This year’s NFL draft lacks the elite talent of the past few seasons, but both Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins have the potential to emerge as starting signal-callers.
Kyler Murray – Oklahoma
In many ways Arizona is a great fit for Kyler Murray. Not because Kliff Kingsbury is desperate for a mobile quarterback to run his vertical air raid offense, but because whoever is at the helm will need to thrive despite poor protection. Aside from maybe Jared Veldheer, the Cardinals haven’t had a decent offensive lineman since Leonard Davis. And in many ways Davis was indicative of the end of a previous era, his giant skeleton a relic of past species. Athleticism is of much higher value to offensive lineman in the modern NFL.
But how valuable is it at quarterback? No individual player could mitigate for the travesty of Arizona’s offensive line than a quarterback with the mobility of Russell Wilson. But how often do players pull off that style, compared with more traditional approaches? Murray is admittedly far more developed as a passer than Lamar Jackson a season ago. But how can he not be a risky selection considering how much both players depended on their escapability in college? Murray shares some of those concerning traits, particularly his tendency to retreat in the pocket.
The positives, however, outweigh the negatives. Murray shows outstanding appreciation for when to take weight off throwing vertical and toward the perimeter. He understands how to fit passes into tight windows and adjusts his velocity accordingly. The arm talent is also real, Murray manages to drive the ball outside the numbers and across the middle with relative ease. He can also throw from any platform, delivering accuracy consistently despite adjusting to pressure in the pocket.
In a top quarterback class, Murray probably goes toward the middle of the first-round. He could easily end up first overall instead.
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Dwayne Haskins – Ohio State
Haskins is the enigma of 2019’s quarterback class. On the one hand, he put up ludicrous numbers in his sole starting season as a sophomore at Ohio State. Yet his accuracy remains frustratingly erratic on more vertical routes and outside the numbers. He lacks the consistency of his peers on more challenging throws, which is hugely concerning considering how tight throwing windows become at the next level. Although broadly above average in every area, Haskins lacks the jaw-dropping moments to really sell you his long-term prospects as an evaluator.
Most exceptional about Haskins’ game, however, is his polished footwork at just 21 years of age. It isn’t typical for young passers to emerge from college with any semblance of refinement in this area, yet Haskins shows rare development anticipating pressure and manipulating the pocket to find space to keep his offense ahead of the chains. The Patriots have set the standard for offensive sustainability and Haskins undoubtedly has the physical tools to execute a methodical offense.
That said, as with any other quarterback, it’s hard to gather much insight into Haskins mental processing from his time at Ohio State. Brady’s brilliance is of course in his ability to process coverages quickly, and find routes designed to beat specific schemes. Haskins ran a handful of full-field reads a season ago, enjoying the benefits of much more simplified, streamlined, decisions.
Looking back at the best quarterbacks to emerge from college in recent seasons, they all had a special trait. Haskins represents one of the more pro-ready signal callers to enter the NFL, but he might struggle to convince anyone he can be outstanding.
Beyond the top two, I don’t see a starter in the mix. Drew Lock’s accuracy is a major red flag, Daniel Jones spent two years best-utilised as a short-yardage runner and Will Grier struggles mightily under pressure. The past few seasons have spoiled us in terms of quarterback classes, with multiple starters with elite potential entering the NFL. The crop is much thinner this time around.
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