NFL Draft talk surges for Kyler Murray as Lincoln Riley believes he can be an All-Star or Pro Bowler

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For most of the offseason, Kyler Murray's 2018 football campaign was discussed as a one-off with Murray's presence allowing Oklahoma to continue its explosive offensive ways under coach Lincoln Riley after the departure of three-year starter and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Murray was Mayfield's backup, saw some action in key games and had the athleticism to stress defenses in a similar fashion when lined up alongside the Sooners' plethora of playmakers. 

Murray was going to fulfill his dreams of starting for a championship contender, and Riley was going to get a season of steady play before the 21-year-old from Bedford, Texas, left to join the Oakland Athletics spring training as the ninth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. 

Leading up to Saturday night's College Football Playoff showdown against Alabama, Murray himself acknowledged that there was very little made about any pro prospects in football. Now that Murray blossomed into college football's biggest star and won the Heisman Trophy, just like Mayfield, the hysteria around the will-he-won't-he discussion around football and baseball has reached a fever pitch. 

"We just had a guy go first overall the year before, and I think [Murray] is that kind of impact player, and certainly a rare athlete, one of those that you very well may go through the rest of your career coaching and never have one like that again. I mean, he's that unique," Riley said on Friday. "He's either going to be a Major League Baseball star or he's going to be a Pro Bowler, he just needs to decide which one. Maybe both."

Riley guessed that Murray could be a top-10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, noting that while "everyone knows he has a big decision to make" with his family and advisors at the end of the season, the options are both pretty great. 

"He's in a great situation," Riley said. "I mean, the guy is already the ninth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, and I think he'll probably be somewhere around the same spot if he chooses to go football-wise."

Murray himself said that there wasn't a lot of NFL Draft talk heading into the season, so as the questions have become more pressing he's kept those considerations [officially] to the side while maintaining his focus on his final season with the Sooners. Any one who has loved the game of football and competed at any level has experienced NFL hopes and dreams, and Murray is no different. 

"I've always felt like I could play in the NFL," Murray said this week. "I'm a confident guy. There's not a lot of short quarterbacks in the league, but I think there's more guys paving the way for the transition of not really caring how big you are, how tall you are. But for me, I've played this game my whole life and I've always felt like I could do it."

That confidence and belief in his own abilities is anchored in an all-time high school football career. Murray was 42-0 as a starter in high school, winning three state championships and being named Mr. Texas Football during his junior and senior season. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014, a five-star prospect and when he committed to Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin. The idea of Murray playing in the NFL was less of a debate than a potential (or expected) outcome from his college career. 

So while a transfer and a very productive college baseball career left Murray apparently bound to baseball at the start of the season, his ascendance in the football world -- overcoming the criticism about his height and quieting concerns about the logistics of a two-sport commitment -- should come as no surprise.

That's why when Riley says that Murray could be "both" a Pro Bowler and a MLB All-Star, we should probably listen up. The last time that we overlooked Murray's ability to overcome obstacles, he finished with a Heisman in his hand. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories