When Kyler Murray is drafted in April — and there’s a good chance that will happen early in the first round, after he proclaimed his commitment to football Monday — he’ll be unlike any other NFL draft pick before him.
Murray is short, at least for an NFL quarterback. You’re going to hear a lot about this over the next two months. University of Oklahoma assistant AD/strategic communications Mike Houck had the most definitive word on Murray’s height, when he said the OU strength staff measured Murray at 5-foot-9 and 7/8 inches. Let’s just say he’s 5-10, for brevity.
There’s virtually no history of quarterbacks 5-10 or shorter in the Super Bowl era, outside of Doug Flutie. Many teams have size preferences, or requirements, at each position. The New York Giants do, and a story this week by SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano said that’s why the Giants likely wouldn’t be interested in Murray. A team source told Vacchiano that Murray is “probably a little too small” for the Giants and they will likely stick to their size guidelines at quarterback. Vacchiano said the Giants haven’t had a quarterback under 6-foot tall since 1966.
Social media got a bit of a chuckle at the Giants’ expense, but they probably won’t be the only team to wonder about the viability of a 5-10 quarterback in the NFL. The NFL is changing when it comes to offenses and its creativity with the quarterback position, and Murray is the one who will really push the league out of its comfort zone.
Kyler Murray will be rare NFL QB at his height
The NFL generally isn’t very good at wrapping its head around something it hasn’t seen before, and for practical purposes it has never seen a quarterback of Murray’s height succeed (he isn’t the stockiest quarterback either, at a listed 195 pounds).
There was Flutie, who like Murray was a Heisman Trophy winner and 5-10. He’s one of three quarterbacks 5-10 or shorter in NFL history with a minimum of 700 passes in the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference. The other two, Eddie LeBaron and Frankie Albert, retired before the first Super Bowl. Flutie is the only quarterback 5-10 or shorter to start a game in the Super Bowl era, according to Pro Football Reference.
It took Flutie a long time to get a chance. He was drafted in the 11th round by the Rams, started his career with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals and the first time he started 10 games in an NFL season was 1998. He was 36 years old, and 14 years removed from winning a Heisman Trophy at Boston College. He did make a Pro Bowl that season for the Buffalo Bills. Overall Flutie was just OK as an NFL quarterback, with 86 touchdowns and 68 interceptions and a 76.3 passer rating. That wasn’t all his fault, considering he was in the USFL and Canadian Football League for a lot of his prime, but his career isn’t proof that Murray can overcome his height challenges.
So if the report about the Giants is true, it’s somewhat understandable. There’s no precedent for Murray, and he’s going to cost a valuable pick. That’s scary in a league that has no patience for decision-makers, especially those who make out-of-the-box decisions.
NFL teams slowly changing views at QB
The NFL is slow to change in many, many areas, but you can see teams being a little more open minded about quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield was the first overall pick, and the first quarterback under 6-foot-1 to be drafted first overall since Michael Vick in 2001. Russell Wilson slipped to the third round due to his height, something you’d assume wouldn’t happen anymore. Drew Brees is 6-foot tall, and he’s done just fine.
Murray is a fantastic football player. He showed that at Oklahoma last season. He is a great passer and an excellent runner, something the NFL is putting more emphasis on with read-option plays becoming more standard.
Now it’s Murray’s turn. There will be other questions about him, most notably what to make of his commitment level due to the baseball career he said he’s leaving behind. His awkward interview with Dan Patrick during Super Bowl week, when he gave Patrick the silent treatment for an obvious baseball/football question he had to know was coming, will be talked about too. But his talent is obvious.
The NFL has changed from seven years ago when Wilson slipped way too far in the draft. Baker Mayfield wouldn’t have gone first overall a few years ago. He did in 2018, and he had a record-setting rookie season. But there will be plenty of discussions about Murray’s size.
Does a team want to be remembered as the one that passed on an exceptional talent as they parsed whether 5-10 was too short but 6-1 was OK? Or will whoever drafts Murray with a high pick look back and regret taking a 5-10 quarterback when there was literally no NFL history of success with a player like that?
Murray hadn’t said whether he’d be playing baseball with the Oakland Athletics or chasing an NFL dream until Monday. His commitment to the NFL on Monday signaled something else: The 2019 NFL draft has its most interesting player.
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