Cardinals' Kyler Murray, KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella Updated Fantasy Outlook

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 24, 2019

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals are one of the most interesting teams to look at from a fantasy perspective heading into the 2019 season. 

On the surface, their 20-9 preseason loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. The third game of the exhibition schedule is usually the one that most closely resembles what a team will look like during the regular season.

Digging into the stats, though, shows there are encouraging signs for fantasy players to keep an eye on with the Cardinals. 


Stock Up: QB Kyler Murray

The first two preseason games of Kyler Murray's NFL career left a lot to be desired. The No. 1 overall pick went 9-of-15 for 56 yards with no touchdowns and was sacked three times coming into Saturday. 

In his first extended action, Murray looked much more comfortable in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. He finished 14-of-21 for 137 yards and added nine rushing yards on four carries. 

Beyond the numbers, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner showed great touch and accuracy:

The Checkdown @thecheckdown

You can't teach this accuracy 😳 @K1 https://t.co/NSSjRpXpm9


.@k1's a Cardinal now so he let one FLY. @AZCardinals 📺:#AZvsMIN on @nflnetwork Watch on mobile: https://t.co/ErXygI3vyt https://t.co/uwJ4eubmDv

Even though the Cardinals didn't reach the end zone, Murray led all three of their scoring drives in the first half. 

Fantasy players don't need to scramble to put Murray on their rosters based on this performance. He's still a rookie who is going to endure the usual first-year struggles most quarterbacks go through. 

Kingsbury's lack of experience in the NFL also makes Murray and Arizona's offense a great unknown. His coaching tenure at Texas Tech can hardly be classified as a success with a 35-40 record. He's been coy this offseason about what the offense will look like.

"I have a feeling how it's going to go, but we're going to do what we're good at," Kingsbury told ESPN's Josh Weinfuss in June.

The Cardinals hired Kingsbury based on his success as an offensive play-caller. Texas Tech averaged at least 30 points per game in each of his six seasons as head coach. 

Eventually Murray will become a quarterback worth drafting for your fantasy team, but the time isn't here yet. His average draft position is No. 106 overall, which still seems high in this era of football when 20 quarterbacks had at least 20 touchdown passes and 17 threw for at least 3,700 yards last season. 

If Murray manages to fall to the final five rounds of your draft and you need a backup quarterback, he's worth an investment. If you're drafting him expecting big results, you will likely be disappointed. 


Stock Up: WR KeeSean Johnson

The most encouraging performance in the game for the Cardinals came from wide receiver KeeSean Johnson. He caught all seven passes he was targeted and had a game-high 85 yards. 

NFL Network @nflnetwork

.@K1 putting it in the PERFECT spot for @JohnsonKeesean 👀 📺: #AZvsMIN on NFL Network (or check local listings) https://t.co/ZZ1aYt1KMR

Training camp and preseason have been a coming-out party for the sixth-round draft pick:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Another productive outing for #Cardinals rookie WR KeeSean Johnson, who has 4 catches for 60 yards here. Of all their young wideouts, Johnson has been the standout in camp. Speed isn’t elite, but they thought Johnson was the best natural route-runner in the draft. A steal in 6th?

On the Cardinals' official depth chart, Johnson is listed as Christian Kirk's backup. That doesn't necessarily mean he will lack for playing time.

Weinfuss noted one thing Arizona's offense will do is spread the field. It seems likely Kingsbury will use three- and four-receiver sets on a regular basis. 

If that's the case, Johnson could benefit as a potential option on the outside with Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald operating primarily out of the slot. 

Don't discount what Johnson has done to stand out in preseason either, because he was fighting an uphill battle just to get playing time because of where he was drafted and other options on the roster. 

Johnson is basically a non-factor in fantasy circles right now with an average draft position of 268. He's owned in just 2 percent of Yahoo leagues, so you can stash him on the bench if you're thin at wide receiver and want to bet on a wideout who looks like a high-volume target for Murray.  


Stock Down: WR Andy Isabella

One reason Johnson is shining is because fellow rookie Andy Isabella has been a disappointment. The University of Massachusetts graduate had one catch for eight yards on two targets against Minnesota. 

A second-round draft pick in April, Isabella seemed like a natural fit for Kingsbury's offense. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the scouting combine, tied for fastest among wide receivers. 

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted Isabella was still a work-in progress coming out of college: "Isabella could become a menace on option routes with the ability to add vertical routes from the slot, but he must improve his pass-catching consistency and smoothness into his breaks in order to transition all that speed to the NFL."

The transition hasn't been easy for Isabella to this point. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote on Aug. 22 the Ohio native "hasn't proven he's ready for a significant role" for the Cardinals. 

This could serve as an explanation for why the Cardinals signed Michael Crabtree this week to boost their depth. 

Isabella has been getting more love than Johnson in fantasy drafts with an ADP of 236, but all indications are he's got to prove a lot if he wants to get consistent snaps. Until that happens, don't bother considering him for your team.