Could Kyler Murray make it as an NFL QB?
Heisman candidate is an undersized passer, has a budding baseball career
When Tony Dungy sees Kyler Murray, something feels familiar.
A Heisman Trophy-caliber player, selected in the first round of a professional sports league other than football, leading his team on a college football title run?
Dungy thinks back 25 years.
He was the Vikings’ defensive coordinator, scouting draft prospects. Heisman winner Charlie Ward was lighting opponents up for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns to land Florida State’s first national title. Dungy told then-Vikings coach Dennis Green to pursue Ward.
“As a defensive coach at the time,” Dungy said, “I’m thinking, ‘Man. I would not want to play against this guy and all the headaches he would provide.’ ”
But would Ward, who instead became a first-round NBA pick with a 12year career, sign if the Vikings risked the selection?
“It was really a conundrum,” Dungy said.
It’s a conundrum Murray has revived.
Clearly, Murray has proved elite in
The Oakland Athletics drafted the outfielder ninth overall and signed him to a $4.66 million guaranteed contract that allowed him to play one more year of Sooners football.
So far in that season, no one has posted more than Murray’s 51 touchdowns
(40 passing, 11 rushing) or his 4,945 total yards of offense. His 11.9 yards per pass attempt leads the nation; his 70.9 completion percentage second. Murray’s
205.72 passing efficiency rating is the best the NCAA has ever seen.
Those numbers are one reason he is favored to win the Heisman (at least according to a USA TODAY Network survey of voters and Vegas) over Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins on Saturday in New York.
But do they make Murray a potential NFL franchise quarterback?
Let’s define that.
A franchise quarterback is the person an NFL team will build around for 10-12 years, longtime quarterback agent Leigh Steinberg says. He’s someone a team wins because of rather than simply with. And when he’s thrown multiple interceptions in a hostile road environment, a franchise quarterback compartmentalizes failures, adopts a quiet mind and elevates his play to secure a victory.
Murray has shown teams can win because of him. Oklahoma’s 12-1 record came despite a defense allowing 32.4 points per game (96th best in the FBS) and 448.1 total yards (108th).
Adversity? Take Oklahoma’s lone loss, when Murray entered the fourth quarter down 45-24 against rival Texas. Murray threw for a 19-yard touchdown, ran 67 yards for a second, and completed a 35-yard pass on a third drive to set up a running back for a game-tying score. The Sooners lost 48-45 on a field goal as time expired.
That leaves longevity, perhaps the biggest question for the generously listed 5-10, 195-pound dual-threat quarterback. Is Murray durable enough to sustain big hits, committed enough to shun his baseball opportunity and go all in for football?
NFL analysts point to Big 12 quarter- backs Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield and Super Bowl champions Drew Brees (6-0) and Russell Wilson (5-11) as evidence Murray’s stature wouldn’t preclude NFL success.
“The game has evolved,” said Murray’s father, Kevin, who helped Texas A&M beat Heisman dual-sport athlete Bo Jackson in the 1986 Cotton Bowl. “And so has the quarterback position.”
Murray’s ability to read, process and deliver are “critically important traits” teams look for, Kevin Murray says.
“He flat knows how to play,” said Steinberg, whose clientele have includ- ed Mahomes and Troy Aikman.
“If a team could overlook the size situation, they’d have a prototypical player.”
Gil Brandt agrees. Brandt, who spent 29 years as the Cowboys’ vice president of personnel, calls Murray “probably as a good a runner/passer combination as any quarterback I’ve ever seen.” He’s certain scouts are writing reports on Murray.
Draft analyst Dane Brugler projects Murray a top-50 pick, depending on which teams in the market for quarterback buy in to Murray’s skill set.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Wednesday that if Murray were three inches taller, “he’d be the No. 1 pick overall hands down. Then he would have a big decision to make.”
Instead, Kiper says, Murray would fall to Round 2. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay insists he’d go in the first.
“It’s more about quick twitch, guys that can get the ball out, move,” McShay said.
“And he does that as well as anyone in the country.”
But will teams risk a draft pick on a
5-10 quarterback with a guaranteed A’s contract?
Superagent Scott Boras, who helped Murray negotiate with the A’s for another college football season, says his client was “fully aware he could play in the NFL” when signing.
“This man has a contract,” Boras told USA TODAY. “He will be in spring training with the Oakland A’s. That’s the commitment.”
Murray’s baseball contract hasn’t stopped the NFL from hoping.
He told Tim Tebow on ESPN last weekend that he’d discuss his future with his family after the Sooners’ playoff run.
“Weigh out the option of what the NFL thinks of me,” Murray said. “Right now, my future is already kind of planned out, but we’ll see what happens.”
Sooners coach Lincoln Riley has told inquiring NFL minds simply that Murray “loves football.”
“That to me is an indication he has a chance,” said Brandt, who persuaded
1964 Heisman winner Roger Staubach to prioritize the pigskin over baseball.
It’s a chance Dungy didn’t pull off in
1994 with Ward, who said by phone he’d have chosen the NFL if a team committed a first-round draft pick to him.
Going the route of Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders and playing both sports would seem prohibitive. Neither were quarterbacks, which comes with time demands way beyond other positions. Still, Dungy wonders what if. “I personally thought he would be Joe Montana,” Dungy said. “If guys put the ball in the end zone in major-college football, they can put the ball in the end zone in the NFL.
“Anyone who’s that dynamic and has produced that much offense,” Dungy continued, “you’re going to have to take a look at.”
Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray has accounted for 51 touchdowns this season.
The Athletics made Kyler Murray the ninth pick of the MLB draft and signed him to a $4.66 million guaranteed contract.