Why not? What could keep the Cardinals from drafting Kyler Murray

Apr 17, 2019, 11:15 AM

Oklahoma football staff member Merv Johnson, left, talks to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray befor...

Oklahoma football staff member Merv Johnson, left, talks to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray before Murray goes through drills at the university's Pro Day for NFL scouts in Norman, Okla., Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

A jaw-dropping trade offer could always sway the Arizona Cardinals to trade their No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Maybe they simply believe defensive linemen Quinnen Williams or Nick Bosa register as franchise-altering talents that quarterback Kyler Murray is not.

Presuming those two things are not true, Kyler Murray, as many believe, is their man.

Nobody has said it better than ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback who is sold on Murray’s talent. Orlovsky says making a final call can be framed from this one question:

“If you’re not taking Kyler Murray (at) one, why?,” Orlovsky said on ESPN’s Get Up! “We just learned yesterday (Seahawks quarterback) Russell Wilson became the highest-paid player in the NFL.

“Jim Nagy, who’s a long-time scout (formerly with the Seahawks) … told this story where he was with the Chiefs and they sat in a room a couple days before the draft and said, ‘What don’t we like about Russell Wilson?’ And everyone said, ‘Nothing but three inches.’ Is that the case with the Cardinals and Kyler Murray? Like, what don’t you like about Kyler Murray other than three inches of his height, because if that’s the case, you have to learn from history.”

For the sake of discussion, let’s play devil’s advocate to determine the single-sentence question at hand. Why not?

The size/durability question

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Murray’s stock took off at the NFL Draft Combine, where he measured at 5-foot-10 and 1/8 inches and 207 pounds. It was comparable to Wilson’s combine measurements of 5-foot-11 and 204 pounds. That’s all it took for Murray to,  more than ever, be perceived as a viable NFL quarterback.

The height might not be the biggest issue.

“As you grow in this process and you open your eyes, you really have a better understanding that, number one, 10 years ago, there weren’t any comps that a 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-9ish quarterback could not only play at this level and have success,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Bickley & Marotta at the combine.

“Now that’s changed. We’re a business that really looks at comps and we try to sort of pattern things after what others have done.”

But with that size and Murray’s rushing ability that led to 1,001 yards on the ground come questions about durability.

Wilson, again, presents a rare example of a mobile quarterback whose NFL career hasn’t been drastically impacted by injury.

Murray only played one full season for Oklahoma in 2018. He threw for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions and rushed 140 times for 1,001 yards. He played in all 14 games for the Sooners, who went 12-2.

Is one season enough evidence that his body can take a beating?

Behind a talented offensive line, he took just 18 sacks as a junior, fewer than current Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen took in his final four games of 2018.

Before that, there’s not much to go on. Murray only threw 21 passes and rushed 14 times playing behind current Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2017. In his freshman college season at Texas A&M, he made 121 throws with 53 rushing attempts while splitting snaps at quarterback.

Injuries haven’t gotten to Murray yet. We just don’t have much of a sample size to really know if they could catch up to him.

Do the Cardinals see him as a true dual-threat? Or do they want him to use his mobility in the open field sparingly, utilizing it just to extend plays and move the pocket?

Does limiting his rushing abilities to prevent injury change any projection of his ceiling?

The passion question

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

It’s not a matter of Murray’s passion for football. That appears genuine.

But so does his passion for baseball. The quarterback did, after all, appear dead set on joining the Oakland A’s out of college after being drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft.

“I think whoever drafts him is certainly going to have to address that with him,” Keim said Tuesday about the lingering baseball questions.

Nobody knows how or when Murray’s mind changed regarding his decision to enter the NFL Draft, which became public in January. He went all-in on choosing the NFL over MLB soon after, but Murray’s Feb. 1 interview with The Dan Patrick Show highlighted indecision with Murray and his tight-lipped camp led by his father, Kevin Murray.

In a hypothetical where the Oakland Raiders drafted him, Murray told Patrick he “would love to play both” sports. He admitted later that day on ESPN he knew he had to commit to one sport.

In a Sports Illustrated feature, writer Robert Klemko attempted to delve into the murkiness of Murray’s two-sport desires. NFL people remain worried about Murray changing his mind down the road.

“You look at people’s history, and their past is a good indication of their future—and there’s just a lot of changing minds with these guys,” one AFC exec says about the Murrays. “It’s easy to be [committed to football] when you’re the Heisman Trophy winner and your team’s in the national playoff. But what about when you’re playing for the Cardinals and getting beat to hell every week?”

Asked on Tuesday if the Cardinals had discussed the MLB-NFL conundrum with Murray in their meetings with him, Keim only offered this:

“Maybe,” he said.

The personality question

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If Cardinals fans recall Rosen’s ascension as a rookie, much of it had to do with his leadership qualities.

He commanded huddles from the first day of camp. He replaced starter Sam Bradford with confidence just three games in. After his first offensive coordinator was fired, Rosen led his team on a game-winning drive against the 49ers after expressing, well, confidence.

“‘We’re about to win this (expletive) game,'” Rosen said in a huddle, as told by tackle D.J. Humphries.

Rosen’s leadership abilities struck former kicker Phil Dawson, who after one key missed kick early in the year was shocked that the rookie approached him with words of encouragement.

“Here’s a rookie making his first start and he comes up to the oldest — second oldest guy in the league and has some words of encouragement,” said the 43-year-old.

Rosen impressed Cardinals veterans by how he carried himself off the field as well. His diverse interests made him easy to get along with.

Murray’s personality is more reserved.

“You got to get to know him before you really get to see who he is. He kind of keeps to himself a little bit, pretty private,” said Murray’s former Allen High School coach, Tom Westerberg.

“If you go out to the practice field, he’s not a loud, boisterous — not that guy. I would say he’s pretty reserved if you don’t know him.”

Westerberg said Murray isn’t afraid to lead in the heat of the moment. He saw him keep teammates accountable en route to three high school championships. But NFL teams enter with less evidence, as Klemko found for Sports Illustrated.

“To be a legit NFL quarterback you’ve got to have leadership qualities,” says Scot McCloughan, a former NFL GM who assisted the Browns in scouting Mayfield, their 2018 No. 1 pick. “Watching Kyler do an interview, it’s like, C’mon, guy, what do you got? Give me something. I’m sure they’re trying to train him up, but . . . he’s just not a go-getter. Doesn’t mean he can’t be a good QB. Just means he’s not gonna be the guy in the locker room.”

Keim could be on the hot seat after missing on several first-round picks in the last few years. His DUI last summer, the one-and-done season for head coach Steve Wilks and the risk of replacing Wilks with Kliff Kingsbury have added up.

So to make the right choice, if the football talent is immense, the Cardinals’ decision boils down to this:

Are they comfortable taking the risk on a non-traditional quarterback — in play-style and personality — who could always turn to baseball if he doesn’t find immediate NFL success?

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