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  • Will Kyler Murray's height hold him back at the NFL level? One former GM with a history of drafting short QBs says he's a damn good football player.
By Robert Klemko
February 28, 2019

When it comes to unconventional quarterback selections in the NFL draft, you'd be hard-pressed to find a scout with a better track record than Scot McCloughan. As a senior personnel executive with the Seahawks in 2012, he pushed for the team to draft Russell Wilson; as a consultant for the Browns last offseason, he pushed for general manager John Dorsey to draft Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall, a choice that appears to be panning out after Mayfield's transformative rookie campaign.

What both Wilson and Mayfield have in common is obvious: They're short. With each hovering around six-foot, height was a major question coming into their respective drafts. Who better, then, to answer one of the two biggest questions about 2019 prospect Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma who was officially measured at 5'1018" at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday.

McCloughan, the former general manager for Washington (2015-16) and San Francisco (2008-09), isn't at the scouting combine. He's at home in suburban Denver, where he runs a scouting service, Instinctive Scouting, and consults with a handful of teams each draft season. He watched each of the top QB prospects over the last several months and came to a conclusion: Murray is the best of the bunch by a mile. Better than former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who McCloughan describes as "Byron Leftwich to a 'T'." Better than Missouri's Drew Lock, West Virginia's Will Grier and Duke's Daniel Jones, too. However, stacked up against last year's QB class, Murray would rank fifth, McCloughan says, behind Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, but before Lamar Jackson. With all that said, "When it's all said and done, with Murray you're getting a damn good football player," McCloughan says.

Back to the height question. Will it be an issue for Murray in the NFL? 

"No," McCloughan says, with a caveat. "The issue he'll have is, if he doesn't have a good offensive line, he's gonna have to sit in the pocket a little bit longer, and all those defensive linemen are going into the game being told, 'Get your hands in the air,' because the ball is coming out lower. He's got to be in the right system. Something that has him moving around."

McCloughan makes the comparison to Russell Wilson and the offense Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell built for him in Seattle. Outside the pocket throws off of play-action were, and remain, a staple. "But Russell Wilson is 220-something pounds. Kyler might weigh 200 at the combine [he weighed in at 207 Wednesday], but he doesn't play that big. How many hits can he take? There are 250-pound linebackers who are fast too, and will eat his lunch. But he's a damn good football player. If you take him, it just means you have to adjust your system in some way."

As for that other big question about Murray, McCloughan is less confident. What about baseball? After mixed messages from the Murray camp over the last calendar year, the baseball question is sure to be asked in every combine interview and every team visit Murray has this spring. The Super Bowl media tour didn't help. Murray stumbled awkwardly through a Dan Patrick grilling on the subject, seeming unprepared and unwilling to delve into the topic. It also made NFL management types question whether Murray has the requisite personality traits.

"I saw his interviews during the Super Bowl and they were awful,” McCloughan says. “Awful. And to be a legit NFL quarterback you've got to have leadership qualities, like Baker. I know we drafted him in Cleveland so I'm probably a little biased, but he controls the room. He walks in and its like, whoa. Watching Kyler do an interview it's like, c’mon guy, what do you got? Give me something. I'm sure they're trying to train him up, but the thing about it is, that's his personality. He's just not a go-getter. Doesn't mean he can’t be a good QB. Just means he's not gonna be the guy in the locker room. Brett Favre was the guy, Russell Wilson is the guy, Mayfield is the guy. He just doesn't have that personality. If I was still a GM it'd scare me."

Murray is sure to share more with teams at the combine than he did with Patrick, but McCloughan wouldn't be satisfied with any explanation that comes in a 15-minute interview in Indianapolis.

"I'd sit him down one-on-one, bring him in the building and throw stuff at him he's not ready for, to see how he responds," McCloughan says. "I'd get face-to-face with him so I could say, 'Listen, if I'm planning on investing a first round pick in you, you need to look me in the eye and tell me you're football through-and-through, no matter what. I gotta know that. Because you can go play baseball—that's your choice—but what you choose to do affects my career, it affects my coaches' careers and their families. I gotta understand that you have the passion and the want-to. And the players need to know it. They can read your bullshit really quick. Coaches too. He's gotta prove this is what he wants to be."

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