When the report came out that Kyler Murray was choosing football over baseball, the NFL Draft world exploded. Why? Because this meant Murray wasn't just thought of as a project quarterback. He wasn't just thought of as some Day 2 or Day 3 guy you take a risk on. No. Murray talked to the NFL, and you know what they told him?
If you pick football, you're going round one.
Such a vote of confidence will have major implications on the NFL Draft. Perhaps Murray could even be the first quarterback taken, which would have a domino effect throughout the weekend.
If Murray were to be the first quarterback taken, that means he would be picked over a quarterback who also has plenty of first round hype behind him, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins.
There is going to be endless debates between now and April, I'm sure, between who you would pick first, if you had the chance. So I decided to set that table for you to let the debate begin, starting with my own evidence of opinion on the great debate of the 2019 NFL Draft: Dwayne Haskins versus Kyler Murray.
When it comes to the topic of size, whether it be the eye test or the numbers of measurements themselves, Haskins is (literally) head and shoulders above Murray.
Haskins is thought to be around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, and though we won't know the exact numbers on him until the Combine, I expect those to be pretty true to size, if you will. For Murray, he's listed 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, but I even wonder if he comes in at that size, both in height and weight. There's a real chance that Murray might be closer to 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds. Again, the Combine will help us clear that up.
Even when we saw these two men stand next to each other at this year's Heisman Trophy ceremony -- Haskins was a finalist where Murray was the winner -- Haskins looked the part of an NFL quarterback, where Murray did not. Though the terms of what an "NFL quarterback" really is is changing as the pro level modernizes to the college game, if you're looking to check the box of size, Haskins gets the clear nod with many more stories of success with quarterbacks of his measurables than there are success stories for those of Murray's.
Now I want to get into the arm strength and arm talent categories for these two, but in order to do that we have to divide them up into two sub-categories: distance and ball velocity.
The bigger the arm, the better the distance, right? That just makes sense, but that's not always the case.
Even if we think Murray is somewhere around 5-foot-9, this kid can throw the ball far. When Oklahoma got Murray outside of the pocket (which is a detail we can get to later), and he was able to step into throws, he could fire that ball 50-55 yards down the field and right on target.
But it's not just when he's on the run and can get momentum, either. In the clip shown above, Murray was able to get the ball almost 55 yards down the field and in stride with his receiver while barely being able to step into the throw. The arm strength is there in terms of distance for the smaller Murray.
Haskins has the size of the arm to get the ball down there, too.
In the clip shown above, Haskins was in a normal stance, had a clean pocket, and was able to deliver the ball 50 yards down the field on the money for the score. If he had a running start, could Haskins push this ball to maybe 60 yards down the field? Yes, I think so. But, I did notice that whether it's due to his delivery or just running out of juice in the arm that passes of longer distances seemed to die out on Haskins more so than they do with Murray. So where Haskins might be able to get the ball a little further, Murray's deep passes tend to get there quicker from distances of 45-50 yards.
We can no longer just have a category for "arm strength" because there really are at least two types of strengths in the arm that have to be evaluated.
When it comes to velocity on throws of short or intermediate distances, this is when we're talking about how fast a guy can throw a ball. I'm not sure if it's due to his baseball background or what, but Murray can snap his wrist and gun a ball into a tight window about as well as any quarterback in this class. His motion does not look like it's much of an issue at all, to me, and it generates plenty of speed.
For Haskins, he can gun some passes in there, too, and at no point in this comparison do I want to make it seem like either guy can't play. But, due to how Haskins' throwing motion is set up (it's often more of a side arm type of motion), when he snaps quicker passes in there, they have the speed, but not as much accuracy as Murray's does.
So, if you're asking me to give the nod to one of these guys for an overall arm with distance, velocity and throwing motion, I would actually give a slight nod to Murray due to the latter two sub-categories.
As you would expect with two young men who were both up for the Heisman trophy, both Murray and Haskins had fantastic stats when it came to efficiency. Murray finished his season with 4,316 passing yards at a 69 percent completion percentage with 42 passing touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Haskins threw for 4,831 passing yards at a 70 percent completion percentage with 50 passing touchdown and eight interceptions. Slight nod to Haskins in the statistical category, but they were basically hand-in-hand two of the best passers in the country in 2018.
When it came to the tape to back up the stats, I was very impressed with Murray. Haskins may have had a slightly better completion percentage, but Murray only missed 117 throws on the season compared to Haskins' 160 due to a variance in attempts taken.
Murray seemed more naturally accurate than Haskins did. I do think it has something to do with Murray's trowing motion being less to the side, but for whatever reason, he seemed more accurate, especially on what you would call common throws.
As you can see above, Haskins delivered that pass on target, but it is a good example of how stats sometimes don't tell the whole story. We can go back and forth nit-picking film of each of these players, trading shot for shot and miss for miss until we're blue in the face, but when it came to true ball placement of accuracy, I noticed that Murray naturally and without hesitation led his receivers more consistently than Haskins did, even though Haskins' passes were often completed, too. So for this category I also have to go with Murray.
Splitting up the different between touch and accuracy is something I do not see enough of Twitter scouts -- not poking at y'all, I am one, too -- do enough. Accuracy is where you can deliver a ball in terms of its exact location when throwing at a normal rate of ball speed. That could be short, intermediate, or even deep down the field. Accuracy can be improved upon with practice in throwing mechanics and repetition. Touch is much more natural, something that cannot be taught as easily or at all, at times. Touch is how you gauge a player being able to put a ball exactly where it needs to be with so many moving parts while timing both a ball's flight path and a receiver's speed.
See Murray's pass above? That's a touch pass, and my oh my, was it a beauty. Watching a player throw a pass like that tells you how much of a natural he really is with his arm. Murray had to take so much speed off that ball and time it right to where the receiver was going to be, both with speed an trajectory. This was not the only beauty of a touch pass I saw Murray throw in 2018, and honestly this is what gives me so much confidence that he can succeed at the next level. Murray is more of a natural than most quarterbacks in the NFL, and his touch passes show it. You often cannot teach touch.
Haskins struggled with accuracy during the first portion of this season, and I still didn't love his ball placement at the end of 2018, but when it came to touch passes, I though Haskins showed he could throw a pretty ball with timing down the field.
The play above came from the Rose Bowl, his final game of the season. Haskins, as a first year starter, looked much better at the end of the year than he did at the beginning. His touch on passes like the one above also became more regular as the season went on, but it still was not as natural as Murray's.
Though I think Haskins was fine in 2018 in terms of touch passes, Murray is special, and because of that he gets the win in this category.
This one is sort of obvious.
Murray was one of the best mobile quarterbacks in all of college football in 2018. With over 1,000 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, Murray was a threat to pull the ball and run to pick up first downs and touchdowns on almost every given play. As shown in some clips above and blow, Murray's mobility also goes beyond just running, as it make him comfortable outside of structure and throwing on the run.
Haskins has some mobility to him, though you certainly aren't about to make a game plan out of it like you can with Murray. Haskins has the size and decent speed to be a threat to pick up yardage with his legs on short distances on third down or at the goal line, and I think that will be useful in the NFL, at times.
But don't think that he has comparable escapability to Murray. Haskins can't out run many linebackers, let alone any kind of defensive backs or spies. Leave that to Murray. He' the mobile man.
When it comes to playing under pressure, I think Murray does that part of the job well. Mental processing is important for quarterbacks, and when pressure ramps up, you can really tell who panics and who doesn't. Are there some throws that Murray misses under pressure? Of course there are. But from the games I have watched, when things go awry, Murray has shows to remain calm under most circumstances and can still process where the ball should go.
On the play above, for example, Murray looked at three different receivers in his progression before he fired the ball right on target (it was dropped). All that while keeping his feet light, but not bailing on the pocket before he had to. Sometimes quarterbacks with Murray's legs have the tendency to leave clean pockets too often. Though Murray does, at times, it's not frequent enough for me to stay he is skittish.
When it came to Haskins, I really did not like how he handled pressure early in the season. That game against Penn State was the first big test for him in 2018, and I came away very skeptical of him. When pressure was mounting, Haskins became inaccurate and his passes were thrown at full speed with not much gauge for touch. We talked about touch before, and early on in the season, when pressure was in front of him, he lost his touch. That was bad sign.
Haskins just did not look confident under pressure against Penn State. I don't want to judge a first year starter too hard in his first road test, especially with him just being a redshirt sophomore, but I do think that first impressions and how you handle things you don't expect within them hold some weight.
As the year went on, though, Haskins seemed to become more comfortable within himself and his abilities. In the Rose Bowl game, his first touchdown of the game came from him standing tall in the pocket, manipulating the safety with his eyes, and making a great throw to the end zone with pressure in his face. That was a big improvement from what I saw from him earlier in the year.
Murray is older, and for that you figure he'd naturally be better under pressure, but for both of these guys to be first year starters, Murray showed better adaptation and metal processing when it came to executing under pressure.
There are a few factors that go into poise, and some of these categories do overlap. To me, poise is not bailing on a pocket when it's clean, going through progressions when you can, having a good clock in the back of your head, and performing outside of ideal circumstances.
I thought Murray did that better than any quarterback in college football this season. We already highlighted the clip where he went through three different progressions before scrambling when the pocket was clean, and as you can see in the clip above, even when he was flushed out of the pocket, Murray stayed poised as a passer first and delivered the pass on the run.
Poise is about continuing to allow yourself to make the play that will yield the best result, rather than bailing from it prematurely.
As was the case with Haskins when it came to dealing with pressure, I thought the Buckeyes signal caller got much better with poise as the season went on.
If the situation we see above would've happened earlier in the year, I bet that ball would've been out of his hand sooner (the wrong choice) or he would have already tried to scramble. But Haskins used that big body of his to stand tall and wait for his route to develop, eventually finding his man.
Haskins was much improved in this category, and that is good sign moving forward, but I still think Murray is the more poised player going into the 2019 NFL Draft.
Clutch -- the ultimate immeasurable.
It's so hard to talk about clutch because it truly is something that you just never know how a player is going to perform until they're in that exact moment. For Murray, he had plenty of clutch throws in 2018, but none greater than the one for the Sooners' to take the lead in the Big 12 Championship with two minutes left to go on his final drive of the game.
If you'll notice, it was a touch pass, too. Not only was it clutch, it was a throw that took the most natural talent in the book, and he delivered it perfectly.
For Haskins, my biggest example for him doesn't even come from 2018.
In 2017, when J.T. Barrett went down in the third quarter of the Michigan game (their biggest game of the year), Haskins had to come in as just a redshirt freshman. On his second play of the day, he delivered that beautiful ball on third-and-long to convert the first down. He later scrambled all the way to the goal line, leading his team to victory. That took some stones. That's when I knew Haskins has the chance to be special, too.
Both of these guys are clutch. I don't think you'd be drafting either of them in the Top 10 if you didn't believe that.
Ultimately, I do think these two will be the top two quarterbacks selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, and I think both will be going in the Top 10, too. But, if you're asking me to pick a winner in the Haskins versus Murray debate, and essentially who my QB1 will be.
It's Kyler Murray.