NFL Combine: Quarterback Preview

Looking at the biggest questions heading into the NFL combine

It is a down year for quarterback prospects with arguably only two or three legitimate first-round talents. With the lack of depth, even more focus will be on the top guys than normal, especially in the case of Heisman-winner Kyler Murray. Murray’s NFL outlook when considering his lack of size contrasted with his extremely impressive 2018 season makes for great spring conversation. Murray’s on-field performance in Indianapolis will be under a microscope but it will be just as interesting to follow the rumors related to his draft stock as teams accelerate the process of setting their draft boards in early March and we start to see trade discussions heat up with teams trying to position themselves for the top prospects.

Beyond Murray, Dwayne Haskins is the only other surefire first-round prospect. The question will be whether quarterback-needy teams can sit back and wait on Haskins or if he will be a guy who teams need to trade up into the top-5 to land. His athletic testing numbers could have an impact on his overall stock. Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, and Ryan Finley are amongst the guys in the next tier who have generated at least some buzz as potential NFL starters and a big weekend in Indianapolis could easily push one or more of them into the first-round considering the soaring cost of free agent quarterbacks.

The quarterbacks will take the field on Saturday morning and here are some of the biggest questions as we head into the weekend.

How big is Kyler Murray?

Based upon recent reports, Kyler Murray will likely weigh in pretty close to 5’10, 205 pounds. Assuming the reporting has been accurate and Murray measures in near what is expected, it should at least put some of the size concerns to rest. While we haven’t seen a successful NFL quarterback that short in recent years, 5’10 would put Murray within a couple of inches of a few guys who made instant impacts at the NFL level. Plus, at a weight of 205, he would have a BMI of just under 30, which indicates a very solid build in line with what we generally see at the quarterback position. While many have pointed to his lack of bulk as making him a very risky pick in terms of future injuries, nothing about 5’10, 205 pounds would scream injury risk in today’s NFL. For example, Russell Wilson was 5’11, 204 pounds at the combine in 2012 and has played in every single game through the first seven years of his career.

The bigger question may be if the weight gain that has reportedly put Murray up to 205 pounds is all good weight and something he can maintain moving forward. If so, some of the hand-wringing over his lack of size will slow down.

How freaky is Kyler Murray’s athleticism?

With the majority of the discussion of Murray to this point focused upon his height, his freakish athleticism perhaps hasn’t received quite as much attention as it deserves. If he decides to participate in all on-field testing at the combine, expect the focus to shift. Online betting sites have offered 40-yard dash over/unders of between 4.37 and 4.42 for Kyler Murray. Assuming he runs somewhere in the 4.40-range, Murray will enter the NFL as arguably the most-athletic quarterback in recent memory. For comparison’s sake, Russell Wilson ran a 4.55 at the 2012 NFL combine and has already racked up over 3,000 rushing yards in the NFL (without suffering any major injuries). Murray was a big-play machine at Oklahoma, with his open-field speed leading to a number of long touchdown runs.

Can Murray go first overall?

While we will get some answers about Murray through the testing portions of the combine, it will be just as interesting to see what consensus emerges in relation to his draft stock. It wouldn’t be a surprise if everyone leaves Indianapolis with the idea Murray is a lock to go at or near the top of the draft.

With Arizona owning the top pick, their plans will be under the microscope. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim just poured gasoline on the bonfire of speculation when he gave a surprisingly non-committal answer when asked if Josh Rosen was Arizona’s starting quarterback. "He is, right now," Keim replied. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. The lack of firm commitment to Rosen shouldn’t come as a complete shock when considering his rookie performance. He completed 55% of his passes and threw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11). He ranked last among qualified quarterbacks in both PFF grading and ESPN’s QBR metric. Plus, Arizona’s offense overall was absolutely atrocious. The Cardinals 241.6 total yards per game was last in the NFL by almost 50 yards. Rosen was far from the only problem for Arizona but it is fair to wonder if they can quickly add enough around him in the next couple years to actually contend in the competitive NFC West.

Alternatively, Keim’s comments could be viewed as a negotiating tactic. Joey Bosa or Qunninen Williams would be great additions to the defense but wouldn’t provide a boost to the atrocious Arizona offense. A monster haul in a trade down with some other QB-needy team could be attractive if Keim can help stoke the hype on Murray.

Is Dwayne Haskins athletic enough?

The one common denominator for the seven quarterbacks who have found some level of early success from the last two draft classes (Patrick Mahomes II, Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson) is above-average athleticism. All seven of those guys ran 4.85 or faster and have shown the ability to scramble and pick up yards on the ground. Dwayne Haskins doesn’t need to be a great athlete because he is a pocket passer. However, in today’s NFL, having a quarterback who can escape the pocket and make plays off schedule is a big key to offensive success. For Haskins, he will need to prove he has the functional athleticism to excel at the NFL level. His 40-yard dash will provide one data point, but teams will also focus in on his footwork and some of the other athletic measures to try to figure out if Haskins is worthy of being a top-10 overall pick.

Can Drew Lock do enough to emerge as the third first-round prospect?

Browsing scouting reports, it is hard to find a lot of believers in any of the quarterbacks beyond Murray and Haskins. Missouri’s Drew Lock is the consensus third guy but his chances of developing into an above-average NFL starter are viewed skeptically. Much of the attraction to Lock has been due to his physical tools. Lock was a legitimate high-major college basketball prospect and has the size and mobility that have helped some other young quarterbacks with some red flags on their college tape (like Josh Allen) find some early NFL success. As with Allen last season, impressive athletic testing numbers would help boost Lock’s stock. He will also have a chance to throw alongside Haskins (and possibly Murray) on Saturday. Lock has a big arm with enough power to make all the throws at the NFL level. If he can also show off his accuracy in on-field drills, he could be one of the bigger winners at the combine.

Will anyone else provide reason for excitement?

The consensus is that there probably aren’t many future NFL starters in the 2019 quarterback class. Outside of the three guys mentioned above, Daniel Jones of Duke has generated the most buzz and is even listed as a first-round prospect at times. He checks most of the boxes in terms of what NFL teams have historically gravitated to at the quarterback position (great size, decent mobility, solid arm, pro-style offense, multi-year starter, etc.). However, the prospects who simply check most of the boxes without bringing much more to the table have often been overdrafted (Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles, Paxton Lynch, etc.). Ryan Finley of North Carolina State also checks some of the same boxes and seems to have some fans amongst the NFL scouts. Perhaps his on-field performance will further boost his stock but it