2019 NFL Draft Will Reignite Dwayne Haskins vs. Kyler Murray Debate

By Dan Hope on January 15, 2019 at 10:10 am
Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray

Kirby Lee and Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

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When Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won this past season’s Heisman Trophy, many Ohio State fans felt that Dwayne Haskins didn’t get the respect he deserved.

While Murray won the trophy in a close race with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, receiving 2,167 votes to Tagovailoa’s 1,871, Haskins finished in a distant third with only 783 votes despite having the best individual season by an Ohio State passer in school history.

In his lone season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, Haskins shattered Big Ten’s single-season records by throwing for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns, while tossing only eight interceptions. He led the Buckeyes, who finished the season second in the Football Bowl Subdivision in both total yards per game and passing yards per game, to a Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

That wasn’t enough in the eyes of Heisman voters, though, for Haskins to top Murray, who led Oklahoma to a Big 12 championship and the College Football Playoff with a spectacular season of his own. After Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns with only seven interceptions and also running for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns, Oklahoma finished the season with the nation’s No. 1-ranked offense in both points per game and yards per game.

While both Murray and Haskins (and Tagovailoa) had spectacular seasons that were worthy of recognition, Haskins never got the same national recognition this past season as Murray and Tagovailoa, which led to many arguments from Ohio State supporters that Haskins’ record-setting year was underappreciated.

Now, the debate between Haskins and Murray appears destined to rage on once again for the next three months – and perhaps for many NFL seasons to come.

Murray announced Monday that he will enter the 2019 NFL draft, despite the Oakland Athletics’ efforts to keep him away from football after selecting him in the first round of last year’s MLB draft. Haskins already announced last week that he would enter the draft.

Had Murray opted to stick to his original plan of giving up football and playing baseball, Haskins was set to be the clear-cut top quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class. Now, though, Murray looms as a potential threat to steal the top prize away from Haskins once again.

As of now, Haskins still appears to be the frontrunner to be the first quarterback selected, and a very likely top-10 overall pick. As a 6-foot-3, 220-pound, strong-armed pocket passer with a demonstrated ability to make throws to all levels of the field, Haskins fits the traditional prototype for an NFL quarterback.

Go back a decade or two, and there likely wouldn’t have even been a debate between Haskins and Murray among NFL scouts. At just 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Murray is considered to be short for an NFL quarterback, and there are plenty of questions about how his game will translate to an NFL offense.

The difference between NFL offenses and college offenses has shrunk considerably in recent years, though, and dual-threat playmakers like Murray have become increasingly common among NFL quarterbacks – which could make him a more appealing prospect than Haskins to some teams.

For an NFL team that simply wants to draft the best passer, Haskins should be the top choice. While there are still questions about his footwork and ability to handle pressure, he’s shown the ability to drop deep balls on a dime – and to spread the ball around efficiently without making many poor decisions – that gives him the potential to be an elite NFL quarterback.

For an NFL team that needs a quarterback and wants its quarterback to be more than just a passer, though, Murray will warrant serious consideration. He has an ability to make and extend plays with his feet that far surpasses that of Haskins – who had just 108 net rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns this past season – which could convince a team to take a chance on him very early in the draft.

In some ways, the debate between Murray and Haskins is comparable to the debate that took place last year between Murray’s predecessor at Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield, and USC quarterback Sam Darnold. And while Darnold was widely projected to be the first quarterback selected at this point in the draft process, Mayfield ended up winning over the Cleveland Browns and going ahead of Darnold as the No. 1 overall pick.

Ultimately, it’s likely that some NFL teams will rank Haskins ahead of Murray, and other NFL teams will rank Murray ahead of Haskins – and it could come down to which team in need of a quarterback ends up in position to draft one first.

There has been talk that the Arizona Cardinals could select Murray with the No. 1 overall pick – largely because of a comment by new Cardinals head coach Kliff Klingsbury, when he was Texas Tech’s head coach last fall, that he would draft Murray with the No. 1 overall pick if he had the chance – but that seems unlikely, considering that the Cardinals selected UCLA’s Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft.

More likely candidates to draft the first quarterback this year include the New York Giants, who currently hold the No. 6 overall pick; the Jacksonville Jaguars, who currently hold the No. 7 overall pick; and the Denver Broncos, who currently hold the No. 10 overall pick, among others.

This early in the process, it’s hard to predict which quarterback any of those teams might favor, though Haskins – a New Jersey native – has openly professed a desire to play for the Giants, and could be a perfect fit to take over for Eli Manning on an offense that also features Saquon Barkley at running back and Odell Beckham Jr. at wide receiver.

Come April 25 in Nashville, though, Haskins and Murray will both likely find themselves in a green room in the same position they were in at the PlayStation Theater in New York on Dec. 8 – each hoping to hear his name called over the other – except this time around, their NFL futures and millions of dollars will also be on the line.

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