Kyler Murray has been labelled as ‘a two-sport athlete’, ‘too small’ and ‘a one-season wonder’ – he is also the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, having been selected by the Arizona Cardinals.
Having been selected by the Oakland Athletics with the No 9 overall selection of the 2018 MLB Draft, Murray becomes the first man to be picked in the first rounds of both the NFL and MLB Drafts.
Let’s take a look at his background and NFL potential…
Who is Kyler Murray?
- Full name: Kyler Cole Murray
- Age: 21
- Born: Bedford, Texas
- College: Oklahoma
Where did he come from?
It can’t be easy taking over from a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, let alone one who ends up being taken as the No 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Kyler Murray did just that – and he shone.
When Baker Mayfield left Oklahoma after a 4,627-yard, 43-touchdown season and took his talents to Cleveland in last year’s draft, back-up Murray stepped in to fill his shoes.
But before he even got the starting job, he had already made plenty of headlines.
Murray was a Gatorade Football Player of the Year in high school, was ranked the best dual-threat quarterback in his class as he entered college, and became the second-ever SEC QB (after Cam Newton) to record 100 yards passing and rushing and both passing and rushing TDs in his debut.
But that debut was one of only three starts for Texas A&M, and Murray transferred to Oklahoma at the end of the 2015 season. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he had to sit out 2016, and by 2017, Mayfield was firmly entrenched as the starter.
While he was off the football field, Murray had one eye on baseball – and in the summer of 2018, the Oakland Athletics looked to tempt him to baseball with a top 10 selection and promise of a big contract. He wanted to play his final year of football, and he has stuck with it since.
Murray waited his chance, and when it came he took it, matching Mayfield’s final-year accomplishment of a Heisman Trophy win with 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns through the air of his own. On top of the prolific passing, he added 1,001 rushing yards and 12 TDs on the ground.
Multi-sport athlete – and it shows
On the field, Murray is electrifying. A combination of quick throwing release (the baseball influence) and nimble feet means he defines ‘quick-twitch athlete’ – causing nightmares for defenders attempting to get a read on what he is dialling up.
Attack the pocket, and he will fire the ball out quickly. Give him too much time and space, and he will either burn you on the ground or progress through his targets and pick you apart.
But let’s be clear – he’s not just a scrambler, he is a fantastic rusher. He is in the Michael Vick, Lamar Jackson category of quarterbacks who have the speed of running backs.
Unfortunately for stopwatch-loving scouts and general managers, Murray did not run a 40-yard dash either at the NFL Scouting Combine or at Oklahoma’s Pro Day. But the proof is in the pudding.
Watch his highlight reel and you’ll see him blaze past defenders, sidestep them, spin, backtrack and cut every which way – sometimes all behind the line of scrimmage. If you’re after mesmerising highlights, he’s your man.
You may assume the quality running is at the expense of high-level passing. It’s not. Murray has the arm strength and quick release to hang with the best of them.
Why is he a maybe?
There’s no denying it – Murray is small, especially for a quarterback. At 5ft 10in, he’s in the first percentile for QBs, according to MockDraftable. Weighing in at just 207lbs puts him in the eighth percentile, and his arm length and wingspan are both in the bottom one per cent.
For some teams, this a huge red flag. They might turn their attentions to 6ft 5in Daniel Jones from Duke, or 231-pound former Ohio State Buckeye Dwayne Haskins. But the ‘big quarterbacks are better’ rhetoric seems to be mostly a thing of the past.
Murray’s predecessor Mayfield (6-1, 215) was chosen on merit over 6ft 5in, 237-pound Josh Allen. However, speedy-but-slight Lamar Jackson was asked to work out as a receiver.
Also, like with plenty of QBs coming into the league, it’s hard to tell how advanced Murray is at reading defenses. At Oklahoma, head coach Lincoln Riley was revered for his wide-open attack. In the NFL, the windows are tighter, and defenders are fast, and processing speed needs to be instantaneous.
The signs are positive, but again, there is only one full year of starter game tape to rely on.
The final question mark is: If his early career doesn’t pan out as planned, does he stick around when he knows the MLB is waiting for him?
If the Kliff Kingsbury experiment (with Murray under center) doesn’t work out in Arizona, someone new comes in to run a more ‘traditional’ offense and asks Murray to do things he isn’t accustomed to, will he have the patience for it?
There’s no doubt the 21-year-old is committed to the NFL right now. However, teams always plan for the long-term, and they may not be convinced he is ‘all in’.
For the second year in a row, Arizona used their first-round selection on a QB. What the future holds for last year’s 10th overall selection Josh Rosen remains to be seen but after weeks of speculation, they now have two first-round QB selections in the building and that also brings a problem.