MR. HEISMAN, ARE YOU READY FOR SUNDAYS?
QB KYLER MURRAY IS MULLING DECLARING FOR THE NFL DRAFT
In recent days there are reports that Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray will declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback had a successful Junior season as he led the Sooners to the FBS College Football Playoff. The intriguing part of this is that Murray already has been drafted by Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics. With a certain future in baseball ahead, why would he veer off into uncertain NFL Draft waters? His NFL draft stock is all over the map. Do you draft him with the intention of playing him at quarterback? Do you make him a receiver? Is his height a negative trait?
Scouts have asked these questions and more all year as Murray lead his Sooners to a 12 -2 record and a Big 12 Championship for the second straight season. He followed up Baker Mayfield’s Heisman season with a mirror performance of what Mayfield accomplished. Teams and scouts are scrambling to figure out how to evaluate a player of Murray’s caliber. In the case of Kyler Murray there are many pros and cons when it comes to him declaring for the draft.
The positives about Kyler Murray declaring now is that he is striking while the iron is hot. He just won the Heisman while leading his team to a conference title. He passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns while running for 1,001 yards with 12 touchdowns. It is an understatement to say how impressive it is when a quarterback accounts for over 5300 yards in total offense and 54 combined touchdowns. His electric ability to make plays always captures the excitement of the fans. As long as he has the ball in his hands people expect big things to happen. He will also leave Oklahoma virtually healthy.
By leaving now he doesn’t risk injury next year. His style of play has a higher risk of injury as he will run for yards, and break the pocket to extend plays. Murray can also use the success of another quarterback under 6′ named Russell Wilson to show that height is an obstacle that can be overcome if you are a great player. His ability to extend plays will allow receivers to break free of coverage down the field. His ability to run will also pull a defender out of coverage and/or pass rush.
With more college concepts spreading into NFL offenses he can be right at home with the right coaching staff. Lincoln Riley’s offense has a lot of pro concepts so there aren’t many things in the passing game that he hasn’t seen. Murray has shown the ability to stand in the pocket and drive balls down the field. When he is in trouble his legs can get him out of it, but he does not have to rely on his legs to make plays alone. His arm is definitely a weapon all by itself. Murray was able to fit passes into tight windows which is a trait that shows arm strength and anticipation.
Here are the negatives of Murray coming out. He has already been labeled a “dual threat” quarterback. The positive and negative aspects of that are separated by a razor-thin line. Usually dual threat passers have the unfortunate stigma that they run because their passing skills are limited. Whether it is the inability to read the coverage, lack of height to see down the field, inaccuracy or poor arm strength or just lack of pocket awareness and presence. If Murray were to go to the combine and struggle with some throws intermediate and down the field there will be questions.
The biggest question will be his height. While he is listed at 5’11, the common impression among is he is over-listed. Most feel he is either 5’9 or 5’10. We won’t know for certain until he is measured at either the combine or his pro day. This is a common thing. Last year Quinton Flowers was listed at 6’0 while at South Florida until he measured in a 5’10. The thought after that was he would have to change positions. Lamar Jackson still has had issues shedding this label as he took over midseason for Joe Flacco in Baltimore as a rookie. Despite being 6’2, Jackson was talked about as a receiver before the draft. He would not be denied the opportunity to play quarterback. He was still used more for his running ability as he led Baltimore to an AFC North crown. The Ravens did not rely on his arm until they had no choice but to throw the football in the 4th quarter in their loss to the Chargers. The problem for shorter passers is that NFL offensive lines average 6’3 – 315lbs across the line. Having someone under 6’0 behind that in the pocket can be an issue with finding open receivers down the field. His running ability will also leave him with a higher probability for injury. The last issue you have to look at is that he has one year of production. Prior to that he was a backup in 2015 at Texas A&M before he transferred to Oklahoma in 2016, and sat behind Baker in 2017. Other than one year you do not have a large body of work to evaluate him on.
Murray’s decision has not been announced yet. One can only assume that he is still considering his options. One thing to consider is if he isn’t a 1st round pick the guaranteed $4 million he would get from the A’s will not be matched by the NFL that takes him. This adds a big financial risk. Murray is a tremendous athlete that has a future as a pro. The biggest question is which sport has the brighter future for him? The deadline for underclassmen to declare is rapidly approaching. Murray is already on the clock as we are still months away from the draft.