Kyler Murray provides draft intrigue for quarterback-needy Redskins

January 15, 2019 GMT

There’s a joke making the rounds on Twitter among the most pessimistic of Redskins’ fans. It goes something like this: “Is there anything more predictable than the Redskins drafting Kyler Murray only for him to choose professional baseball instead?”

That grim possibility, however, became just slightly more realistic Monday when Murray college football’s reigning Heisman Trophy winner who also has a contract with the Oakland A’s declared for the NFL draft.

The possibility of Murray choosing football adds a new layer of intrigue in what’s seen as a shallow class of quarterbacks. But even though he’s declared, the 21-year-old hasn’t officially decided whether he’ll be in the NFL or stick with baseball. He still has a choice to make.

Whether Murray chooses football or not, the Redskins likely need to draft a quarterback this April.

Starter Alex Smith is coming off a major leg injury and Colt McCoy is also returning from a broken leg. With limited salary cap space, grabbing a quarterback in the draft may be the most affordable option for Washington.

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“I know it’s going to be a long process for him,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last month of Smith. “We’re obviously hopeful he can turn a corner and start the rehab process and possibly get back on the field. That’s all we can hope for right now.”

But will the Redskins actually draft a quarterback? It depends on if they’re enamored with a certain prospect and if they’re willing to pull the trigger.

Washington has the 15th overall pick this year. Of the teams ahead of them, only the New York Giants (sixth) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (seventh) have a pressing need at the position. Other teams like the Oakland Raiders (fourth), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (fifth) and the Miami Dolphins (14th) could also take a quarterback in the first round.

At the moment, there’s no clear-cut agreement on who is the best prospect among the group.

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock are the two front-runners, but both have question marks. Haskins, for instance, was a first-year starter and displayed some inconsistency during his time with the Buckeyes. Lock, too, has a big arm, but had an underwhelming senior year.

Elsewhere, Duke’s Daniel Jones and West Virginia’s Will Grier have also been mentioned as possible first-round candidates. ESPN’s Mel Kiper noted Jones’ ability to stay in the pocket “and use his feet to make a throw.” Grier’s accuracy is supposed to be his top strength as he completed 67 percent of his passes last season.

Murray adds the missing star power to this year’s class. At Oklahoma, the 21-year-old was electric throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He also ran for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. Murray fits the mold of a modern quarterback.

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There are concerns about Murray’s size. Will his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame hold up in the NFL? The success of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have helped ease some of those worries about smaller signal-callers. But there’s no guarantee Murray will follow suit.

NFL scouts, too, seem split on what round Murray should be drafted. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported experts see Murray as a first-round pick, while NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted many scouts view him as a second- or third-round selection.

Murray’s baseball situation also complicates matters. Taken ninth overall by the Oakland A’s in the 2018 MLB draft, Murray earned a $4.66 million signing bonus. He’s not said publicly whether he plans on play football or baseball professionally. The A’s reportedly met with Murray this past weekend to convince him to play baseball.

This might not matter at all to the Redskins. The team could wait until later in the draft to take a quarterback N.C. State’s Ryan Finley and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson are seen as Day 2 prospects or bypass taking a quarterback altogether.

Still, 2018 was a discouraging season for the Redskins. They finished 7-9, but off-the-field incidents and empty seats dominated the headlines.

The Redskins could use a jolt. Murray would certainly provide that.