Oklahoma Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray shocked the world by reportedly declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft. As the Oakland Raiders map out their draft plans, the Heisman Winner’s inclusion in the pool could completely change their strategy.
Murray was originally drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB Draft. He had been expected to pursue a career in baseball after receiving a an almost $5 million signing bonus. However, after getting his first taste as a starting quarterback, Murray has reportedly caught the bug and will try to pursue his dream career in the NFL.
Murray showed his potential during his redshirt junior season with Oklahoma. In 14 games, the Sooners’ QB completed 69% of his passes for 4,361 yards and a 42/7 TD/INT ratio. Murray not only won the Heisman, but was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
As for his potential draft status, some NFL GM’s see Murray as a first round pick.
Text from a G.M. on Kyler Murray: He'll be a first-round pick.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 10, 2019
Many draft analysts have been high on Murray, despite his limited 5’1″ height. Charles Power of 247Sports wrote:
Murray is a special athlete capable of ripping off a touchdown run from anywhere on the field. His quickness and escapability are special. The son of a All-American quarterback at Texas A&M, he’s a polished passer with clean mechanics
Murray’s inclusion in the 2019 NFL Draft helps a quarterback class that many have described as weak. He’s an explosive player and brings an entire new element to the pre-draft process.
As for the Raiders, Murray choosing football completely changes how they look at the NFL Draft. Murray is a special player and most QB-needy teams should be on the lookout. That could lead the Raiders to taking two very different approaches when it comes to the college star.
While the Raiders have three first round picks in the 2019 draft, many analysts have brought up the idea that team could actually trade down from the fourth overall pick. CBS Sports’ R.J. White has a mock draft in which the Raiders trade the fourth overall pick to the Jaguars and still land explosive defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell.
The Raiders have massive holes throughout their football team. While adding a player like Quinnen Williams at four would be a massive boost, the Raiders may be better off trading down inside the top 10 and still landing a defensive play maker. More picks means more potential difference makers, something the Raiders desperately need.
For example, last year the Colts traded the number three overall pick to the Jets for the sixth overall pick and three second rounders. One of those picks was offensive lineman Braden Smith, who is now a staple on an offensive line that allowed a league low 18 sacks in 2018.
As mentioned, the 2019 quarterback class has been described as one of the weaker in recent memory. However, Murray’s inclusion clearly improves it and could potential make a team more willing to jump into the top five.
Teams like the Giants, Jaguars, Redskins and Dolphins could all be willing to jump up to the fourth overall pick to land a player like Murray. If that’s the case then the Raiders should have numerous different options in how they want to move their way up and down the draft board.
Even with Murray declaring, Ohio State Dwayne Haskins is still considered the top QB in the draft. But having two potential top 10 quarterbacks can only help the Raiders. If Murray and Haskins both have a great pre-draft showing, teams could be clamoring at the bit to try and draft them.
The Raiders hold all the cards and could potential pull a Colts-like trade, moving down a few spots, still landing a defensive play-maker while adding valuable picks in the process.
While the Raiders could move their pick for a team who falls in love with Murray, it’s also possible that they use their pick on the Sooners’ quarterback themselves. Some analysts have predicted they would take Haskins at four, if Murray surpasses him in the rankings, perhaps he is the Raiders’ QB of the future.
It’s no secret that Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr struggled in 2018. In 16 games he completed 68.9% of his passes for 4,049 yards and a 19/10 TD/INT ratio. While the completion percentage and yards were career highs, his 19 touchdowns were a career low. Carr missed the Pro Bowl for the second time in his five-year career.
Carr has an out in his contract following the 2019 season. His dead cap drops from $32.5 million to $7.5 million. Realistically, the Raiders could cut Carr with minimal damage if they wanted to go with a cheaper and more intriguing option.
A more realistic option could be trading Carr. Rather than just trading down from the fourth round pick, Oakland can move on from Carr in an attempt to land a fourth first round pick. Some analysts have described the New York Giants as a potential fit.
If the Raiders trade Carr, they would be able to draft Murray at four and install him as their starting quarterback from day one. As Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock rebuild the team, having a quarterback that they brought in and can mold however they feel might be a more appealing option than Carr.
Most expect the Raiders to go defense with their first pick in the first round. However, Murray has undoubtedly shown impressive traits. It’s not yet known where he will be ranked among the draft able quarterbacks. But if he is towards the top, and the Raiders believe he is the future, then perhaps the former Sooner becomes the future starter in Oakland.
Murray’s decision to pursue his NFL dream is still fresh. Analysts have not yet been able to decipher his NFL potential and where he might go in the draft. Yet, he seems to already be garnering first round attention.
If that becomes the case, the Raiders have two options.
They can trade the number four overall pick to a QB-needy team. Oakland would acquire high-level draft capital and could add to what should already be a large draft class. Remaining inside the top 10 while obtaining second and third rounders means the Raiders wouldn’t miss out on their defensive stud.
The Raiders could also decide to draft Murray. Oakland can either cut or more likely trade Carr, paving the way for a new era of Raider football. Murray would be an entirely different type of quarterback to the Bay Area. His raw athleticism could certainly intrigue Gruden and Mayock, making him the team’s pick at number four.
Overall, whatever happens with Murray, his inclusion in the 2019 NFL Draft completely changes the game. No one expected him to give up his potential MLB career and the millions of dollars he would’ve earned. But now that Murray is in the draft class, the Oakland Raiders must be prepared for how they want to handle the former Hesiman Trophy winner.