John Lynch was asked one of the most popular questions at the NFL scouting combine Thursday during his intimate scrum with 49ers beat reporters: “Do you think height for quarterbacks is becoming overrated, given the current state of the NFL?”
Lynch, the 49ers’ general manager, smiled and channeled sarcasm.
“Way overrated,” he answered with hearty laughter.
The humor, of course, comes from the fact Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray earlier in the day measured in at 5-feet-10 1/8, crossing the apparent height threshold needed to be considered for the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft.
He’s less than half an inch shorter than Russell Wilson, who helped the Seattle Seahawks win a Super Bowl in the 2013 season and never had issues with height since entering the league.
Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner, is one of the most explosive athletic prospects at the position in years, and he also happens to be a standout pocket passer. He completed 69 percent of his throws last season, firing 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 14 games – and he did it in the same offense as Baker Mayfield, who went first overall to the Cleveland Browns last year.
The 49ers have needs up and down the roster but not at quarterback, with Jimmy Garoppolo expected to return for training camp entering the second of his five-year contract.
Murray’s ascension, perhaps to becoming the draft’s top prospect, would do nothing but help San Francisco as it figures out what to do with the second overall pick.
“We obviously aren’t in the market for a quarterback,” Lynch said, “but I keep throwing (Murray’s) darn film on because it’s so fun to watch. He’s an electric player. ... I hadn’t seen Kyler play much, man. It is electric and is fun to watch. That Heisman was for real.”
The 49ers could benefit from Murray’s rise in different ways. He could end up going first overall, allowing Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan their choice of the top non-quarterback available. That player is widely expected to be Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, who could solve the team’s long-standing problem with rushing quarterbacks from the outside.
Or, San Francisco might elect to trade down, getting a massive bounty from a team needing a quarterback. Lynch has just six picks in his war chest after picking 19 players combined in his first two drafts.
“This is a really strong draft overall (for defensive linemen). I believe, myself, that it’s really strong in terms of impact players and in terms of depth,” Lynch said when asked about what will go into the decision to stand pat or trade down. “So it’s just kind of whatever kind of offers come your way.
“But also, there’s a scenario where there’s a player that we just absolutely (love). The only reason why you don’t have that in stone right now is because the coaches are just getting into this process.”
Clearly, Lynch is in a position to hype up Murray as much as possible, either to help ensure he’s the first player or taken or to drum up interest in a trade. Whether that’s his plan or not, he’s a believer in Murray.
“He’s one of those guys, you have your (physical) profiles and all that, but can a guy play? That guy can play,” Lynch said. “Apparently he can do everything. I’ve talked to baseball people who say he’s a can’t-miss prospect there. Talented guy. Had a chance to meet him at the Super Bowl. He’s also a very engaging personality.”
What could the 49ers get a deal to move back? The Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 sent the Browns five picks in a trade to move from No. 8 overall to No. 2 for a chance to draft quarterback Carson Wentz. Those picks included two first rounders (one in 2016 and another 2017), a 2017 second-round pick, 2016 third- and fourth-round picks, and a 2018 second-round choice. The Browns sent back a 2017 fourth-round pick with the second-overall selection.
In the same draft, the Rams sent the Tennessee Titans two firsts, two seconds and two thirds over two seasons to move from 15 to No. 1 to select Jared Goff, who appeared in his first Super Bowl earlier this month.
Perhaps a similar deal could be struck with the New York Giants, who might begin planning for life after Eli Manning, 38, and currently hold the No. 7 pick. There, San Francisco could still find a pass rushing defensive end to capitalize on the depth at the position Lynch has discussed. Players such as Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, Florida State’s Brian Burns and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell could fit the bill.
Adding significant draft capital could go a long way toward helping Shanahan and Lynch build the roster back into a playoff contender.
“If you look at our team,” Shanahan said this week, “the only position you probably couldn’t argue to get someone at is probably quarterback.”