Patriots

Patriots

About a week after Julian Edelman accepted his Super Bowl LIII MVP trophy from commissioner Roger Goodell, another college quarterback took center stage. On social media, at least. 

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, the 2018 recipient of the Heisman Trophy, announced on Twitter that he will be passing up millions of dollars to begin spring training with the Oakland A's and instead is committing to football. 

That's a big deal because in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Murray did a mini-media tour and seemed to have very little idea as to whether or not he wanted to play football. Speaking to both Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen to peddle Gatorade two weeks ago, he refused to answer questions about his football-playing future.

With Murray's recent vow to commit himself to football, NFL scouts and decision-makers can begin the process of putting what seemed like a lukewarm love of football -- typically a cardinal sin among evaluators -- to the side. 

Murray's height might be tougher for teams to embrace. 

THE KYLER MURRAY QUESTION

He is without a doubt one of the most talented passers in this year's draft class. He's accurate. He has the ability to create chunk gains through the air outside of structure, using his athleticism and strong arm to create. He's a pass-first player, but he's fast enough to get out into the open field and run for yardage when nothing is there. 

 

With only one year as a starter at Oklahoma under his belt, Murray's touchdown to interception ratio was 42-to-7. His yards per attempt figure was 11.6. His completion percentage was 69.0. Add it all up and Murray is considered by some to be the only legitimate first-round talent at his position outside of Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins. Most experts believe Murray is worthy of a top-50 pick, at least.  

The issue? He's expected to measure in at the combine at about 5-foot-9 and about 190 pounds. 

Though undersized quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have established themselves as among the best in the game, though the Browns made an undersized quarterback the No. 1 overall pick last year when they took Baker Mayfield, Murray would be considered undersized even when lumped with that trio. 

The closest NFL comp for a player of Murray's stature at Murray's position was last active 13 seasons ago, when he drop-kicked an extra point at Gillette Stadium. 

If you're going to be the team to draft a quarterback built like Doug Flutie, in 2019, and in the early rounds, you'd better be an outside-the-box thinker. 

The Patriots fit that description. Should they be the ones to first jump at the chance to add an excellent football player who doesn't come close to their prototype at the position?

WHY PATRIOTS SHOULD MAKE THE LEAP

The Patriots haven't been haunted by their decision to deal away Jimmy Garoppolo. Hard to be devastated by the prospects of your future at the game's most important position when you're still brushing confetti out of your hair. Yet while Tom Brady -- who carries a $27 million cap hit in 2019 and appears due for an extension this offseason -- still looks like he'll be going strong for another few years, at some point Bill Belichick and his staff are going to have to look ahead to the future. 

Murray will almost certainly fall in the draft because of his size, meaning the Patriots -- perennially picking at the bottom of the first round -- could have a rare but realistic shot at one of the best quarterbacks in the draft.

In a league where mediocre quarterbacks rarely become available in free agency, and where it costs boatloads in terms of draft capital to be able to maneuver up in the draft to select a coveted passer, Murray will probably represent significant value for a team that can get over his height.

We'll get to Murray's height in a minute, but his other physical traits would seem to make offensive coordinators drool. His arm appears strong enough to function in December and January in Foxboro. His instincts are to play from behind the line, but his legs have enough juice that he'll make snaps look pretty even when they shouldn't.

WHY PATRIOTS SHOULD TAKE A PASS

 

The Patriots have a type at quarterback. They have a type at most positions since they've had the same head coach and general manager since 2000 and therefore plenty of draft data from which to draw.

Belichick has typically taken quarterbacks who played in Power 5 conferences and are 6-foot-3 or taller, though their lone first- or second-round selection, Garoppolo, was 6-2 and played FCS football. Their career touchdown-to-interception ratio averaged out to be about 2-to-1. Their yards per attempt was often 7.5 or better. And they normally completed better than 60 percent of their passes. 

Murray reaches those statistical markers with no problem. Size-wise, though, the Patriots could be more intrigued by someone like Missouri's Drew Lock (6-4, 225 pounds), who is bigger, has more experience as a starter, and played in the SEC where defenses are considered vastly superior to those Murray saw in the Big 12. 

Then there's the opportunity cost of taking Murray late in the first round. 

While the Patriots have six picks in the top 101 this spring, and while the draft is considered unusually deep through the first three rounds or so, picking Murray -- someone who might not see meaningful snaps for several years, depending on Brady's trajectory -- would mean passing on another player who could help the Patriots maximize what's left of Brady's career in New England. 

What if the choice is between Murray and players like Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf or Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson? 

In the immediate aftermath of Super Bowl LIII, Belichick said "We'll be back, too." Wouldn't someone who can make Brady's offense more efficient be better equipped to help the Patriots in reaching that goal? 

The reality is that those decisions don't have to be made now. The reality is that evaluations of Murray will be ongoing, through the winter and into the spring, even with the college season long over and his Heisman long since put away for safe keeping.

One thing is certain: The pre-draft process just got a lot more interesting for teams that might be sniffing around this year's quarterback class.

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