Will Cardinals really draft Kyler Murray No. 1 and dump Josh Rosen? Seems crazy, but NFL's changing
A 5-10 QB with just 14 college starts looks likely to go first overall, and it will be an interesting experiment to watch
PHOENIX – The whole idea is mind-blowing when you really put it into context.
A 5-10 quarterback who ran for over 1,000 yards and has just 14 starts on his college resume – none at this time last year – might actually be the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft.
The times are changing.
The Arizona Cardinals have the first pick in the April draft and it's looking more and more likely they will be drafting Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. In that scenario, they would trade Josh Rosen, last year's first-round pick, in order to do so, which makes it risky from the start.
Taking a 5-10 quarterback with a big arm, whose ability to run helped open up his offense in college, is risky enough as it is, but compounding it by dumping a quarterback who really had no chance last year in their offense magnifies it. The Cardinals say they haven't made the decision to get rid of Rosen and take Murray, but most in the league think that's the direction they are heading.
"I know you all get tired of hearing it, but we are no closer to a (final) decision than the last time we spoke," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said here at the NFL Coaches Breakfast Tuesday. "You have to get all the information, you have to meet with all the players, and then you've got to get the best answer you can come up with."
Would I dump Rosen and take Murray? No way, but I am intrigued by the way Murray throws the football. Even so, the idea of him being the first-overall pick would have been considered lunacy 10-20 years ago.
"The game is changing," Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said.
Yes, offenses have evolved with more college-like concepts, which makes Murray so intriguing. He would seem to be a natural fit for Kingsbury's Air Raid offense. He can run it and that ability makes defenses play him differently. A smart coach can take advantage of that.
The Sooners sure did. Not only did he run for 1,000 yards, but he also carved up defenses through the air because of the threat of the run. That's evident on tape. Murray threw to a lot of wide-open receivers because his running ability was such a weapon.
Let's just say there were a lot of big windows on his tape. That won't happen in the NFL, even if he can move. Eventually, he's going to have to make plays in the pocket. It happens to all quarterbacks.
Moving to throw is one thing. Running quarterbacks who run to set up the pass often fade away.
Robert Griffin III did after he got hurt. They said Colin Kaepernick would revolutionize the game – and he got figured out and benched. Steve Young didn't become a great quarterback until he didn't run as much. Mike Vick was electrifying at times, but never turned into a great passer.
The game always ends up back in the pocket – even if most don't want to admit it – which is why Murray's ability to throw from the pocket in the NFL will ultimately decide his career arc.
Even so, it's hard not love what Murray does. His ability to throw it is exceptional. He throws with ease. That's why the league might be moving away from the statue-in-the-pocket passer.
"Oftentimes, those early picks were prototype driven," New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Relative to Kyler, I think he's a fantastic player. Our game has changed some. The ability to escape and keep plays alive are very important."
The success of Baker Mayfield in Cleveland last year as a rookie has helped Murray's draft stock. At 6-feet tall, Mayfield had an outstanding rookie year and he did it after coming out of the same offense at Oklahoma as Murray.
The difference is that Mayfield didn't run at Oklahoma and was more of a pure pocket passer with defenses having no real fear in his ability to constantly make plays with his legs. That's why it's not right to compare the two quarterbacks.
"I don't know if I've seen one that can do both things as well as he (Murray) does," Kingsbury said. "You see the running ability, Mike Vick comes to mind, that type of explosion and escapability. He's a true drop-back passer when he wants to be. He's a tough combination."
Murray's legs helped make him a great passer for the Sooners. Mayfield simply was one.
That doesn't mean Murray can't become one. The tape shows a passer who can make all the throws and a guy whose throwing motion has a Patrick Mahomes feel to it.
Even so, it's remarkable to think that a 5-10 passer could go first overall in a league where that was once considered lunacy. I asked several coaches here what they would have said 10-20 years ago if I said that was the case.
Crazy, was the response. But then they added pretty much the same line of thinking after that, which is this isn't the same game anymore. With all the rules changes aimed at opening up the offenses, smaller, mobile quarterbacks could start to be the norm.
Doug Flutie had to go to Canada first before he played in the NFL. Many other smaller quarterbacks never even got the chance. Now the door seems to be wide open for combo quarterbacks.
"He (Murray) is one of the better dual-threat players to ever play," Kingsbury said.
A decade from now, will that door still be open? If so, will the stand-in-the-pocket passer go the way of the cassette tapes and DVD players and every other thing that has faded away because of something new?
I doubt it, but this sure would be an interesting experiment to watch, both for Murray and Kingsbury if they do end up together.
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