Too short, too gimmicky, too much Doug Flutie: Debunking the Kyler Murray myths

Elevating the Heisman Trophy Winner above the hot take flames

Tommy Call
February 12, 2019 - 3:25 pm

Kyler Murray tweeted his intentions to “commit his life to becoming an NFL quarterback,” on Monday and it’s now officially the Kyler Murray draft— Why?

Well, If he wasn't already, Kyler Murray is now the premier prospect of the 2019 draft. He’s the most polarizing prospect in this class — by far.

Everyone has an opinion on Murray — and that’s a problem because a lot of opinions circulating around Murray are just flat-out wrong or worse.

We live in a world of hot takes, especially in the sports talk realm, but that can’t do a prospect of Murray’s caliber justice. So, here we are, it’s time to officially debunk some of the myths that surround the Oakland Athletics former first-round pick, and Oklahoma Sooner Heisman Trophy winner.

“He’s Too Small.”

Okay, let’s get this out of the way — Murray is small.

The size is an issue, but not as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. He’s small, but not too small.

First, there’s no clear evidence from the quarterback position that Murray could get injured at a higher rate than a prototypical quarterback because of his size. History show most quarterback labeled with the tag “injury prone” are bigger quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Tannehill.

Outside of Drew Brees' shoulder injury early in his career, smaller quarterbacks like Brees and Russell Wilson have fared fine with quarterback hits.

Outside of heavy hits to Murray, his size would suggest he gets the football tipped at the line scrimmage often — wrong. According to Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, out of the 2019 draft quarterback headliners Murray had the least amount of batted passes at five compared to Drew Lock (8) who is 6’4 and Daniel Jones (12) who is 6’5. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco led the NFL in passes tipped at 6’6.

That's hardly evidence that height plays a part in batted balls at the line of scrimmage.

There’s two other things worth mentioning when talking to those who are scared of Murray’s size. Most who are concerned because they believe he’ll get injured after a big hit. Hitting hard might be easier said than done Murray. One of his best skills is not only his elusive ability outside the pocket, it’s his awareness inside the pocket too — a skill many don’t have with Murray’s young experience.

Another thing that makes me scratch my head about the concern over Murray’s size is that fact that hits on quarterbacks are in decline across the league. It’s blatantly evident how the NFL is trying to protect quarterbacks with referee’s flags — think Clay Matthews. Is it that hard to believe the NFL’s policy on protecting quarterbacks won’t apply to Murray?

If none of that was convincing when talking about Murray’s size, Kent Weyrauch of of Number Fire tweeted a thread correlating quarterback height versus things like quarterback rating, touchdown percentage and even winning percentage that’s worth checking out:

He Played in a Gimmick Offense.

There’s not a doubt that the Big 12’s version of football is a little different. The defense isn’t great and we’ll get to that later, but if you think Oklahoma’s offense is a fluke you must not watch the new age of the NFL. Every new trend that’s drooled over by football junkies comes from an aspect of the college game. There was some concern about how Oklahoma's offense would translate last season, but it’s safe to say Baker Mayfield put a lot of that to rest. Mayfield successful transition to the pro level is one of the reason Freddie Kitchens got the head coaching position in Cleveland.

Take a look at the recent head coaching hires, a group of the "next Sean McVay’s": Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Lafleur, Zac Taylor and Kitchens — all considered offensive innovators who bring a bit of spice into hopeful high powered offenses. Coaches like Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and new Arizona coach Kingsbury love Murray as a prospect.

We know about the infamous video where Kingsbury stated he would take Murray with the No. 1 overall pick if he had the opportunity (and now he does), but it’s also worth mentioning another polarizing Heisman winner-- Johnny Manziel. Another small innovative quarterback who had some of his best seasons in College Station with Kingsbury drawing up the plays as his offensive coordinator. Murray could be the electric Johnny Football-esque player we all hoped for.

“He’s a Run-First Quarterback."

This might be the biggest misconception about Murray.

Yes, he can run and he does it fantastically, but the reason Murray is being touted is because of his traits as a passer.

Murray's arm is no joke-- he has incredible drive on the football that results in some “wow” throws. He also has legit touch that mixed with his power arm gives him special skills on passes downfield. He’s arguably the best deep ball thrower in this clas. A lot of the time the way he releases a deep pass rips off his hand with drive and touch that creates a tear-drop effect into the receivers hands — a rare skill that can light up any scout's eyes.

You can see Murray’s background in baseball with his throwing motion, which is another thing that sticks out. He throws a very tight football that is built up with torque and snap in his specific motion all within the pocket. It’s surprising to see a player his size, with such an effortless motion have the ball explode off his hand like it does.

One negative when it comes to Murray as a passer is he’s not ultra accurate — something that separates him from his former teammate Mayfield. Murray launches with a lot of timing and pace to his game, not pinpoint accuracy, but something that can be worked on.

Murray was also deadly as a pocket passer according to Pro Football Focus:

Another thing worth mentioning is how effective Murray was on third downs, a telling stat according to Marcus Mosher of Pro Football Weekly. Murray averaged 11.8 yards per attempt with a 68.1 completion percentage on third down. Murray threw for 1,071 yards and 8 touchdowns in such settings, according to Mosher. This all translates to Murray being successful with his eyes down the field on one of the most important downs in all of football.

While we’re on the category of Murray running, there’s another small misconception about Murray — he’s as fast as Michael Vick which isn't entirely true either.

Murray is fast, very fast, but where he’s special as a runner is his unique ability to accelerate to high top end speed while still being somewhat crafty and elusive as a runner. He’s fast, but not that fast. He’s got extremely quick feet, almost chattery with electric acceleration and vision in the open field. Vick was an all-time athlete at the quarterback position, that many try to compare too, but never match. Murray won’t eclipse Vick’s 40 time at the combine and some will knock him for that. 

“His NFL Comparison is Doug Flutie."

*Sigh.*

Okay, now to everyone’s favorite part of draft season— player comparisons. Ugh, sometimes I feel like a part of draft season should be renamed “comparison season” because a lot of the time that's what it's all about. 

A question I often get: “who does he compare to?” A dumb question that is often used as a crutch when evaluating players, but now that we’re on the subject it’s story time:

I was listening to an unnamed sports talk radio show where the host compared Kyler Murray to Doug Flutie… multiple times. I almost had to pull over.

There’s a lot wrong with this. Mainly because comparing a player to a guy who played in the 80’s to a player that will debut in 2019 is just a bad way of looking at things. The NFL is not what it was in 1985 when Doug Flutie was drafted. They may have similar size comparisons, but it’s just not fair to compare Flutie and Murray. It's not only Flutie who you shouldn't compare Murray to, it's everyone.

There has not been a player in the NFL to get the opportunity Murray will get. No quarterback Murray’s size has ever been pegged as a franchise guy like Murray will be. Murray is an incredibly unique prospect that no comparison can match.

Murray has similar scrambling skills and arm strength to Wilson paired with some of the creativity of Patrick Mahomes, but other than those few traits, it’s just silly to waste time comparing Murray to anyone.

This is why Murray is so polarizing, we flat out haven’t seen a player like him the history of the NFL. End of story.

The Real Concerns

While I’ve spent over 1,500 words on hyping Murray as the next great quarterback, he’s not a perfect prospect. There are some concerns, but to me his size and other concerns from the general public don’t scare me as much as other things do.

First, Murray did not face the best competition in the Big 12. His offense was legit, but the defenses were not. When scouting a player you grade his performance against his best competition and for Murray that was Alabama. Murray looked clearly rattled early on in that game. He settled in late, but overall it wasn’t his best look which is a concern.

Second, Murray played behind one of the best offensive lines in college football at Oklahoma. Four of Murray’s offensive linemen will get drafted in April including Cody Ford who is projected to be one of the first tackles off the board in the first round. Murray rarely had to deal with a ton of pressure at Oklahoma because of his offensive line. Even with a great offensive line at the next level Murray will have to face pressure early and often.

Next up is his lack of commitment to the sport of football. I get we started this story off with his *commitment* to football, but even the fact that he entertained playing baseball instead will raise questions. Murray’s already been somewhat unimpressive when speaking to the media, and will now be quizzed by some of the NFL’s top coaches and executives.

Can Murray convince people at the Combine he’s a franchise quarterback in team interviews? If he can’t do that, he’ll have trouble rallying a veteran locker room around him.

Another simple concern is that Murray was only a one-year starter at Oklahoma. The only film we have is what he’s put on tape at Oklahoma, unless you want to look at his time at Texas A&M. The old guard of the NFL likes to have their guys be proven with experience, something Murray lacks.

The last concern, and maybe the biggest was Murray’s lack of progressions at Oklahoma. For the most part Murray had to make one and throw. He rarely diagnosed defenses, which is a problem. It’s something he’ll have to prove at the next level. Murray will sometimes lock in on his target like a radar and stick with just that guy for the entire route. This is something with experience Murray can hopefully improve upon.

We’re still ways away from the draft and the opinions on Murray will change daily. The combine will be telling for a prospect like Murray strictly based on the buzz that will follow him. Right now, Murray looks like an absolute lock to be a top-5 pick. I have little doubt a team won’t fall in love with Murray, but one thing we know is draft season is fickle to say the least.

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