If it has to do with Kyler Murray, it’s probably hard to pin down. Plenty of defensive players can vouch for that.
But his evasiveness isn’t just limited to the football field. Just ask Texas A&M University. And most recently, the jilted Oakland Athletics.
Given his knack for swerves, plunking down some cash on whether Murray is nabbed with the top pick in the NFL Draft later this month by the Arizona Cardinals might seem like a risky proposition.
Yet there seems to be some certainty developing with respect to Murray in the eyes of oddsmakers. Several New Jersey sportsbooks are increasingly confident the multi-talented, multi-sport star will head to the desert — Arizona, specifically — and become the 32nd quarterback in history to be taken at the top of the draft April 25.
The following are current NFL Draft futures odds on Murray going to the Cardinals:
Cardinals just invested heavy draft capital in a quarterback
The Cardinals are where they are in this year’s draft order courtesy of a 3-13 record in 2018. Yet, unlike many other years where a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is getting buzz as worthy of the top selection, the team holding that pick isn’t a clear-cut candidate to take him.
The reason for that is a tad complex. It just so happens Arizona invested the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft on Josh Rosen. A second-team All-Pac-12 selection in his junior season at UCLA, Rosen declared for last year’s NFL player lottery after throwing for 3,756 yards and generating a 26:10 TD:INT in 2017.
Rosen was named the starter prior to Week 4 by former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks. The often shell-shocked rookie went on to throw for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while adding 138 yards on 23 rushes. To say he was thrust into some tough circumstances is an understatement. In addition to an overall lack of talent around him, Rosen also endured an offensive coordinator change from Mike McCoy to Byron Leftwich.
Therefore, there are enough open questions about Rosen and what he might be capable of with a fresh start in an offense that is extremely quarterback friendly. Enough to at least cast an element of doubt on whether the Cardinals stand pat at No. 1 and take Murray.
New coach’s offense and Murray a match made in football heaven?
The combination of Murray’s tantalizing skill set and the unabashed admiration Arizona’s new head coach displayed for him — albeit months before he was named to replace Wilks — seem to tip the scales in the young signal-caller’s favor.
Kliff Kingsbury will patrol the sidelines at the Cardinals’ head man this fall. As Texas Tech’s head coach, he famously (and perhaps prophetically) proclaimed he’d take Murray with the top overall pick prior to a game against Murray’s Sooners last October. Kingsbury now just happens to be in position to do just that, adding to the intrigue.
Then there’s the fact that on the spectrum of classifying head coaches as either “offensive” or “defensive” in their background, Kingsbury is off the charts in the former. He’s been a quarterback at the college, NFL, NFL Europe and CFL levels. The 39-year-old has enjoyed his greatest success as both player and coach running the wide-open spread offense authored by former Texas Tech and current Washington State head coach Mike Leach.
How much of that system he’ll implement and how well it will translate to the pro game remains to be seen. But having a talent the caliber of Murray — who supplemented his 4,361 passing yards and 42:7 TD:INT last season with 1,001 rushing yards — would seemingly up its chances of thriving.
Cards keeping cards close to the vest
As it always does when a team has a certain amount of flexibility with the top pick, it comes down to a basic equation: the player they’re assured of having versus those they could potentially have, should they trade down.
While naturally playing coy, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim acknowledged as much in a Tuesday press conference with Kingsbury at his side. Keim unsurprisingly played word games with reporters while fielding questions about whether taking a quarterback (i.e. Murray) was or wasn’t a consideration for him.
And, Kingsbury joined the fun by heaping praise on Rosen’s attitude through the first week-plus of classroom work in Arizona’s off-season program. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear he was reading off a teleprompter as part of a concerted effort to find the Cardinals a willing trade partner for the incumbent quarterback.
Handicapping Murray’s destination could certainly be tricky all the way up to Day 1 of the draft. After all, in addition to reports of multiple interested teams in the Cardinals’ pick, there’s technically a remote chance of a highly unlikely but still possible third scenario. One where Arizona stays put at the top and takes another highly rated prospect such as Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams.
Looking at Arizona’s potential trade partners
In an effort to better gauge the overall situation, here’s the quarterback landscape for the nine next-closest teams to the Cardinals in this year’s draft order:
- San Francisco 49ers (2nd overall): Recently signed Jimmy Garoppolo to sizable extension and also have promising Nick Mullens behind him. Likely interest in Murray: Very low
- New York Jets (3rd overall): Invested third overall pick in 2018 draft in Sam Darnold. Likely interest in Murray: None
- Oakland Raiders (4th overall): Derek Carr under contract for four more seasons, but HC Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock are QB and personnel gurus, respectively, leaving the door open for a bold move. Likely interest in Murray: Potentially sneaky-high
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5th overall): Jameis Winston’s $20 million-plus player option picked up for ’19, but no long-term deal in place yet. Likely interest in Murray: Difficult to gauge but potentially creeping up
- New York Giants (6th overall): Eli Manning could be on last legs and is definitely on last year of contract. No clear-cut long-term replacement on roster. Likely interest in Murray: Very high
- Jacksonville Jaguars (7th overall): Just took the Nick Foles bait in free agency to the tune of four-year, $88 million contract. Major dead cap charges if cut any time before 2021 season. Likely interest in Murray: Very low
- Detroit Lions (8th overall): Matthew Stafford still entrenched as starter and Lions’ position in round dictates steep price to move up to No. 1 overall. Likely interest in Murray: Very low
- Buffalo Bills (9th overall): Invested seventh overall pick in 2018 draft in Josh Allen. Likely interest in Murray: None
- Denver Broncos (10th overall): Traded for stopgap solution Joe Flacco in offseason. No true long-term prospect behind him on roster. Likely interest in Murray: Medium-to-high
And finally, there are a couple of other quarterback-needy teams in selections 11-15 that could certainly have Keim on speed dial over the next week. They are:
- Miami Dolphins (13th overall): Signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal this offseason, but he could be released after the first season with just $1.5 million hit in dead cap money. Likely interest in Murray: High
- Washington Redskins (15th overall): Traded for Case Keenum in offseason, but price was only a 2020 sixth-rounder. Alex Smith’s future also very much in doubt, and rumors of Murray interest abound. Likely interest in Murray: Very high