49ers won’t take him, but Kyler Murray moves will impact Niners’ draft
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray‘s announcement last week that he intends to focus on football made waves in the Bay Area, particularly at the headquarters of the Oakland Athletics.
While the A’s most directly felt the impact of Murray’s apparent decision to bypass the chance to play baseball for them, the ripple effect of Murray’s news made its way to the area’s local football teams.
On the surface, the San Francisco 49ers and Murray won’t have much to do with each other. The Niners have a huge investment in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and there’s next to no chance that Murray will be on San Francisco’s radar with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
But that doesn’t mean Murray’s move isn’t meaningful to the 49ers in other ways. Let’s take a closer look at how Murray’s focus on football could benefit the 49ers when draft time arrives.
Better chance at Bosa
There’s a long way to go until the draft, but many are expecting Ohio State pass-rusher Nick Bosa to be the top overall pick, which, for now, is held by the Arizona Cardinals. Given the 49ers’ need for a dominant edge rusher, Bosa would be an ideal fit.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have been connected to Murray since video surfaced of new coach Kliff Kingsbury praising Murray last year and saying he’d take him with the top pick.
Kingsbury has attempted to quell that speculation, saying that Josh Rosen is the guy in Arizona. But you don’t have to look hard to find examples of teams being committed to a quarterback right up until the moment they aren’t. In 2015, the Rams spent months trying to convince the world that they were sticking with Sam Bradford. Then, on the first day of the league year, they traded him to Philadelphia for a package that included Nick Foles.
If, over the next couple of months, Arizona trades Rosen and drafts Murray, that would be the easiest path to giving the Niners a chance to land Bosa.
Even if that doesn’t happen and Arizona stays with Rosen, having Murray in the mix could improve the Niners’ position. With teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins in need of quarterbacks — and others, such as the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers lurking as potential surprise entrants in the derby — the only way to ensure landing the signal-caller they want is to trade up to No. 1.
Simply put, any situation in which someone other than Bosa goes No. 1 overall would be a boon to the Niners, and while Murray’s presence doesn’t guarantee such a scenario, it certainly doesn’t hurt the chances of it happening.
If the Cardinals decide to stay put and select Bosa, the Niners would find themselves in an interesting spot. They could simply take the next-best player on their board, or they would be in good position to auction off the pick.
If Bosa is gone, the Niners could just take someone like Kentucky’s Josh Allen at No. 2 or, considering the depth of the class of edge rushers, they could add additional draft capital by trading down and still have access to any number of talented pass-rushers.
Assuming Bosa is off the board, that would mean Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are still available. Although there’s some belief that quarterback-needy teams wouldn’t need to move up any higher than No. 3 (ahead of Oakland at No. 4) to land a top quarterback, there’s still only one way to be absolutely certain to get the player those teams want: trading with the 49ers.
A scenario in which the top edge rusher goes first and a team moves up for the draft’s top quarterback at No. 2?
The Niners know all about that, trading down from No. 2 to No. 3 with the Chicago Bears in the 2017 draft after pass-rusher Myles Garrett went No. 1 to Cleveland. While the 49ers had no intention of taking that draft’s top quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears didn’t want to risk losing out on him in the event another team wanted to move up ahead of them.
The Niners pulled off that trade, added picks and still landed the player they wanted at No. 3, Solomon Thomas. And San Francisco is far from the only team to trade back with a team in search of a QB. Ten of the past 11 quarterbacks to go in the first round were drafted by teams moving up to get them. The only difference this time is the team with the third pick, the Jets, doesn’t need a quarterback, but it’s not far-fetched to think one not far behind that might want to move up to No. 2.
More QBs, the better
With the NFL scouting combine on the horizon, it’s too early to say how high Murray, Haskins and any other top-rated quarterbacks might go in this draft. Opinions on Murray are all over the place, largely because of questions about his lack of height and his ability to go through progressions from the pocket.
But if there’s one thing we know about quarterbacks and the draft, it’s that they almost all go higher than initially projected simply because of the need at the position. So even if the likes of Murray, Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock don’t bolster their stock at the combine and their respective pro days, they will almost certainly go at some point in the first round.
Which means even if Murray’s commitment to football doesn’t help the 49ers land Bosa or a big trade offer, at the very least it will push one more player at a different position in their direction in the second round and beyond.