In ESPN draft guru Todd McShay’s most recent mock draft, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray lands with the Miami Dolphins, who own the 13th overall pick.
But the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback’s draft stock is more murky than your run-of-the-mill top QB prospect. He announced Thursday that he will attend the NFL Combine, where league coaches and executives are sure to grill him about whether football is his true passion.
Murray was a first-round pick of the Oakland A’s in the MLB draft and has made his interest in baseball clear.
During Super Bowl week, he did nothing to quell the inquiries about his sport of choice. During an uncomfortable interview with the Dan Patrick Show– which went viral, of course — he refused to broach the subject.
While quarterbacks with Murray’s skill level and production — 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns — normally end up at the top of the draft, the looming baseball issue along with his 5-foot-10 frame and one year of experience as a starter could be enough to drop Murray down draft boards.
Joining SKOR North Live on Thursday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said he did not hear much support for Murray as a first-round pick at the Senior Bowl because of the lack of certainty surrounding his future.
For teams in need of a quarterback, he will be the most intriguing players at the Combine, which comes up at the end of this month. For the Minnesota Vikings, he might be worth watching in the case that he does slide into Day 2.
Certainly the Vikings have other needs that must be addressed in the draft such as offensive line and possibly defensive tackle and linebacker if they lose Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr to free agency. But the future of the quarterback position can’t entirely be ignored by the Vikings considering Kirk Cousins’ contract runs out in 2020.
You don’t have to look far to find teams who drafted quarterbacks in the first three rounds despite appearing to already have an answer at the position.
With Tom Brady’s longevity unclear at the time, the New England Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft. They eventually traded him away to San Francisco. In 2016, the Pats picked Jacoby Brissett in the third round and moved him for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett after Brady proved again to be invincible.
Denver picked Brock Osweiler in the second round in 2012 just weeks after signing Peyton Manning. Seattle was criticized for drafting Russell Wilson because they had signed Matt Flynn earlier that offseason. Some questioned the Chiefs’ move to pick Patrick Mahomes and develop him for one year behind Alex Smith, who had been a consistent winner in Kansas City. Baltimore selected Lamar Jackson despite still having Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco under contract.
Heck, the football world was baffled by Washington selecting Kirk Cousins after taking Robert Griffin III in 2012.
Looking down the road is generally beneficial outside of the first round.
Last year, only eight players selected in the first round failed the meet Pro Football Reference’s standards as a “primary starter.” In the second round, only 13 of 32 picks became “primary starters” and only one player scored as above average on the Approximate Value scale while 13 first-round picks were above average.
Point being: Once teams get past the first round, they shouldn’t be hoping for Year 1 impact players. They should be aiming for Year 3.
Take nickel corner Mackensie Alexander, for example. The Vikings’ 2016 second-round pick finally became a starter in 2018 after two years of development.
So if the Vikings are undecided on Cousins’ long-term future — especially after an 8-7-1 season — they might be wise to consider a QB who could be developed into a starter down the road.
Teams like the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have been successful building around quarterbacks on rookie contracts. The Vikings could make that their goal for the post-Cousins era considering many of their top stars will be exiting their primes by then and it will take a roster overhaul to remain competitive. That could be a tough task with another giant Cousins deal.
The Vikings could wait until next year to decide on drafting a QB, but there may not be another golden opportunity of a top prospect falling because of outside circumstances.
These types of situations have paid off before — even for the Vikings when they grabbed Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 32 pick.
Taking a QB in the second round this year might prevent a desperate situation in the future a la trading assets to move up to the top of the draft. The most talented QBs in the next two drafts are expected to be good enough that teams will be lining up for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, not trading away the pick high enough to select them.
The interesting wrinkle to the conversation is the job status of Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer. Both are reportedly on the final year of their respective contracts and the team should have a win-now mindset with many key players in their primes. However, last year they went with a long-term type selection, picking cornerback Mike Hughes in the first round rather than grabbing their clearest need on the offensive line.
You might ask whether Cousins would be flustered by the pick of a young QB, but he’s the same QB who thrived in the shadow of RGIII.
If the stars align, there could be an opportunity for the Vikings to pick the most talented QB in this year’s draft. That might be hard to pass up at the NFL’s most important position.
None of this is to say they should be going crazy for a QB and gathering assets to move up to select Murray, only that they should be among the teams looking at him closely in the lead-up to the draft.