Kyler Murray set the entire sports world ablaze Monday morning by officially committing to a career in football over baseball. The announcement kicks off what looks to be a wild few months leading to the first round of the NFL draft. But why so wild?
Well Murray is now the headlining prospect in this class. There’s 70 days left until the commissioner hits the podium with the official draft card and rumors are already flying around.
The draft process is fickle, but the rumor mill suggests Murray could hear his name called early in the first round— like top-5 early with first overall being a legit possibility. Let’s play our best version of True Detective and try to connect some dots:
Think back to a few months ago after Kliff Kingsbury was named head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Video surfaced of Kingsbury gushing over Murray, going as far as saying he would take him Murray number one overall if he had the chance. Now he does.
Even though the Cardinals stated Josh Rosen is their guy, it’s hard to ignore the smoke surrounding Kingsbury and Murray.
Another tidbit worth mentioning about Murray and Kingsbury is Murray’s new representation. When Murray left baseball, he left super agent Scott Boras along with it, moving on to Erik Burkhardt of Select Sports Group. Burkhardt, a known Murray fan, is Kingsbury’s agent too. But that’s not all: Burkhardt is also a podcast host with another one-time dynamic quarterback prospect, Johnny Manziel. Manziel won the Heisman at Texas A&M with Kingsbury calling plays as the Aggies offensive coordinator. Hmm.
Another thing to chew on about Murray regards his financial decisions. Murray will decline the $3.9 million due from the Oakland A’s along with returning $1.29 million from his original signing bonus.
It wasn’t on a whim he returned that money, it was a business decision. Considering current rookie wage scales, if Murray were drafted 10th, he would get a contract around $18 million with $11 million guaranteed according to Sportrac.com’s projected contracts. If he goes higher, more money comes available. For comparison, the 2018 32nd overall pick, Lamar Jackson got a $9.5 million contract with a $5 million signing bonus. Murray has the opportunity to eclipse his baseball earnings in year one in the NFL.
Based off early evaluations and advice, could Murray already know he’s guaranteed to recoup those earnings by being a first round pick? It’s speculation, but at least something to think about with the timing of the decision.
It could add up to nothing by April, but that’s what this time of the year is all about— speculation. Draft season could easily be renamed speculation season.
But more importantly, how does Murray’s decision affect the San Francisco 49ers?
One, the 49ers and New York Jets could be targeted as trade up options for teams thirsty for Murray’s talents. To be safe, teams will need to jump in front of the Oakland Raiders at four, but it could be higher. The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins could all be in Murray’s market along with the Raiders. On top of that, wildcard teams like Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers and even the New England Patriots could be in the market for a young quarterback. If a team pulls the trigger on trading up to No. 3 with New York, a team could get frantic and offer the 49ers the house to trade up No. 2.
With limited options at the quarterback position in the 2019 class, teams could be in a bidding war for Murray. The 49ers are set at quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo, so they could be picking up the phone an awful lot on draft day.
It’s simple, if Murray goes early it pushes better prospects toward the 49ers. This draft class is deep with potential late talent, but a little top heavy when it comes to elite-caliber prospects.
Remember Nick Bosa? If you were wrapped up in Murray hysteria I can’t blame you, but the Ohio State edge rusher was as good as locked to be the Cardinals pick prior to the Kingsbury hiring. Bosa is now at least in play for the 49ers. Even if the 49ers decide to trade back, the desperate run on quarterbacks could force better prospects deeper to San Francisco.
Regardless of what you may think of Murray’s story—him leaving the A’s or him as a quarterback—the buzz surrounding Murray is not just good for this draft class as a whole, it’s a positive for the 49ers.