Kyler Murray picked football. He hired an agent. He accepted the invite to the NFL Scouting Combine. But now what?
Every team with a need at quarterback—and even some of those just thinking about an upgrade—will wonder the same thing: Will Murray throw in front of scouts at Lucas Oil Stadium? Will he lace up his cleats and run the 40-yard dash—a stretch of grass he says he's covered in 4.3 seconds previously? Or will Murray show up, get measured, take his interviews and go home?
"Does it matter if he runs or throws?" said one veteran NFL scout I spoke to. "We know he's fast. Throwing against air isn't going to change anything. So I don't think it matters."
That is of course just one opinion, but it rings true. It's impossible to quantify whether throwing at the combine actually affects a quarterback's draft stock, but coaches and agents believe it doesn't. "Sam Darnold didn't throw last year; he did OK. Hell, even Lamar Jackson didn't throw or run, and he went 32. Kyler is a lot better than him, too," one scouting executive said.
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But not working out—particularly not throwing—is a gamble. Teddy Bridgewater famously did not throw at the 2014 combine and instead waited until his pro day. It didn't go well for him. That caused Bridgewater's stock to tumble. If Murray doesn't work out in Indianapolis, the pressure will be on for his March 13 pro day. A bad showing there could jeopardize his draft status.
Waiting and putting all his stock into one workout in Norman, Oklahoma, might be what Murray does, but he should do so knowing the risk. That's why he's hired an agent to guide him through this process.
"Don't count it twice" is a saying in scouting, and that applies to Murray. We already know he's fast. We already know he has a whip of an arm. Would showing that on NFL Network at the combine change anything?
"The only thing I'll say to that is: You want to see him perform in an uncomfortable situation. His pro day will be scripted, and he'll have run through it several times. In Indy we can at least try to make him stress a little," one veteran quarterbacks coach said.
A prediction: Murray won't throw at the Feb. 26-March 4 combine, but he'll still be a top-five pick.
The Scout's Report
—Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown was a projected top-15 pick in the 2019 draft, but he underwent Lisfranc surgery last month, which will keep him from working out during the predraft process, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. A 5'10", 170-pound receiver with a foot injury is a scary proposition, but NFL teams have drafted injured receivers in the top 10 recently.
Both Corey Davis (Titans) and John Ross (Bengals), who were rehabbing at the time, were drafted early. Davis, like Brown, never worked out in his predraft process and still went No. 5 overall in 2017. Ross went No. 9 that same year.
NFL teams will have to determine if Brown's small stature and injury push him down boards.
—Florida right tackle Jawaan Taylor is receiving the kind of buzz from scouts and front office personnel that makes me believe he could be a top-10 pick. Taylor, a junior, is a good athlete with the size (6'5", 334 lbs) and power to make a major splash in the run game. Much like Mike McGlinchey last year, Taylor could secure a top-10 grade from teams and stay there until draft night April 25.
—Moving down the board is Iowa's Noah Fant. One scouting executive told me this week that Fant won't fit in a lot of schemes: "He's going to test well [at the combine], but he's nothing more than a big receiver. If you liked Evan Engram, you'll like him." Fant will likely be the third tight end drafted (behind T.J. Hockenson and Irv Smith Jr.) and is looking more like a Round 2 target.
—"It's hilarious to see some of you in the media hanging on to the Ryan Finley hype. Just like Nathan Peterman or Ryan Nassib. He's not good." That's a text I received from a longtime area scout this week. The NC State quarterback has a fifth-round grade on my board, but some still believe he's a top-five quarterback in this class.
—I'm asked about Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom often on Twitter. Some are surprised to see my Round 3 grade on him. Here are my quick notes on his weaknesses that are keeping him lower than others might have him:
"Lacks strength to keep defenders from walking him back in the pocket. Is more likely to engage and stonewall in the run game than push and open a hole. Is quick but gets too far upfield at times. Doesn't have ideal length. Inconsistent as a finisher with limited dumps. Might only be a fit in a zone scheme where he can win with quickness and angles. Benefited from double-team help. Skinny legs."
—A player who I seem higher on that most (according to Twitter mentions) is 6'3", 235-pound New Mexico State linebacker Terrill Hanks. Here are my notes:
"Has the vision and speed to flow to the ball in the run game and closes with a mean streak. Can play any linebacker spot in a base 4-3 and has experience rushing from the edge. See-ball, hit-ball mentality. Can play press against tight ends with success. Hard hitter with a knack for forcing fumbles. Has a frame to add strength. Instincts, athleticism and football IQ point to a future NFL starter."
The Big Board
The next big board drops February 26. Here's a preview of the top 32.
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
3. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
4. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
5. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
6. Devin White, LB, LSU
7. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Miss. State
8. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
9. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
10. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
11. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
12. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
13. Montez Sweat, EDGE, Miss. State
14. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
15. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
16. Brian Burns, EDGE, FSU
17. Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
18. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
19. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
20. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington
21. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
22. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
23. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
24. Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
25. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
26. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
27. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
28. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
29. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
30. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
31. Johnathan Abram, S, Miss. State
32. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
7. Risk vs. Reward
Colorado State's Preston Williams is the best wide receiver in the 2019 class, but chances are you probably haven't heard his name unless you live for the NFL draft. Why?
Williams is one of three players not invited to the NFL combine because of a previous arrest. The other two, Jeffery Simmons and Jaylon Ferguson, have received more publicity as projected first-round picks, but Williams would be the top player at his position if not for his actions.
After starting his college career at Tennessee, Williams transferred to Colorado State and sat out the 2017 season. He was then arrested twice on misdemeanor charges—one after an argument with his ex-girlfriend as she was moving out of their shared apartment and the second for allegedly violating a related protection order.
Williams pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor assault charge, and all other charges were dropped. Colorado State subsequently suspended him before he was reinstated in January 2018 and posted 96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 games.
The 6'4", 210-pounder looks and plays like Julio Jones. He's physically imposing, fast and plays with a toughness rarely seen at the position. His traits and production scream first-round talent. But his off-field actions will ultimately determine where he's drafted.
The risk versus reward is huge with Williams. If teams believe he's no longer the person who was twice arrested before the 2018 season, he could be a WR1 with All-Pro potential.
6. Franchise Tag Updates
The window to place the franchise tag on players opened this past week to the sound of crickets. No tags have been placed yet, which is normal, but there was news regarding the players most think are candidates to receive the dreaded designation.
Anthony Barr, Vikings: It sounds like, according to league sources, Barr won't be tagged and will instead become a free agent.
Le'Veon Bell, Steelers: The Steelers won't tag Bell, who sat out the entire 2018 season, which makes him a free agent.
Landon Collins, Giants: Collins cleaned out his locker and is ready to move on, but the Giants can tag him and at least require a team to trade to acquire the three-time Pro Bowler.
Jadeveon Clowney, Texans: My sources continue to believe Clowney will be tagged but that the Texans could then look to trade him this offseason.
Grady Jarrett, Falcons: League sources say it's more likely Jarrett gets a long-term deal before free agency starts March 13.
Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys: Tagged last year, Lawrence reportedly won't sign a second tender, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Preston Smith, Washington: Many suspected Smith would get a tag, but multiple reports say he won't be tagged and will hit the market as a free agent.
5. Stock Up
San Diego State left tackle Tyler Roemer left school early but also got a jump-start on his offseason after the Aztecs suspended him for a violation of team rules and then removed him from the squad in November.
Roemer will have to answer for his suspension at the combine when team officials interview him, but those just dialing in on his game film will walk away thinking he can be a starting left tackle. And we all know how rare those prospects are.
If Roemer can impress general managers and coaches, he could climb the board at a shocking rate thanks to his traits and tape production. Right now, he's a safe target on Day 3, but I have a big red dot by his name as a player to follow closely.
4. Stock Down
The Kentucky Wildcats had a fantastic 2018 season, and they owe much of their offensive success to running back Benny Snell Jr. After he rushed for 1,449 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, Snell left Kentucky with 48 touchdowns and over 4,000 total yards from scrimmage. Since he checks in at 5'11" and 223 pounds, you would think the NFL would be in love with a three-time 1,000-yard rusher.
The issue with Snell is he doesn't have an elite trait. He's strong, but not so physically dominant that he can do what Derrick Henry does to defenses. He doesn't have great speed and caught only 29 passes in college, so there will be concerns about his third-down usage.
Snell was a big name and had a great season, but as a prospect, he leaves you wanting.
3. Sleeper of the Week
Here is a deep sleeper I noticed last year but then forgot about until looking back at notes this week: UT-San Antonio linebacker Josiah Tauaefa.
Tauaefa popped out to me last year when I watched tape on Marcus Davenport, but his name got filed away in a notebook and forgotten about largely until our NFL Draft 400 work started. After reading last year's notes and watching updated footage, I really like what he brings as a Day 3 linebacker project.
A junior entry into the draft, Tauaefa had 111 tackles, 11.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks this past season after playing a limited role in 2017. At 6'2" and 245 pounds, he's a player to watch but did not receive a combine invite. The UTSA pro day will be huge for him.
2. If you love Stick to Football and want to meet the crew, you have three chances in March to hang out with us. We're using a ticketing system for each, but it's free to sign up (and you get some free swag if you show us your ticket).
1. Stick to Football has three new episodes this week. On Monday, we talked to Georgia pass-rusher D'Andre Walker about getting hurt against Alabama and where he best fits in the NFL. Wednesday's show featured our "Fixing the Broncos" segment plus an interview with Vanderbilt cornerback Joejuan Williams.
Friday brought us former Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta and the 10 players with the most to lose at the combine. Check out the podcast and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.