and if the team is able to trade for Julio Jones as well, this offense will be a real nightmare for opposing coordinators.

Murray has all the talent required to produce at an elite level, but there are two things working against him: the division he plays in and his coach, Kliff Kingsbury. The NFC West is the best division in football and contains elite quarterbacks, dominant receivers, and generational defensive talents. The division looks primed to send three teams to the playoffs. Kingsbury has a record of 13-18-1 in two seasons with the Cardinals, and if they have another disappointing season his time will have come. Murray has a chance to be an elite quarterback and 2021 is the year that his elite status comes to fruition.

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