If you were making a way-too-early 2019 mock draft days after the 2018 event wrapped, it wouldn’t have Kyler Murray’s name on it. Not even if you went through all 256 theoretical picks, let alone No. 1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals.
It only took one brilliant season at Oklahoma to make Murray the most coveted quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft. The Sooners’ star center fielder turned out to be an even greater presence on the gridiron, winning the Heisman Trophy in his lone season as a starter in Norman. Now he joins fellow elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Terry Bradshaw, and John Elway as the first man off the board at the NFL Draft.
So how did we get here? Murray’s transition from MLB first-round pick to No. 1 NFL Draft pick came in fewer than 11 months, but you’ve got to dig a little deeper to get the whole story.
Let’s start with:
May 28, 2014: Murray commits to Texas A&M to play football and baseball
The five-star dual-threat quarterback prospect and elite high school shortstop turned down overtures from college football powerhouses — including Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, Clemson, and, huh, Oklahoma — to sign with Texas A&M, where his father Kevin played quarterback in the mid-1980s. He was the third five-star recruit in a loaded Texas A&M class that also featured future NFL players Christian Kirk and Damion Ratley.
Murray’s profile on the diamond wasn’t much lower. The potential first-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft — ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him the nation’s No. 34 eligible prospect as a high school infielder — pulled his name from consideration in the MLB Amateur Draft in order to honor his commitment to the Aggies in both football and baseball. Despite this, he’d never take a single at-bat for A&M.
Dec. 24, 2015: Murray declares his intent to transfer to Oklahoma
Murray’s true freshman campaign didn’t go as planned, however. He failed to beat out Kyle Allen for the team’s starting role at the start of 2015, instead seeing the field mainly in wildcat situations. Allen’s struggles led to a promotion late in the season for Murray, but while he’d go 2-1 in games where he threw at least 20 passes, he failed to make good on his five-star potential. He finished his debut season with more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (five) and had an inefficient 5.7 yards per pass. He’d decide to leave College Station before the Aggies’ Music City Bowl showdown with Louisville.
Choosing the Sooners gave him a partial do-over. While he’d have to sit out the 2016 baseball and football seasons, he’d be back on the diamond in the spring of 2017. It didn’t go well; he batted just .122 with zero extra-base hits and 20 strikeouts in 49 at-bats.
Fall 2017: Murray plays backup again — this time to a Heisman Trophy winner
The presence of another transfer quarterback relegated Murray to second-string status in Norman. One-time Texas Tech walk-on Baker Mayfield locked down the team’s starting role before Murray made the decision to leave Texas. In 2017 he made sure the A&M transfer saw the field in plenty of mop-up situations en route to one of the best seasons in Sooner history.
Mayfield ran to a Heisman Trophy award and the top spot in the 2018 NFL Draft behind a 4,627-yard, 43-touchdown campaign that pushed Oklahoma into the College Football Playoff. Murray still showed off some chops in garbage time of blowout games, however. He finished his first eligible season in Norman with as many touchdown passes (three) as incompletions in a year that showed off his potential as Mayfield’s possible successor.
Spring 2018: Murray’s diamond breakout makes him a top-10 MLB Amateur Draft pick
Murray led his team — Team Adrian Peterson — to a win in the Sooners’ spring game, but his biggest victories came away from the gridiron. He was a star for Oklahoma baseball, batting .296 while finishing second on the team in home runs (10 in 51 games), RBIs (47), and stolen bases (10). The rangy center fielder showed off enough athleticism and potential to convince the Athletics — who also appreciated the MLB bloodlines in his family — to make a reach and draft him with the ninth overall pick.
Murray’s rise wasn’t just predicated on an honorable mention All Big-12 campaign. The once-unsignable high school prospect had made it clear to MLB teams he’d be willing to leave football behind and ink a contract with a major league club. Sure enough, he’d agree to terms with Oakland thanks to a $4.66 million bonus just 16 days later.
But that contract also included a unique exception. While he’d attend spring training with the A’s, Murray wouldn’t spend his August 2018 in the minors. Instead, he’d play one final season of football with the Sooners.
“We have a little vested interest in watching Oklahoma football this year,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin told the press after Murray’s signing. “With our eyes closed and our ears plugged.”
Aug. 22, 2018: Murray beats out Austin Kendall to become Oklahoma’s starting quarterback
This was great news for Murray but much less so for Oakland. A potent preseason put Murray in position to serve as Lincoln Riley’s official Mayfield replacement. After carving Florida Atlantic up for 209 passing yards and two touchdowns on only 11 attempts in the season opener, he dropped his game into high gear for a Week 2 win over UCLA — 375 total yards and five touchdowns.
Sept. 29 - Nov. 3, 2018: Murray wreaks havoc on the Big 12, climbs up Heisman Trophy boards
In a five-game span Murray threw for 20 touchdowns and 1,661 yards while adding 334 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. This was, as experts reported, extremely good.
Dec. 8, 2018: Murray wins the Heisman Trophy
Soon after leading OU to a Big 12 championship and a securing a spot in the College Football Playoff, Murray outlasted Tua Tagovailoa and fellow likely first-round pick Dwayne Haskins to take home the top honor in college football. Despite this, he was still expected to honor his commitment to the A’s.
Jan. 9, 2019: Reports hint that Murray will declare for the NFL Draft
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser broke news that the A’s were expecting Murray to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. That didn’t shut the door on his MLB career, however. Oakland begins to scramble for a way to keep Murray on board — options that include fast-tracking him to the majors.
Feb. 11, 2019: Murray officially declares for the 2019 Draft
The decision means he’d vacate the $4.66 million signing bonus he’d landed with the A’s and pay back the cash already delivered last summer. It also leaves Oakland without any compensation after losing a top-10 pick in the prior year’s draft.
Murray quickly became a staple of mock drafts across the NFL landscape, not least of all thanks to Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s 2018 statement suggesting he’d happily take Murray with the No. 1-overall pick if given the opportunity.
Kliff Kingsbury with some high praise for OU QB Kyler Murray:— Eric Kelly (@EricKellyTV) October 28, 2018
"Kyler is a freak.....I would take him with the first pick of the draft if I could." pic.twitter.com/aYYamjMu7o
Still, Murray has several questions to answer before he can become the Cardinals — or anyone’s — savior.
Feb. 28, 2019: Murray measures out at 5’10 and 1/8
The biggest knock on Murray coming into the 2019 NFL Draft was his height, as rumors swirled, somehow, that he may be significantly shorter than the 5’10 he’d been listed as on Oklahoma’s official website. Instead, he clocked in at only an inch shorter than Russell Wilson, alleviating some concerns over whether he’d be too small to play quarterback in the NFL.
While he didn’t perform any drills, just being as tall as advertised made him one of the event’s winners.
March 5: Charley Casserly cites the dreaded anonymous source to take a weird dig at Murray
Casserly dialed up his anonymous network of scouts and sources to trash Murray’s leadership, even after a Big 12 championship season in his lone year as a starter at Oklahoma.
Because this came from a man Bill Belichick once described as “usually ... 100 percent wrong,” and it was quickly debunked by everyone from Gil Brandt to Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, it had zero effect on Murray’s draft stock.
March 13, 2019: Murray impresses scouts with his throws at Oklahoma’s pro day
More than 80 NFL personnel flocked to Norman to watch Murray in action in March, when he threw a whole bunch of passes but left his 40-yard dash time a mystery — though odds had it pegged somewhere around 4.4 seconds. A solid array of throws and routes — 61 completions on 67 attempts, including at least two drops — only boosted his draft stock.
February-April 2019: The Kyler Murray tour begins
Murray’s pre-draft process spanned more than three months thanks to visits, workouts, meetings, and dinner dates with the following teams:
- Arizona Cardinals
- Detroit Lions
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Miami Dolphins
- New York Giants
- Seattle Seahawks
April 25, 2019: Murray goes No. 1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals
It’s been one hell of a ride for Murray — especially over his last 11 months.