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An Argument For Kyler Murray As Rookie Of The Year

Cardinals' quarterback deserves boost based on positional scarcity

QB Kyler Murray is among the candidates to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday at NFL Honors.
QB Kyler Murray is among the candidates to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday at NFL Honors.

The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year -- which will be unveiled Saturday -- seems to be a three-way race involving Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown.

The latter duo had impressive first-year campaigns. Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Brown had 52 catches for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an elite 20.2 yards per reception.

But if this is an award predicated on value, Murray should win.

He threw for 3,722 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 544 rushing yards and four scores at 5.8 yards per carry. Beyond the raw numbers, Murray was the catalyst for the Cardinals’ vast offensive improvement from the doldrums of 2018.

He finished No. 15 in the NFL in ESPN’s Total QBR -- which captures a quarterback's value beyond just the passing numbers – ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jared Goff and every other rookie quarterback.

If Murray was pitted against another signal-caller in this race, it could be a tougher call, but the positional scarcity should be a huge factor. Look no further than the free agent market, where average starting quarterbacks command $25-to-$30 million per year while the best running backs are lucky to get half that.

Think about it this way: If Murray, Jacobs and Brown were all taken off their respective rosters, which team would be most affected?

Pro Football Focus is developing a wins above replacement statistic to quantify each NFL player's value. While it still may be in the beginning stages, a look at past MVPs underlines how much more important quarterbacks are than any other player on the field.

Patrick Mahomes was worth 4.39 more wins than a replacement-level quarterback last season, while the two most recent running back MVPs – LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and Adrian Peterson in 2012 – were worth an average of 0.32 wins over a replacement-level running back the years they won.

Jacobs may already be among the best running backs in the NFL, and Brown is on pace to be an upper-tier receiver, but Murray has a much bigger impact on games because he touches the ball on every offensive snap. It's akin to Major League Baseball, where a starting pitcher is more valuable than a reliever because he throws so many more innings.

The Most Valuable Player award is expected to go to Baltimore's Lamar Jackson on Saturday, the seventh straight year a quarterback will win it. The MVP voting continues to gravitate toward quarterbacks because of their outsized worth, and the Rookie of the Year voting should be no different.

This season, Murray already proved to be a good NFL quarterback, which should be plenty to nab him the award.

Some of the top images of quarterback Kyler Murray during his rookie season