NFL coaches: QB Murray measures up
INDIANAPOLIS — Kyler Murray might not step foot on the field at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. He will still be one of the most-watched prospects at the event Thursday morning.
The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma steps instead on the scale and up to the measuring tape Thursday when the quarterback group goes through official measurements around 9:30 a.m. ET.
Murray’s production — 54 total touchdowns, 42 TD passes, 5,362 total yards last season — could seemingly provide a team with a lot of answers.
Yet there are two pressing questions teams have about Murray when evaluating his pro potential.
Height. According to Oklahoma’s strength and conditioning coach, Murray will measure 5 feet, 10 inches in Indianapolis. That’s not up to NFL standards, where the prototype is over 6-2.
“If guys can throw, they can play the position,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They don’t have to dunk.”
Weight. Murray must convince teams longevity is a realistic trait to pair with incomparable darting quickness and straight-line speed. Per reports this week, Murray is over 200 pounds — and weighed in at 203.
“He’s a great athlete. The size is always a question. You’ve seen guys have success in the league that aren’t necessarily the prototype,” Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said. “I will say this, having played the position — if you’re shorter and in shotgun, you can see the field much better. If you are playing in shotgun every down, the height to me doesn’t have nearly the impact as it would coming out underneath.”
Elway, who is 6-3, said one answer is to overhaul your offense, but he also believes a running game can only be effective if the quarterback lines up under center.
Reports indicate the New York Giants might rate Murray as “too small.”
Based on the success of under-6-foot quarterbacks Russell Wilson (Seahawks) and Drew Brees (Saints), teams are tossing aside preconceived notions about what players at the position should look like.
“I’m putting away all the prototypes I once had,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who stands 5-foot-10, said at the 2019 Senior Bowl. “We’re looking for guys who can play.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid brings a record of success with quarterbacks such as Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes to the conversation. Mahomes is 6-3, McNabb was 6-2 and Vick is an even 6 feet tall.
“Can he throw?” Reid said Wednesday at the combine.
Throw he did at Oklahoma, where he had 208 completions in 283 attempts — 36 touchdowns, five interceptions — last season from a “clean pocket.” Pro Football Focus film review counted only three tipped passes all season, discrediting one implied weakness for shorter passers, that attempts will be batted down at the line.
“A year ago I was here and asked about a quarterback, and he went to Baltimore — turned out pretty good,” Reid said of Lamar Jackson, a former Heisman Trophy winner some in the league projected as a wide receiver because of his athletic ability. “You like them, you give them a shot. It’s not a surprise maybe, quarterback is not our top priority, but we keep our eyes open.”
Case Keenum started most of the 2018 season for the Minnesota Vikings and last season with Elway’s Broncos and is barely 6-1.
Former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has been pinned down about comments he made in October about Murray being the No. 1 pick in the draft, is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals, of course, have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
“He’s got some special ability,” Kingsbury said, extrapolating further to say Murray is the quickest player on the field regardless of position no matter what level he’s playing on.
Kingsbury, for the record, played the position at Texas Tech and in the NFL. He stands 6-4.
Reid said the rapidly changing NFL game to become a pass-heavy, high-speed sport suits quarterbacks like Murray. And the success of such systems, all the way down to high school and low-level colleges, are proof positive the “Air Raid” type system Kingsbury ran at Tech and Murray operated at Oklahoma has lasting power.
“Kyler is going to be a fit for anybody,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said prior to Super Bowl LIII. “Of course there are teams I’d rather see him with than not and coordinators I’d rather see him with than not, just personally. But there’s not any situation where I’d really fear for him. I think he’s going to go in and do well. Would he do a great job with what Kliff’s going to do offensively? I don’t think there’s any question.”
Murray will answer questions from the media Friday afternoon.
Like all other prospects invited, he will participate in medical testing and meet with individual teams for 15-minute interviews.
Beyond the tale of the tape, he’s not likely to answer any questions with his performance on the field. That is a confounding decision to some coaches.
“If you can throw, throw,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s like going to a track meet to not run.”
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media