Athletics

Athletics

Kyler Murray's heart appears set on playing football.

The 21-year-old officially declared for the 2019 NFL Draft on Monday, which doesn't completely close the door on a professional baseball career with the A's. But the odds aren't in Oakland's favor.

It makes sense when you really think about it. Murray grew up in Texas, where football isn't just a sport, it's a religion. He's probably dreamed of being an NFL quarterback his entire life. Now, that dream can become a reality.

Murray is projected by some football evaluators to be a first-round draft pick, possibly even going in the top 10. How can he turn down that opportunity?

Murray is a special talent, and he clearly has potential in both baseball and football. But let's be honest. At this point, he's a far better football player than baseball player.

In his last baseball season at Oklahoma, he hit .296 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 51 games. Those certainly are good numbers, but they're far from great in college baseball.

To put it in perspective, 117 Division I players hit .350 or better last year. Sixty-four players hit at least 15 home runs. While Murray might have an extremely high ceiling in professional baseball, he still must develop a great deal.

 

That's certainly not his fault. He just hasn't played nearly as much baseball as his peers. Even if Murray did fulfill his potential as a big-leaguer, it likely wouldn't be for at least a few years, as he has a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile, on the football field, Murray already is an elite quarterback. He has unbelievable speed and athleticism, not to mention a strong arm. So what if he's 5-foot-9? Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson isn't much taller and has done just fine in the NFL.

Many fans have argued Murray should choose baseball because professional baseball players make more money than football players. That's not necessarily true.

MLB players can make a ton of money but not for several years. Minor-league players make pennies, and young major leaguers earn well under $1 million per year in their first few seasons. The big contracts don't come until much later.

Who's to say Murray definitely will develop into a major-league outfielder? We've seen countless first-round picks fail to materialize the way teams had hoped. Someone can have all the talent and athleticism in the world, but that doesn't mean he can hit a 98-mph fastball or a 12-to-6 curve.

In the NFL, however, first-round picks are paid right away, especially quarterbacks. Last year, Baker Mayfield received a signing bonus of nearly $22 million, and more than $32 million guaranteed after being picked first overall. Fellow top-10 quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen all earned signing bonuses of more than $10 million and were guaranteed over $17 million in their contracts, far more than Murray's $4.66 million signing bonus with the A's.

Of course, Murray's decision really should just come down to which sport he loves more. Unfortunately for the A's, the answer appears to be football. Last month, he was asked if he would rather win a Heisman Trophy or a World Series.

"I'd rather win a Heisman," Murray said.

Maybe we should have listened.