When Kyler Murray was selected ninth overall by the A’s in June’s MLB draft, the thought of him actually having a shot to play in the NFL was a mere fantasy.
He was the heir to 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, taking over as quarterback for a traditionally high-powered Oklahoma squad. But listed at just 5-foot-11 and around 195 pounds, there was no chance of Murray playing on Sundays unless it was a 1:05 matinée with the A’s. The only real concern on Oakland’s side of things was making sure Murray just got through the season healthy.
Six months later, things have changed.
Murray hasn’t just filled in adequately as Mayfield’s replacement, he has shined to the point that he is now seen at the very worst a co-favorite for the Heisman along with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. On Thursday, Murray was named the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Fanduel has Murray as the leader in the clubhouse as a -140 favorite for the Heisman, and with good reason. The redshirt junior has gone bonkers this season, accumulating 4,945 yards and 51 touchdowns as he has led the Sooners to a 12-1 record and a berth in the College Football Playoffs. A’s general manager David Forst could get a chance to get a closer look at the prized prospect if Oklahoma makes it to the CFP title game at Levi’s Stadium next month.
Murray hasn’t gotten any bigger in terms of stature, but his draft stock might be rising with the emergence of smaller-sized big-armed quarterbacks currently thriving in the NFL such as Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield.
NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay went back and forth on ESPN on Wednesday, Kiper labeling Murray a second-rounder because of his height, and McShay projecting him as a first-rounder because of the changing nature of the league.
The speculation over whether Murray could actually choose football over baseball was serious enough to the point that Scott Boras, Murray’s agent, tried to douse the flames earlier this week when he straightforwardly told Fancred’s Jon Heyman, “He will be in spring training with the A’s.”
But take a look at this answer Murray gave Tim Tebow in an interview during ESPN’s College Gameday last week.
“I think that’s something me and my family will talk about at the end of the season and weigh out the options of what the NFL thinks of me,” Murray said.
Doesn’t exactly sound like someone fully ready to give up football just yet.
Murray does have baseball blood lines – his uncle, Calvin, was a 1992 first-round selection by the Giants who spent five seasons in the majors – but football is clearly a sport ingrained in the Murray family.
Kyler’s father, Kevin, was a quarterback at Texas A&M from 1983-86. Growing in up football-crazy Texas, Kyler took the Murray name to the next level as he was twice named Mr. Texas Football in high school, going 43-0 as quarterback at Allen High.
So what happens if Murray decides to continue playing football at the highest level? He might be out $4.7 million, which was the signing bonus given to him back in June, and the A’s will have wasted a valuable top-10 first round pick.
This is of course something the A’s were willing to risk when drafting him due to his impressive tools on the diamond, which drew comparisons to Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr.
“We just felt Kyler was a unique talent. It’s something you come across rarely in what we do,” A’s Director of Scouting Eric Kubota said shortly after drafting Murray. “The risk of the football was in our opinion outweighed by the upside on the baseball field.”
The A’s may have to wait until Jan. 14, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft, to see if that risk will pay off.