IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel says Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray will do fine in the new NFL, which resembles the college game more.
Gregg Doyel, email@example.com
The Detroit Lions should draft Kyler Murray, the fantastic Oklahoma quarterback who’s looking more like Russell Wilson every day.
Whew! That was close.
Now that Kyler Murray’s height, weight and hand size have met acceptable NFL standards and assured everyone the Oklahoma quarterback is in fact not a Heisman homunculus, we can all breathe a little easier.
Murray officially checked in at the NFL scouting combine at 5 feet 10 1/8 inches, 207 pounds and 9 1/2-inch hands. The big concern was that he would measure under 5-10, less than 200 pounds, with hands smaller than 9 inches.
After all, what can a measly Heisman Trophy, 42 passing touchdowns, 12 rushing touchdowns, 4,361 passing yards and 1,001 rushing yards tell you about Murray that a $1.99 measuring tape can’t?
If the combine were a stock market, Murray would be a green line pointing up at a 45-degree angle right now. And it’s likely to go steeper than that after he speaks with reporters Friday and stokes the hype. And even steeper when he runs the 40-yard dash and compares favorably to Russell Wilson’s 4.55 seconds and Patrick Mahomes’ 4.8. My guess is he beats Mahomes’ time easily and edges Wilson’s.
What does all this mean? It means at the end of the combine more teams will move Murray higher up their draft boards. That means his value will increase. And value is what this is all about. It’s about the NFL draft and why quarterbacks — even in so-called weak draft classes — are still valued more highly than other positions.
And this is why the Detroit Lions shouldn’t hesitate to draft Murray if he’s available when they pick eighth in two months.
Fans, draft experts and media tend to have the wrong idea about the draft. They tend to think of it as a way to fill roster needs at starting positions. But teams look at the draft as one of several tools — including free agency, undrafted free agents, waiver claims and trades — that fill the roster with potential starters, backups and role-players.
The one position that’s incredibly hard to fill outside of the draft is the starting quarterback. It has become outsized in importance and salary, which is why a quarterback drafted in the early rounds far outweighs the value of any other position drafted in the early rounds.
Ah, yes, but what about Matthew Stafford? Even though, after 10 seasons and no playoff wins, public sentiment has started to turn against him, the popular narrative still exists that Stafford “isn’t the biggest problem.” In reality, he is because his performance, especially last season, hasn’t come anywhere near justifying his exorbitant salary.
Stafford will carry a salary cap hit of $29.5 million this year and $31.5 million in 2020. On the fifth league day of 2021, when Stafford is 33, he is due a $10 million roster bonus. That means the Lions essentially have two years to get Stafford to play much better or find his replacement. And don’t even think about drafting Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in 2021, because 32 NFL teams are all thinking the same thing right now.
The better plan is the “Kansas City model” that’s being touted by New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman as having “worked really well.” The Chiefs had Alex Smith — a No. 1 overall pick like Stafford — and drafted Patrick Mahomes 10th overall in 2017. Mahomes started in 2018 and took the Chiefs to the AFC title game.
The Lions have even more reason to copy the Chiefs. Whereas Smith and Mahomes equally fit the Chiefs’ offense because they were similar as mobile quarterbacks, the Lions’ offense is changing to a run-heavy offense that suits Murray a lot more than Stafford.
Is it really that much of a mystery why they hired former Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell? And is it really that hard to see that Murray is the closest thing to Russell Wilson that Bevell and the Lions are likely to see in the near future?
If you’re still not convinced, send me your address and I’ll bring my red yarn and thumb tacks to your home.
Quinn and Patricia know the facts. Stafford is 24-24 and 0-1 in the playoffs without a touchdown under Quinn (0-3 in the playoffs overall). He’s 6-10 under Patricia. Are they ready to gamble another season without a backup plan for Stafford, who’s about to learn a new offense that isn’t likely to suit him?
Quinn and Patricia won’t publicly throw Stafford under the bus. But what does it say about the team’s confidence in Stafford if a GM, for the first time in Stafford’s career, has said twice in two weeks he’s open to drafting what presumably would be Stafford’s replacement with the eighth pick?
No one knows which player is going to work out. That’s why we’re fascinated by things like the combine, which more than anything serves to poke, prod and measure a player in order to raise any red flags. Or, in Murray’s case, the combine can give a team like the Lions the green light to draft him.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.