Aaron Murray left the University of Georgia as a four-year starter and the holder of practically every school passing record. He led the Bulldogs to two SEC East Championships, set several new highs in conference statistical categories and was the face of the Bulldog program from 2010-2013.
But he isn't Georgia's best pro prospect in this year's draft.
That distinction belongs to tight end Arthur Lynch.
Two Impressive Careers
One would be hard-pressed to nitpick the collegiate accomplishments of Murray or Lynch.
Murray completed 62 percent of his career passes while throwing for 12,885 yards and 119 touchdowns. From the tight end position, Lynch was—particularly over the past two seasons—one of the record-setting QB's favorite targets.
Sure, the Dawgs never claimed an SEC Championship during the duo's tenure in Athens, but even that relative shortcoming does not rest squarely on the shoulders of these offensive stars. Over the course of their final three seasons in Athens, Murray, Lynch and the rest of the Dawgs lost a total of 11 games. Opposing offenses scored 31 or more points in 10 of those outings.
Murray's statistics speak for themselves, and Lynch's role as a foundation for Georgia's passing game was unquestioned, but season-end accolades probably tell the best story of their individual careers. At the end of the season, Georgia players selected four permanent captains from the 2013 team. One was Murray; another was Lynch.
Mock Draft Projections
Despite recent success, Murray and Lynch may be the lone Bulldogs drafted this week. And experts don't exactly agree on where either player could land.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has tabbed Murray as the Saints' third-round pick (No. 91 overall) in his latest mock draft. Interestingly enough, he has Lynch joining him in New Orleans via a fifth-round pick (No. 169 overall).
With such unclear futures ahead, this week's draft can have a drastic impact on the careers of both players. That wide array of possibilities is what makes Lynch a better NFL prospect.
For Murray, much of his success will depend on outside factors. He seems to be fully recovered from a late-season knee injury, but if that's not the case, his progress as a rookie will be hindered. Similarly, if he's drafted by a team that resigns him to third-team duty, he may miss out on valuable reps early in his career, and as a result, he could be lost in the shuffle.
Murray possesses many of the skills necessary to succeed at the NFL level, but some of his best qualities are intangibles that won't necessarily be displayed if he's on the sideline holding a clipboard while the top two quarterbacks on the roster duke it out for playing time.
Lynch, on the other hand, can fit in just about anywhere. Murray supporters are quick to point out his experience in Georgia's pro-style offense as a selling point for his NFL future, but Lynch thrived in the very same offensive system. Accordingly, he's an NFL-ready football player in several regards.
He's a capable run-blocker. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have seen the field as a Bulldog. In his two years as a full-time starter, he helped pave the way for Georgia runners to rack up over 4,700 yards on the ground. That skill will translate to the NFL, where a big, sturdy, blocking tight end is still valued.
Additionally, he's capable of getting open downfield as a receiver. He registered 13 games with three or more catches as a starter at tight end. He averaged more than 16 yards per catch over the course of his career.
Lynch does not fit the hyperathletic mold of a Jimmy Graham or even a Rob Gronkowski, but he does have a diverse skill set that can help practically any team in the draft immediately—even if only on special teams.
Murray may also have a fantastic NFL career, and he's certainly hard to write off. But in the simplest of terms, this may be a matter of supply and demand.
Most teams keep three tight ends and three quarterbacks, but the usage rate of a third tight end is much higher than that of a third passer. Combine that notion with the fact that many major outlets have Lynch ranked higher than Murray in their respective position groups, and Lynch seems to have a more firm NFL future.
|Source||Murray Position Ranking||Lynch Position Ranking|
Various Recruiting Directories
To be sure, neither player's work is done. Murray must strive to take ownership of a new playbook and master control of an offense the same way he did at the University of Georgia. Lynch must pick up the finer points of footwork and continue to add size and strength to be a formidable force within an offense.
If their time at Georgia is any indication, NFL fans can expect both players to handle their business in a professional and diligent manner. But for Lynch, there may be fewer obstacles beyond his control.