Why Kyler Murray will be OU’s second straight No. 1 NFL draft pick

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 08: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Bruins 49-21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 08: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Bruins 49-21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

We are a little over a week away from the  annual extravaganza known as the NFL Draft, and it is looking more and more like Kyler Murray will become the second consecutive Oklahoma quarterback selected No, 1 overall.

The 2019 NFL Draft will unfold on April 25 in Nashville, Tennessee, and run for two days and seven rounds, concluding on April 27.

A number of NFL draft experts and mock drafts have Murray as the first player to be selected in this year’s draft. That includes draft projections by ESPN NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay.

Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa are also top contenders for the No. 1 selection.

Murray transferred to Oklahoma from Texas A&M after his freshman season. He was the backup to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield in the 2017 season and saw action in just seven games. The 5-foot, 10-inch jitter bug with a surprisingly strong and accurate throwing arm succeeded Mayfield as the Sooner starter in 2018 and like Mayfield led Oklahoma to another Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

After Murray was drafted in the first round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft by the Oakland Athletics (the No. 9 player selected overall), many thought his football career might be over. In signing a $4.7 million contract with the A’s, however, Murray worked it out so that he would be able to play the 2018 college football season at Oklahoma.

The A’s might like to have that negotiation back. All Murray did in his one season as the starting quarterback at OU was not only match Mayfield’s outstanding numbers in his Heisman season the year before but exceed them in several offensive categories.

Murray amassed 4,361 passing yards and rushed for another 1,001 yards. He led all Football Bowl Subdivision players with a school-record 5,362 total yards and joined former Clemson All-American Deshaun Watson as the only players to record at least 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season.

In addition, Murray led the nation in points responsible for (324), yards per completion (16.8), yards per pass attempt (11.6, a new FBS record) and was second in passing efficiency (199.2, breaking the previous record of 198.2 held by Mayfield).

Murray also matched Mayfield in making it two years in a row that an Oklahoma quarterback was awarded the coveted Heisman Trophy along with numerous other national and regional honors.

In early January this year, the dreams of Murray becoming the future center fielder of the Oakland A’s as well as the hopes of Sooner fans seeing him return for one more season at Oklahoma, both took a direct hit when the Heisman Trophy winner elected to declare for the NFL Draft.

Murray did not pass or work out at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, choosing instead to display his skills at the Oklahoma Pro Day in March. Despite this, he was still the most talked about NFL prospect coming out of the combine.

When it came time for Murray’s Pro Day workout at OU, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner apparently didn’t disappoint. One NFL assistant described Murray’s workout to USA Today as “impressive,” saying the former OU quarterback showed superior accuracy and arm strength, two areas that Murray was deft on showing what he can do.

The knock on Murray has never been about his superior athleticism and football skills, but rather about his height limitation, something that is always a concern in evaluating NFL quarterback prospects.

You don’t have to look too far these days, though, to find a counter argument to the theory that you have to be 6-foot-4 or taller to be a successful throwing the football in the NFL. New Orleans’ Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (all 6-feet of him) and Russell Wilson of Seattle (listed a 5-foot-11) offer up pretty good evidence that shorter quarterbacks can find passing lanes over and around the behemoth NFL lineman and excel in the pro game.

And Murray’s predecessor at OU, Baker Mayfield, who stands 6-feet tall (in football cleats) fared fairly well in his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Keown, in an article on Murray titled “Beyond Measure” in the current issue of ESPN the Magazine, writes:

"“Murray is many things other than short. He is wickedly fast, smart, strong and slightly mysterious.“He throws the ball with both ease and force (and) possesses an undercover agent’s awareness of his immediate surroundings.”"

Here’s the one thing you need to know about Kyler Murray, according to Jim Zorn former NFL quarterback and coach, who worked with Murray to prepare him for his OU Pro Day:

"“Short goes away when you see what Kyler can do.”"

All of this makes for good NFL drama and debate in the lead-up to the 2019 NFL Draft, but the moons may have aligned perfectly when former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury became the next head coach of the NFL Arizona Cardinals.

The new Arizona head coach is well aware of Murray’s skills and ability. He helped recruit him when Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M and coached against him when he was at Texas Tech.

Murray would be an ideal fit in the spread formation, “Air Raid” style of offense that Kingsbury likes to run.

Even before Kingsbury became the head coach at Arizona, he was quoted by several news sources, including Yahoo Sports, as saying:  Kyler is a freak. I’d take him with the first pick in the (NFL) draft if I could.”

Well, now he can, and it appears that he likely will, which will make it two consecutive Oklahoma quarterbacks to go No. 1 in the draft and three Sooner quarterbacks to be selected No. 1 overall in the past 11 seasons (Sam Bradford was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft).

There has also been speculation that the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders might trade up from the No, 4 spot to take Murray. Raider head coach Jon Gruden has also expressed a lot of interest in Murray.

Wouldn’t that potential development be an extra kick in the pants to the baseball A’s?