Kyler Murray: MLB or NFL?

Oklahoma quarterback and the 2018-2019 Heisman winner, Kyler Murray, officially declared for the NFL Draft on Monday. In his Heisman campaign, Murray threw for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions with a QB Rating of 199.2, and also rushed for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Like his predecessor Baker Mayfield, he led Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff with a 12-1 record before losing to Alabama 45-34. The electrifying, explosive Murray is now considered by most the number one QB in the 2019 NFL Draft alongside Ohio State quarterback and Heisman candidate Dwayne Haskins.

 

Last June, Murray was also selected with the 9th overall pick by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB Draft as a centerfielder. In his redshirt sophomore year at Oklahoma, Murray posted a .296 batting average, 10 home runs and 47 RBIs to go along with 13 doubles, 3 triples, and 10 stolen bases. Murray and the A’s worked out a deal in which Murray would receive a $5 million signing bonus that would allow him to play a season as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback before reporting to spring training this upcoming February. Following the selection, the A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said, “I think, as a staff, we just felt like Kyler was a unique talent, and it’s something that you come across rarely in what we do. The risk of the football was, in our opinion, outweighed by the upside on the baseball field.” As a baseball player, the Heisman winner looks to have the potential of an everyday starting center fielder batting in the leadoff spot, thanks to his hitting ability and tantalizing speed that he put on display on the gridiron.

 

Many other teams have taken this same risk, including the San Francisco Giants when they drafted pitcher Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round after he was a star wide receiver at Notre Dame. Luckily for them, he chose baseball and is a quality starting pitcher in the big leagues. Another recent instance is Hayden Hurst, the tight end for the Baltimore Ravens. After being selected in the 17th round of the 2012 MLB Draft, Hurst played two seasons in the minor leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates before walking on to South Carolina’s football team and being drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

Which career should Kyler Murray pursue? It looks like he could be a top-ten selection for NFL teams in need of a starting quarterback and could possibly go number one if Kliff Kingsbury, now the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, loves Murray as much as he says he does. Murray’s best professional comparisons are Russell Wilson and Michael Vick. Listed at 5’10, Murray is severely undersized for an NFL quarterback, but he proved in the Big 12 that he can make throws both in and out of the pocket and when he feels pressure can escape and use his legs to pick up chunks of yardage. Let’s say he does go to the Cardinals with the number one pick. Will he be able to take hits from Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo, and DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas of the Rams, Seahawks, and 49ers, respectively, in six out of the team’s sixteen games? Vick’s career was riddled with injuries and Russell Wilson is always playing through some type of ailment. Can Murray do the same?

 

On the other hand, if Murray can turn into an elite center fielder, he can make a ton more money as a star baseball player while enjoying a longer, healthier career. Not many players in the MLB are five-tool players where they can hit for both power and contact, has elite speed, has a strong arm, and defends at a high level. Kyler Murray has all the tools and potential to be a five-tool outfielder for the Oakland Athletics for many years.

 

Either way, I think Murray will succeed in whatever sport he chooses. Maybe once he reports to spring training, he will realize he doesn’t feel like getting tackled by 300-plus pound men and would rather hit home runs on one side and rob them on the other. This young man has a lot on his plate to think about. Luckily for him, there really is no wrong answer to this question.

 

Picture Courtesy of USA Today

 

Mike Johnston

Glenside, PA

University of South Carolina ’21

Twitter: @mjohnston0880

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