2019 NFL Draft: Here's why Kyler Murray should play in the NFL and pass on baseball
The Oklahoma star will reportedly declare for the NFL Draft; here's why that's a great decision
Kyler Murray will reportedly declare for the NFL Draft on Sunday, which means he could give up a professional baseball career with the Oakland A's. And should Murray commit to football it would also mean he'd have to return the $4.66 million he received from the A's last summer.
So is football the right decision for Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner coming off a huge season with the Oklahoma Sooners?
The short answer is yes (but we here at CBS Sports decided to lay out an argument for both, and.) Let's take a look at the reasons why.
Yes, Murray would have to return the $4.66 million from the A's, but depending on where he's taken in the NFL Draft (more on that in a second), he'll make up that money the moment his name is called. In fact, he'll almost certainly make up that money the moment he declares and signs his first endorsement deal.
And while baseball can be lucrative -- and, compared to football, relatively safe -- NFL franchise quarterbacks typically have long careers, avoid serious injuries, and retire with more than $150 million in earnings. If, for example, Murray played running back or linebacker, there would be no discussion; he should play baseball because running backs and linebackers, on average, play for 4-5 seasons and earn substantially less than quarterbacks.
There's also this: Yes, $4.66 million is a nice chunk of change to play baseball, but it would be Murray's only big payday for the next 5-6 years. Baseball America's J.J. Cooper explains:
"Considering he has [fewer] at-bats under his belt than his peers, he's likely two to three seasons away from reaching the majors," Cooper wrote last month. "And then he would be another three seasons away from arbitration. So his first big payday for baseball would likely not come until 2023 or 2024. His first chance at free agency would likely come after the 2026 or 2027 seasons. At that point, Murray will be 29 or 30, which means he's likely to get one significant free-agent contract if he ends up being a very productive regular."
In the NFL, a franchise quarterback gets his $100 million-plus contract after three or four seasons, depending on when he was drafted, but this assumes that Murray's a franchise quarterback. But even if he's not, journeymen do pretty well for themselves too; Matt Schaub's career earnings (via Spotrac): $90.6 million
Even Mike Glennon, who has 22 career starts in six seasons, has earned $27.5 million.
Put another way: If Murray truly is a special talent, he could to earn north of $150 million over his NFL career.
Murray's a first-round pick
Back in 2012, Russell Wilson wasn't drafted until the third round (75th overall). He wasn't even the first Wilson taken -- running back David Wilson went 32nd to the Giants and, 16 picks later, the Patriots took defensive back Tevon Wilson. But if Russell Wilson was in the 2019 draft class, he'd be a first-round pick.
Part of that is because Wilson, while unconventional, is very good at his job despite being just 5-11. But it's also because NFL teams are more accepting of quarterbacks who aren't 6-5 pocket passers who can throw the ball out of the stadium. Wilson, obviously, has influenced that thinking. More recently, there's Patrick Mahomes, whom the Chiefs traded up for in the 2017 draft. Mahomes was so electric that Andy Reid was convinced to trade Alex Smith. Mahomes will almost certainly win the MVP award after throwing 50 touchdowns in his first year as the starter.
Then there are Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, bookends to the 2018 first round. They have completely different styles but neither is in the mold of "traditional NFL passer." Mayfield, a former college walk-on, is 6-1, mobile and insanely accurate; he completed 70 percent of his passes during his last two seasons at Oklahoma, where he threw 83 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. He also rushed for 377 yards as a senior. As a rookie with the Browns, Mayfield completed 63.8 percent of his passes (27 TDs, 14 INTs) and rushed for 131 yards.
Jackson isn't nearly as accurate but he's much more dangerous as a runner. As a junior at Louisville, Jackson completed 59 percent of his passes with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but he ran for a whopping 1,601 yards, including 18 more scores. With the Ravens, Jackson started seven regular-season games, completed 58.2 percent of his throws (6 TDs, 3 INTs) and rushed for 695 yards. That was good for 27th among all rushers.
In 2018, Murray completed 69 percent of his passes with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for 1,001 yards and 12 more touchdowns.
The lesson: There is room in today's NFL for Murray, and what he did at Oklahoma translates to the NFL -- it certainly did for Mayfield -- so teams are going to be clamoring to draft him.
As for the $4.6 million he'd have to return to the A's, consider this:
Lamar Jackson's rookie deal as the 32nd overall pick: four years, $9.5 million and a $4.9 million signing bonus.
Baker Mayfield's rookie deal as the first-overall pick: four years, $32.7 million and a $21.8 million signing bonus.
If Murray's a first-round pick -- and he will be -- that $4.66 million will be a distant memory.
Murray could be the first quarterback taken
When Murray declares we will have him ranked as the second-best quarterback in this draft class behind Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins. That speaks to how weak this draft class is, but also to how electric Murray can be. With the Senior Bowl less than two weeks away and the NFL combine 58 days from now, here are our quarterback rankings:
1. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
2. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
3. Drew Lock, Missouri
4. Daniel Jones, Duke
5. Will Grier, West Virginia
But here's the thing: As we start digging into Murray's 2018 tape, there's a chance he ends up being the first quarterback off the board in late April, and that's when things will get really interesting. As it stands, none of the teams with a top-five pick will be in the market for a quarterback. The Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen a year ago, the 49ers' signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a long-term deal last offseason, the Jets took Sam Darnold third overall in 2018, Jon Gruden and the Raiders seem content to stick with Derek Carr, and new Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians sounds all-in on Jameis Winston.
And yet, we're already having conversations about the Cardinals taking Murray first overall. Mostly because of these comments from new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was at Texas Tech at the time and had no idea that a) he'd be fired or b) be in the NFL three months later.
"Kyler, I mean, he's a freak, man," Kingsbury said in October, via Eric Kelly of KLBK. "Kyler is a freak. I've followed him since he was a sophomore in high school. Just think the world of him and what he can do on a football field. I've never seen one better in high school and he's starting to show it now at the college level. I don't have enough good things to say about him. He's phenomenal.
"I've never seen him have a poor outing. Not one, which at quarterback is impossible to do but he's done it. I'd take him with the first pick of the draft if I could. I know he's signed up to play baseball but he is a dominant football player and I would take him with the first pick."
Exacerbating matters: ESPN's Adam Schefter on Thursday floated the idea that the Cardinals could take Murray and auction Rosen off to the highest bidder. Again, this seems way out there but who the hell knows, especially with three months between now and the draft.
Here's what we do know: The Cardinals will listen to trade offers for that No. 1 pick. And here are the teams most desperate for a quarterback: the Giants (No. 6 overall pick), the Jaguars (No. 7), Broncos (10th) and the Dolphins (No. 13). Any of those teams -- or, even the Redskins, who pick 15th -- could work their way to the top of the draft, just as the Jets and Bills did last season to grab Darnold and Josh Allen, respectively.
By the time it's said and done, we won't be surprised if Murray is the first quarterback drafted, and maybe even the first player taken in the 2019 draft.
And when Murray is drafted, there's a good chance he'll find himself in the starting lineup as a rookie -- just like Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, Rosen and Jackson a season ago. If Murray chooses baseball, he might not make his Major League debut for years.
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