Arizona Cardinals pick QB Kyler Murray 1st in 2019 NFL Draft
Kyler Murray is an Arizona Cardinal. And for at least the time being — maybe only minutes or hours — a quarterback conundrum for the franchise has officially arrived.
The Cardinals selected Murray, the Oklahoma Sooners product, with the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday, taking him ahead of defensive linemen Nick Bosa of Ohio State and Quinnen Williams of Alabama.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Murray told the NFL Network in Nashville. “I’m ready to go. No matter what the situation is, I’m a winner. I’m ready to go.”
The move gave the Cardinals a quarterback selected with a top-10 pick for the second consecutive season. Last year, Arizona traded up in the draft, from 15th to 10th, to take UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
Murray completed 69% of his passes, threw for 4,361 yards and recorded 42 touchdowns to seven interceptions before being named the Heisman Trophy winner as a junior for the Sooners (12-2) in 2018. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Murray also rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns last season on 7.2 yards per carry.
His performance followed a Heisman campaign by Oklahoma’s starting quarterback in 2017, Baker Mayfield, who also went No. 1 in the draft.
With Arizona, Murray joins first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who began recruiting Murray as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator in 2012 and later as Texas Tech’s head coach.
“I feel we can be very dangerous,” Murray said. “He’s one of the best in the world at calling plays. I can’t wait to get up there with him. It’s been a long time coming and I hope he feels the same.”
Murray committed to Texas A&M and as a freshman in 2015 split time as the quarterback for the Aggies. He threw for 686 yards with five touchdowns and seven picks to go with 335 rushing yards before transferring to Oklahoma.
Murray sat out 2016 and threw just 21 passes, three for touchdowns, behind Mayfield in 2017.
Before his Heisman season, the Oakland Athletics selected Murray with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and Murray was expected to leave Oklahoma for a career in pro baseball. But his immediate success as a starter brought forth a tough decision, one that ultimately flipped.
The potential for Murray to leave an NFL team for MLB became a point of emphasis for teams who might’ve considered drafting Murray.
“I think whoever drafts him is certainly going to have to address that with him,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said a week before the draft.
By mid-January, Murray declared that he would enter the NFL Draft and did not report to the A’s for spring training, ultimately picking football over baseball. Another swing in his prospects to go No. 1 came at the March NFL Draft Combine.
Murray measured in at 5-foot-10 and 1/8 inches, alleviating concerns that he was closer to 5-foot-8. He also weighed 207 pounds. All-in-all, he was less than an inch shorter and weighed more than current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson weighed at his draft combine; Wilson recently became the NFL’s highest-paid player.
“… Ten 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,” Keim told Bickley & Marotta in March.
“We’re a business that really looks at comps and we try to sort of pattern things after what others have done.”
Murray’s momentum as the potential top pick also ballooned when an interview clip of Kingsbury resurfaced from 2018 resurfaced amid Murray’s big decision to choose football over baseball.
Now, the video of the then-Texas Tech head coach saying he would draft Murray first overall in the NFL Draft looks prophetic.
“When you watch him play, he can run it, he can throw it. You know, he’s a competitor,” Kingsbury said after the combine. “He’s one of the best dual-threat players to ever play.”
With the Cardinals, Murray will compete with Rosen playing in a spread offense both players are familiar with. Each led similar offensive schemes during their college days.
It’s now a matter of who can run the offense best. Rosen has the advantage with 13 games as an NFL starter under his belt. He learned the pitfalls of reading complex defenses while managing an offense led by two different coordinators. He’s also gone through a few weeks of installs prior to the draft.
Murray has the advantage as a more mobile quarterback. His presence in the shotgun would give Arizona the ability to shift the pocket to stretch plays horizontally and use the run-pass option as more of a threat to tuck the ball and run.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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