The most fascinating player in the 2019 NFL draft should surprise nobody — it’s Kyler Murray. He declared for the draft this week, and the 5-foot-9 Oklahoma QB who just won the Heisman Trophy by putting up Baker Mayfield numbers in Lincoln Riley’s system could go anywhere in the draft.
It’s very early in the process, but ask people around the NFL and Murray’s name could be called anywhere from the Top 10, to late 1st round, to Day 2 to … to Day 3. Opinions are so split on Murray on just about everything. He either did a terrific job bringing Oklahoma back against Alabama … or just posted garbage time numbers for three quarters after falling behind 28-0.
Murray is the kind of player who can get a GM and coach fired … or catapult them to Sean McVay status. While not quite Mayfield when it comes to being a lightning rod – Murray is quiet on social media and isn’t as in-your-face as the Browns QB – Murray is going to divide folks for the next four months during the draft process.
Let’s quickly narrow the teams that need a QB and could make a run at Murray:
Patriots: Tom Brady is 42 next August. Murray doesn’t feel like a Bill Belichick guy, but can you really put anything past Belichick? He reportedly loved Baker Mayfield in 2018. The Patriots may have 12 picks, including an extra 2nd round pick and two extra 3rd round picks.
Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill is supposed to be gone and there’s a new head coach. Do they re-boot with a teardown, and tank for Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert in 2020? Or is Kyler Murray in the mix for a Dolphins team that hasn’t a clue what it is or wants to be?
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger turns 37 in March, and he and Mike Tomlin probably have one more crack at a Super Bowl. I can’t see them drafting Kyler Murray in the 1st round, but none of the QBs they’ve taken recently — Mason Rudolph (2018, 3rd round), Josh Dobbs (2017, 4th round), Landry Jones (2013, 4th) — look like the heir apparent.
Jaguars: It’s anyone’s guess what their plans are. Blake Bortles can’t possibly return; the Eli Manning-Tom Coughlin speculation has been on life support for over a year now; and the market isn’t brimming with options. I’m more worried about the Jags’ locker room than Kyler Murray being an NFL QB.
Chargers: Philip Rivers just turned 37. This roster is loaded with talent, but there isn’t a backup to get excited about. Reportedly, the Chargers had interest in Lamar Jackson last year. Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt struggled with Marcus Mariota when they were paired up in Tennessee, and he seems like an odd fit with Murray. The Chargers would need to bolster their line, but they’ve got top notch skill position players to put around a guy like Murray.
Broncos: John Elway has whiffed on QBs for a few years now, and the pressure is mounting. I’ll guess they roll with Case Keenum and Chad Kelly next year. Denver stole the 49ers QB coach Rich Scangarello from Kyle Shanahan to be the Broncos’ OC, and I can’t imagine Elway thrusting Kyler Murray on them.
Raiders: Jon Gruden is a Wild Card, and he’s got three first-round picks. The Raiders have many needs, and regardless of everything Gruden has said publicly, it’s far from a lock he’s back with Oakland next year. The Raiders were unwatchable dreck last year; Murray and say, Antonio Brown, would certainly make them more interesting.
Redskins: Jay Gruden has had an interesting 5-year run with the Redskins. Even though fans seem to dislike him, I think he’s overachieved there, making one playoff trip and being eliminated in Week 17 in 2016. In 2018 the Redskins led the NFC East before
Alex Smith’s gruesome injury destroyed their season. It’s unclear if he’ll return in time for next year. Injuries have been a massive problem for the Redskins the last three years. Longtime front office decision-maker Bruce Allen is certainly in trouble, and what a way to go out, with the high-risk, high-reward selection of Murray.
Giants: Odell Beckham. Saquon Barkley. Kyler Murray? Yes, the Giants have offensive line issues, and the defense needs lots of work, but drafting Murray in the Top 10 wouldn’t be insane for the Giants. Pat Shurmur has worked with QBs young (helped Sam Bradford become ROY in St. Louis) and old (Eli Manning, statistically, had one of his best seasons in 2018). The Giants are 8-25 since the boat trip. Eli Manning just turned 38. What do they have to lose? I’m not the only one who thinks this has merit.
Packers: My NFL Mock Draft in early January had the Packers drafting Murray with the 32nd pick in the 1st round (acquired via trade with the Saints). Packers fans seem to think they’re a player or two away from contending for a Super Bowl again with Aaron Rodgers, but that’s not the case. They’re in a brutal division, and as many as five starters are free agents. Rodgers is 35, has battled injuries for two years in a row, and their new head coach, Matt LaFleur, is a young, creative, offensive mind.
Saints: Drew Brees just turned 40, and despite a great season, it’s pretty clear his arm strength has declined. In the last five games he has just five TD passes, and they’ve gone run-heavy. Teddy Bridgewater will get a chance to start somewhere (Jacksonville?) and if the Saints do win the Super Bowl, perhaps they consider the post-Brees era by taking Kyler Murray with their 2nd round pick (they don’t have a 1st) or trading to the early half of the 2nd round.
Bucs: If you think Bruce Arians can salvage Jameis Winston, then you can cross Tampa off. Arians has historically favored pocket passers, and that’s not necessarily the strength of Murray. Still, he did complete 69 percent of his passes in Lincoln Riley’s system. But this look at his arm was done before this past season.
Cardinals: Did we save the best for last? I can’t imagine that just because Kliff Kingsbury said he’d take Murray first in the draft way back in October – when he was still at Texas Tech – that it means anything. He’s got Josh Rosen. Unless Kingsbury wants to unload Rosen, this simply will not happen. I’d actually rank the Cardinals last among the 13 teams that could get Kyler Murray, and they’re only here because of Kingsbury’s old comments.
So that’s 13 teams that could be in the hunt to draft a QB in the first few rounds in the 2019 draft. The closer we get to the draft – after free agency, maybe unexpected retirements – this list is likely to shrink considerably. Short of a major injury, I can’t see it growing.