Kyler Murray should stick with baseball instead of heading to the NFL -- here's why

On Monday, Kyler Murray officially declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. That might not be too surprising -- Murray just won the Heisman for his excellent quarterbacking at Oklahoma -- except for the fact he was picked ninth overall in last June's baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics. He then signed with the intent to play his junior season before committing to baseball full-time.

The draft declaration, however, does not shut the door on Murray's professional baseball career. Instead it delays his decision. Murray met with the A's over the weekend, and reports indicate that he will use the next few weeks to make his choice.

We here at CBS Sports decided to lay out an argument for both sports. In this piece, we'll be making the case for him to pursue baseball. You can find our argument for football here.

While the argument for Murray picking football is a compelling one -- and one that seems increasingly likely to win out in the end -- there is nonetheless a case to be made that he should pick baseball. Let's run through it.

Health

Hey, you knew we had to start here, right? Playing football is more hazardous to the human body than playing baseball. There's the concussion risk, as well as a higher likelihood of suffering a broken bone or torn ligament. That Murray would be playing quarterback -- a position that runs the risk of being sandwiched by 300-pound linemen on any given snap -- adds to it.

In baseball, Murray's greatest foe would be the wall. It's possible he collides with another outfielder, or incurs an injury on a freak running play -- and he's almost certain to deal with the occasional pulled hamstring or tight oblique -- but the stakes feel lower. As a result …

Longevity

… Murray is more likely to enjoy a longer career as part of a baseball team. Football experts are already questioning how his 5-foot-11 frame will hold up to the rigors of a NFL season. Maybe the success of smaller quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and more recently Baker Mayfield will help paper over these concerns. But even so, it's fair to write that Murray is more likely to play a decade in the majors than he would be in the NFL.

That isn't to suggest it's a given that he's a star in baseball, of course. Front-office types have real concerns about the rawness of his game and whether he'll be able to make up for losing valuable developmental time by focusing on two sports instead of one.

"It's high risk, low probability because of his lack of experience," an American League talent evaluator told CBS Sports. The evaluator went on to compare Murray's upside to that of Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte.

"I'm speculating a lot there, though, because I don't really know what his game will look like when he starts playing every day," the evaluator said. "I assume it's average pop, plus run, plus defense, with a bit of risk in the hit."

A different evaluator, a scout, acknowledged Murray was drafted highly despite his rough edges because of his premium tools. Whether Murray's production will ever match his athleticism is anyone's guess -- and may remain that way if he chooses football. Still, the ingredients for an impact-level ballplayer are there if he chooses to stick with baseball.

Guaranteed contracts

Part of the argument against baseball is that Murray wouldn't make as much money up front, and that he also wouldn't be in line to start come Day 1, or even Day 400. Both points are valid.

There's no doubt that baseball would require a long-burn mentality, and that Murray would have to sit through more bus rides than he would in the NFL. Even so, a baseball career would feature the potential to make more money than the football alternative.

Foremost, baseball has guaranteed contracts. Murray doesn't have to worry about being cut and losing out on a quarter (or whatever percentage) of his deal. If he signed for three years and $40 million, he would receive $40 million.

Additionally, while football's earning system isn't as broken as baseball, it's not as though Murray would necessarily be making huge money from the jump. Lamar Jackson was the No. 32 pick in the 2018 draft. His contract calls for him to make about $9.5 million over four years, with the club then holding an option on the fifth season. Murray would be looking at a similar outlay if he's drafted near the end of the first round. Should Murray go earlier -- say, in the top five, or even first overall, as has been floated by league insiders -- he could make closer to $30 million guaranteed. It just depends on how much NFL teams believe in him.

Either way, Murray would certainly be making more money over those first four seasons -- heck, it's possible he wouldn't yet be an established big-league player by the time he signed his second NFL contract -- but there are downsides. Foremost, a football career means he'll have to pay back his signing bonus to the Athletics, cutting into his first NFL contract. (Hypothetically, Murray could in theory proceed as a ballplayer, keep his signing bonus, and then later transition.) The aforementioned health and durability risks reduce the chances of him making it to a second deal.

Besides, baseball's lack of an official salary cap means Murray's absolute earning potential is greater on the diamond (although it's worth noting that quarterback is the one position where he stands the chance of making baseball-like coin).

None of this means Murray is likely to pick baseball --again, he seems more inclined to pick football at this rate -- but he's almost certainly considered these factors as reasons to hang onto his bat and glove.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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