Scouting Heisman Winner Kyler Murray as part of our Draft Prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Kyler Murray – QB
University of Oklahoma – Junior
Height: 5’10 1/8
Career Passing Stats: 5406 Yards/50 TDs/11 INTs
Career Rushing Stats: 1478 Yards/13 TDs
Kyler Murray is shorter than a traditional NFL quarterback.
Now that I have provided that hard-hitting analysis, we can look at what makes Kyler Murray the QB1 of the 2019 Draft Class. For as much that is made of his size, Murray terrorized defenses last fall to the tune of 5300 yards and 54 combined touchdowns. Despite losing Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma averaged three more points per game with Murray directing the offense.
Murray was as efficient as he was gaudy: He averaged 11.56 YPA and his 2018 passer rating is #2 all-time (just ahead of Mayfield). He threw just seven interceptions and sported a completion percentage of 69%. It was little wonder that Oklahoma had college football’s #1 offense and Murray won the Heisman Trophy.
Despite all his accomplishments, the questions surrounding his height will persist through the draft process and into Training Camp. Whoever ultimately selects him will be getting the best quarterback of the 2019 class but there will be some growing pains with his development. A team may have to be willing to mold the offense around Murray to unlock his full potential. Still, Murray is in good company among ultra-successful NFL quarterbacks who are 6’0 or shorter: Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Doug Flutie, and Sonny Jurgensen.
So as a fantasy owner, what can we expect from Kyler Murray? Like Dwayne Haskins, we don’t have a huge sample size to work with but I believe the range of outcomes is for Murray is much more narrow. His combination of speed, arm strength and athletic ability have me all-aboard the Murray Train. He is the only quarterback in this class I would be willing to invest a 1st round pick in rookie drafts and I think he could be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. Let’s take a dive into what makes Murray so special and why I like him so much.
Arm Talent: A
Murray’s arm is, in a word, live.
Play-action at the snap and Murray does a nice job of feeling the rush and resetting himself. He makes room so he can step into the throw. The result is a 53-yard dime where the receiver doesn’t have to break stride.
This play showcases a couple things that make Murray special. Obviously the arm strength is evident but even with a rush in his face there is no panic. He simply moves off his spot and still makes a great throw.
This throw against Texas Tech is just ridiculous:
That is a 45-yard back shoulder bullet. There are a dozen starting quarterbacks in the NFL right now who can’t make this throw. Marquis Brown gets a half-step of separation and Murray puts it right on the money despite the corner making up ground. This is literally uncoverable.
Murray obviously benefited from playing under Lincoln Riley and the results bear that out but still, he can make any throw. His release is a little long at times so he will have to clean that up but he throws one of the most catchable balls I’ve seen on film. Outside of Drew Lock, Murray has the best arm talent in the draft.
Decision Making/Accuracy: A-
Murray had 10 games last year where he was a better than 70% passer so his accuracy is on par with Haskins. I looked at a couple games where he struggled – namely, Alabama. Even in that game Murray still managed to amass over 400 yards of total offense and account for three touchdowns as the Sooners tried to rally.
As far as accuracy goes, we have seen how Murray checks the box. This throw against Bama is another one that is impossible to defend:
That’s an NFL throw – great touch and perfect placement. I can’t say enough about how well Murray throws the football. He is by far the best combination of arm strength and accuracy in this draft.
Those were three excellent throws – all with solid protection. Unsurprising since Pro Football Focused credited him with a 144.4 passer rating when throwing from a clean pocket.
But what happens when things get muddy? Glad you asked.
Amoeba Blitz here – two inside linebackers show blitz but one drops and another occupies the LG. Alabama gets pressure with just three rushing on the play. Murray actually does a decent job of climbing the pocket here. The problem is he rushes the throw on a whip route:
There are a few concerns here, one being that it looks like he gets swallowed up by the big bodies around him. I don’t think this is why it is a bad play – the fact Murray has happy feet with defenders around him is the biggest issue – but it underscores some of the challenges he will face.
This play is ugly from beginning to end for Oklahoma. The OL doesn’t do well with the initial Alabama look and Murray panics. This is pretty well covered but the receiver doesn’t do him any favors. The throw was short of the sticks at a time when Oklahoma could have desperately used a first down though.
Fortunately, there aren’t many plays on film where he looks this bad. The thing Murray is going to have to do in the NFL is find throwing lanes because this is where his height will be an issue. He will have his share of batted balls but that is true of almost every NFL quarterback. The key will be throwing the ball away instead of forcing it.
Murray has an uncommon ability to extend a play – better than any other QB in this class. He is also the only one capable of this:
57-yard bomb on the run dropped right in the bucket. This was a complete breakdown of the offensive line and Murray not only eludes the defender but keeps his eyes downfield and makes the throw.
Then there is this play against Texas:
There aren’t many QBs in the NFL who have the ability to take a designed run 70 yards and outrun an entire secondary. He didn’t run at the Combine or his Pro Day but reportedly he has run a sub 4.4 and only two QBs in history have ever done that: Michael Vick and Reggie McNeil.
Now, as tantalizing as Murray’s speed and playmaking ability are, he had some trouble in the Orange Bowl. The Alabama defense bottled Murray up in the pocket, especially early in the game. This is a one-armed takedown of a scrambling Murray by Afernee Jennings:
Jennings is a freshmen linebacker for Alabama. Imagine what this would look like if Khalil Mack were to get his hands on him.
On this play Murray sees a running lane and but it gets closed off by the middle linebacker. He tries to get outside but even if he keeps his feet this play will go for a loss:
Murray will have similar struggles against NFL defenses who are bigger and faster than anything he has seen. The durability concerns stem from these types of plays because he will be exposing himself to big hits. It will take creativity to have him avoid these and the best fit is an organization willing to build their offense around him.
Oklahoma lost its two biggest games of the year against Texas and Alabama. While you can’t really put either loss on Murray (he had over 800 combined yards and 8 TDs combined), the Orange Bowl looked like the moment was too big for OU as a whole. The Texas game was a surprise because OU had rocked Baylor the week before while the Longhorns struggled with Kansas State.
It isn’t something to be overanalyzed, especially since they avenged the Texas loss in the Big 12 title game, but I don’t like what I saw in the first 20 minutes of the Orange Bowl. Getting down 28-0 in a CFB Playoff game because you can’t consistently convert on 3rd and 4 is a problem. Murray will need work on making the routine plays look routine.
Additionally, outside of the Army game where Murray threw the game winning TD, he didn’t have to manufacture a comeback like Haskins did at Penn State and Maryland. This isn’t an indictment of him as a player but I think it’s worth mentioning. He did help OU mount a furious rally against Texas and Alabama only to fall short due to getting behind by 3+ scores. Still, I think Murray competes for 60 minutes and raises the game of the guys around him.
The one character issue I have seen is Murray apparently didn’t show well in interviews at the combine. Former NFL GM Charley Casserly said he was one of the most disappointing players there and teams were turned off by what they heard:
“These were the worst comments I ever got on a high-rated quarterback and I’ve been doing this a long time. … Leadership, not good. Study habits, not good. The board work, below not good. Not good in any of those areas, raising major concerns about what this guy is going to do.”
Now, this could just be a smokescreen by GMs who are hoping to drive his value down. Casserly has good connections so it could also be true. The reality is that it is impossible to know for sure. It is probably somewhere in between since nothing has come out since the Combine to suggest teams are weary of him.
Final Grade: A-
If Kyler Murray were 6’2 or 6’3 we would be debating if he was the best QB prospect of the last 10 years. He is such a unique player with the things he can do but the height is going to create a debate until he takes his first snap – and probably beyond.
There are a lot of questions surrounding him too: Will the height ultimately be an issue? Will a team try to make him a pocket passer or play to his strengths? Was he a product of Lincoln Riley and some talented skill players in a conference where defense is an afterthought? These are all fair questions and if you plan on investing a 1st Round Pick, ones that should be asked.
To me, the ceiling here is crazy high – Murray is the clear QB1 of the 2019 Draft. I would be fine taking him late in redraft leagues and in SuperFlex/2QB he might settle in as a fine QB2. You’ll have to read the tea leaves to determine how much playing time he will get. However, once he steps on the field he will provide immediate value. His rushing ability alone will vault him into mid-range QB consideration so the fact he is a good passer is icing on the cake.
In dynasty rookie drafts I am taking him wherever I can – even #1 overall. In other formats where a 2nd QB is useful, he will most certainly be a bench stash for me. My advice is to get in on the ground level before his stock soars.
Thanks for reading – you can find me on Twitter @JasonKamlowsky to talk about anything with fantasy football or baseball. Also be sure to follow @DynastyFBDigest and check out the content on dynastyfootballdigest.com for everything fantasy football related.