Futures

Analyzing the tape of college football's best players... and the NFL's future stars.

Futures: Kyler Murray

by Derrik Klassen

There is no good comparison for Kyler Murray. Baker Mayfield was a three-year starter at Oklahoma with functional, but uninspiring, arm strength and athleticism. Russell Wilson, while equipped with a rocket arm and solid athletic ability, was a four-year starter at North Carolina State and Wisconsin; and Drew Brees was a three-year starter at Purdue with only decent physical tools to boast. Murray is both more physically gifted than any of these three most common comparisons, yet significantly less experienced and polished. It is also likely that Murray will measure in a bit smaller than all of them at this week's NFL combine. Simply pointing to other successful "short" quarterbacks does not work in Murray's case.

Murray is not doomed due to lack of a reference point, however. That Murray could post the second-highest passer efficiency rating and highest adjusted yards per attempt in a single season in NCAA history as a first-year starter is absurd. Though Murray does have blemishes -- some easily fixable, some more worrisome -- the potential and baseline ability he showcased in just one season of college ball is enticing.

Let's start with the easy part of Murray's evaluation. Murray's arm talent is clear as day. When considering velocity, touch, and peak ball placement to all levels of the field, nobody in this class touches Murray, at least not with his level of consistency. Other passers in this class such as Drew Lock and Tyree Jackson can flash a bonkers throw here and there, but Murray put together a highlight reel nearly every game he played.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Murray rips this ball over 45 yards to fit it right between the sideline and the defensive back playing tight inside leverage. If Murray puts this ball anymore inside or out in front, the defensive back gets a shot at it, but if the ball sails any further outside, the wide receiver gets run out of bounds without a good opportunity to catch it.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

This throw versus Oklahoma State's Cover-2 is even more impressive and indicative of Murray's ability to make NFL throws. The Cover-2 "honey hole" -- the area between the deep-half safety and the underneath cornerback -- is a critical area for NFL quarterbacks to be able to throw to, and defenses more or less dare quarterbacks into throwing to that area because it is so difficult to fit the window. Murray takes the challenge on this play and gets the ball to his receiver well before the safety can make his way over. Murray's placement on this throw also forced the receiver to slow down and play to the sideline, both of which protected the receiver from the safety who was flying over looking for a hit.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Murray can put plenty of zip on his throws outside of the pocket too. Some quarterbacks lose arm strength or accuracy when throwing on the run, but Murray's ability to maintain body control and let it rip just as well as he cam from the pocket looks effortless.

Murray is a unique passer, however. Murray will need accommodations for his height, given his unproven proficiency in maneuvering in the pocket. Oklahoma met those accommodations in part with a dominant offensive line that could play with wide splits to allow clear throwing lanes for Murray. Moving pockets, angled drops, and deep drops were also used to make things easier on Murray and negate possible throwing-lane issues. Considering NFL offenses can not really get away with wider splits the way top-tier college offensive lines can, moving Murray from traditional pocket stances on a regular basis will be a necessity.

Murray would not be the first quarterback to benefit from concepts such as these. Other young quarterbacks ranging from Mitchell Trubisky to Lamar Jackson to Deshaun Watson have benefited from untraditional throwing spots, even if they are still successful from traditional pockets. Murray just might be a more extreme version of this necessity, as it was something that showed up on his Oklahoma tape a fair amount, especially early in the season.

Whichever team takes on Murray can also look to prioritize half-field concepts centered around a vertical option. Murray excelled at throwing slot fades, smash concepts, and wheel routes in college, and it would only make sense to lean into that strength with Murray's rookie game plan.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Take this curl/wheel combination, for example. This curl/wheel combination is an Air Raid staple that feasts on safeties coming up to play the curl or another inside route, effectively giving the wheel receiver one-on-one coverage down the field. Murray expects pre-snap that the safety will either stay flat-footed for too long or walk up to play the curl, as he should. The moment Murray sees the wheel receiver (Marquise Brown, 5) with nothing but a goal post in front of him, Murray fires down the field for an easy touchdown.

The drawback with Murray as a passer is how often his inexperience and lack of nuance showed up to hurt him. Accuracy was not so much an issue for Murray at any point in the season, but getting to the right decision, or handling the pocket and pass rush pressure correctly, were rollercoaster experiences.

Murray blundered the most when asked to throw vertically over the middle of the field. Though Murray can make any throw down the field and generally did a fine job of picking out good pre-snap matchups for vertical throws, he too often threw right at lurking defenders throughout the season. It was as if Murray's understanding of whether a deep throw was actually open disappeared at times.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

In both of these plays, Murray's process is rushed in one way or another. The first play features Murray out of the pocket, and the other shows Murray playing from the pocket in the red zone, but both plays ended the same way. Murray hurries both of these throws without taking inventory of whether the deep safety was in position to make a play, and both times he throws an interception right at a defender. Murray also suffered a similar fate with a deep interception versus Army and an interception over the middle of the field versus Texas Tech. Be it overconfidence in his pre-snap read or misunderstanding of moving parts post-snap, Murray has to fix this recurring mistake moving forward.

Murray also has to be more consistent in reacting to interior pressure. Being a short quarterback without a high release puts Murray in a position where he struggles to throw directly over defenders in his face. In turn, Murray often ends up having to tweak his release at the last second or rush the ball out without ideal mechanics, resulting in passes thrown awry. Murray's performance versus Alabama showed some of this issue.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Here, Murray has to shy away from the defender who could otherwise get a hand in the way of the throw. Without a clean release and follow-through, Murray ends up sailing the ball and nearly gifting Alabama an easy interception. Since Murray can not just stand tall in the pocket and try to deliver the ball over the defender, he has to get better at moving off his spot within the pocket, as well as maximizing his ability outside of the pocket.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

For example, this is what Murray is capable of in the rare event that he did move properly in the pocket last season. Murray does well to identify where the pressure is coming from and where his outlet in the pocket is. Once Murray moves to a clean location in the pocket, he wastes no time in chucking the ball while still moving forward, dropping the ball in the bucket more than 50 yards down the field. That is the type of throw that earned Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes their titles as playmakers under pressure.

Thankfully, Murray can do more than just throw the ball. Murray's passing potential alone would still make him an enticing prospect, but Murray can also be a team's most threatening runner. Murray is not quite the demon Lamar Jackson was, but good luck finding anything closer to Jackson's rushing dominance than Murray.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Stop-and-start agility and acceleration like this is such a luxury to have at quarterback. Whether it is salvaging busted designed runs like in the first example or breaking a pass play's structure to take matters into his own hands, Murray can instantly change dynamics at any time.

It is also worth noting that Murray is a safe and smart runner. Intuitive as it may be, Murray knows he is a small quarterback and does his best to slide, pull up early, or find a way out of bounds before taking unnecessary hits. Granted, the two featured plays did not require that skill since he weaved his way into the end zone both times, but it is an important skill for a rushing quarterback to have, particularly one of Murray's stature. Being a high-value runner at quarterback goes a long way in providing a stable baseline of production for a quarterback and his offense.

In all, Murray is a truly incomparable player. The inexperience and incompleteness in his film catalog sets him back compared to his "short" quarterback peers, but Murray is too physically talented to overlook. Combine Murray's irresistible arm talent and athletic ability with baseline accuracy and ability to run an offense, and the potential for a great quarterback is there for the molding.

Murray will require delicate care and unique game-planning. Murray will test the limits of any coach who takes him on and will stretch the imagination of what many believe a quarterback can or should be. There is precious little to compare Murray to, and that puts NFL decision-makers into a scary position. The risk will be too steep for some teams, and rightfully so, but the right team will be glad to take a swing on an unprecedented prospect.

Comments

9 comments, Last at 03 Mar 2019, 12:28am

1 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by ImNewAroundTheseParts // Feb 28, 2019 - 7:03am

So where do you rank him among the QBs in this draft?

Login or Register to post comments

2 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by Derrik Klassen // Feb 28, 2019 - 6:50pm

QB2, only behind Dwayne Haskins. Feel Haskins is a smoother transition to the league and has a more clear way to build an offense for/around.

Login or Register to post comments

6 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by ImNewAroundTheseParts // Mar 01, 2019 - 1:49am

Would you agree Haskins has a lower ceiling though? I've heard Alex Smith a couple of times and can't get it out of my head.

Login or Register to post comments

3 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by Will Allen // Feb 28, 2019 - 6:59pm

Well, he came in over 5' 10" and 200 pounds today. He's big enough. He'll go top 3, I'd guess.

Login or Register to post comments

4 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by Sixknots // Mar 01, 2019 - 1:30am

Yeah, though still somewhat of a risk because of only one year of starting data.

Login or Register to post comments

5 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by ImNewAroundTheseParts // Mar 01, 2019 - 1:46am

The only other top QB falls in the same boat. And actually played less games.

Login or Register to post comments

7 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by Sifter // Mar 01, 2019 - 9:55am

Who is going to coach this guy? I'm looking through the list of head coaches and offensive coordinators, and most are guys who've been in the NFL a long time/seem pretty set in their ways. Who is going to relish rewriting their playbook for Kyler? Does he need the playbook rewritten, or can he be a 'normal' QB?

Looking through the histories, Sean Payton has obviously done well with a short QB. Doug Marrone was OC for Brees for a few years there, so maybe the Jags could have interest. Kliff Kingsbury did well with Johnny Manziel who was short. Russell Wilson's OC's Darrell Bevell (at the Lions now), and Brian Schottenheimer would understand short QB problems. Of Doug Flutie's flirt with being a starting QB between 1998-2001, only Norv Turner is now relevant (he was Doug Flutie's OC in San Diego back in 2001. Norv at Panthers now).

Of those teams, you have Arizona #1, Jags #7, Lions #8, Panthers #16, Seahawks #21, Saints #62. Plus the other QB needy teams: Raiders(?) #4 Bucs(?) #5, Giants #6, Broncos #10, Dolphins #13, Redskins #15. It will be very interesting to see how high up Murray can go.

Login or Register to post comments

8 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by Dales // Mar 01, 2019 - 1:51pm

I never got why there was a perception that Mayfield had functional but not impressive arm strength. The guy had and has a cannon. He threw every bit as hard as Allen at the combine. https://brownswire.usatoday.com/2018/03/08/josh-allen-baker-mayfield-top...

ETA: "When it comes to arm talent, Wyoming’s Josh Allen is the top prospect in this class from a pure power and velocity standpoint, but the ball charting data from Zebra Technologies at the Senior Bowl showed Mayfield consistently in the same ballpark in terms of miles per hour of passes and revolutions per minute of the football,"
https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/draft-baker-mayfields-tape-numbers...

Login or Register to post comments

9 Re: Futures: Kyler Murray

by Theo // Mar 03, 2019 - 12:28am

Agreed. If you saw the Browns games, those corner routes and deep crossers get to the receiver so fast.
Maybe because Mayfield is also very accurate, writers seem to think they have to compensate or something.

Login or Register to post comments