NFL Betting: Examining Kyler Murray’s Touchdown and Yardage Props
The Arizona Cardinals decided to massively overhaul their offense for 2019. They started by hiring a new, offensive-minded head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, and then they proceeded to load up on offensive pieces in the draft, highlighted by selecting Kyler Murray with the first overall pick, and picking up four new pass-catchers for their young new quarterback.
With all of the hype surrounding last year's Heisman Award-winner, it's no surprise that the FanDuel Sportsbook already has two Kyler Murray prop bets up in their Specials section. You can bet on whether Murray will have over (-200) or under (+150) 3,100.5 regular season passing yards and whether he'll have over (-140) or under (+110) 17.5 regular season passing touchdowns.
Over 3100.5 Regular Season Passing Yards (-200)
The Cardinals' offense in 2019 is going to look completely different than it has in recent years, so we can't really draw from their previous performances to predict their future outcomes. However, we do have a solid sample of how Kliff Kingsbury coaches an offense -- Kingsbury spent six years as the head coach and play-caller for the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
What we can tell from Kingsbury's tenure at Texas Tech is that he calls a ton of pass plays. Texas Tech's offenses averaged a whopping 48.3 pass attempts per game in his time there. Extrapolated to a full NFL season, that would add up to 772.8 pass attempts in a season.
Obviously the pro game is different from the NCAA level, and it's unlikely that we'll actually get to see a team attempt that many passes in a single season -- even with the trend towards a more pass-happy NFL in recent years. There has only been one season in NFL history in which a quarterback attempted more than 700 passes -- Matthew Stafford attempted 727 passes in 2012 -- and over the last six seasons the league-leaders in total team pass attempts have averaged 665.7 attempts per season.
Even with Kingsbury's new offense likely to lean on the pass, it would be unreasonable to assume he and Murray will shatter the existing single-season pass attempt record.
Instead, we can project the Cardinals offense to look more like some of the pass-oriented offenses we've seen in recent years.
At Texas Tech, Kingsbury's teams had a pass to run ratio of 1.44, even though at the college level, sacks are also counted towards a team's rushing numbers. The NFL averaged a pass to run ratio of 1.33 in 2018, meaning we can expect Kingsbury to be well above average when it comes to calling pass plays. And since the average NFL offense has averaged 560.18 pass attempts per year over the last five seasons, a conservative estimate for Kingsbury being pass-happy in his first year could be around 600 pass attempts.
That estimate is conservative because if we assume Kingsbury's play-calling ratio remains the same in the NFL and assume the Cardinals run around the league's five-year average number of plays per season (1,019.66) in 2019, that would project the Cardinals to attempt 708.1 passes over the course of the season
We can also assume with relative certainty that,barring injury, those pass attempts will all go directly to Murray. With just Brett Hundley and someone named Chad Kanoff on the team's quarterback depth chart, Murray should be the team's Week 1 starter, and he's not likely to give up that position.
There have been 59 seasons in which a quarterback attempted 600 or more passes. Every single one of those quarterbacks exceeded the 3,100.5 passing yard mark set as the over/under for Murray's rookie year. Of those 59 seasons, the fewest passing yards any quarterback had in that time was Drew Bledsoe back in 1995, with 3,507 passing yards.
Murray has the potential to become a future star -- just check out Jim Sannes' recent profile on the young quarterback if you need help understanding the hype -- but even if he struggles in his rookie season, the expected passing volume from Cliff Kingsbury's offense should be enough to help the young quarterback clear the over on this prop bet.
Over 17.5 Regular Season Passing Touchdowns (-140)
The passing touchdowns prop bet is a little more difficult to project, as evidenced by the much closer betting odds than the odds in the passing yardage prop.
Even if passing volume -- which there should be plenty of -- fuels passing touchdown projections, touchdowns are naturally a much more high-variance event.
Since 2001, rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round have averaged a touchdown rate -- or the percentage of their throws that go for touchdowns -- of 3.54%. So assuming Murray is able to produce like an average first-round quarterback, and assuming he'll throw the ball roughly 600 times, we'd get a quick projection of 21.24 passing touchdowns in 2019.
It's a rare occurrence for a rookie quarterback to throw 18 or more touchdowns in their rookie season -- it's only happened 24 times in the history of the NFL -- but it's also becoming more common as the league shifts towards passing offenses and as NFL front offices continue to improve at evaluating quarterback prospects. 13 of those 24 seasons occurred since 2010, meaning more quarterbacks have accomplished this feat in the last 9 seasons than they did in the previous 90 years.
Murray won't need Deshaun Watson's insane rookie season touchdown efficiency to hit the Over on this prop bet, thanks to how often we can expect him to drop back. The Arizona Cardinals are in position for heavy passing volume, and that volume should buoy Murray's counting stats over these lines.