NFL combine: Despite similar statures, comparing Bryce Young to Kyler Murray is lazy, say NFL Draft evaluators
INDIANAPOLIS. As Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s height and weight data broke Saturday morning, a predictable avalanche of comparisons followed.
Height 5 feet 10 inches and 1/8 inches. Weighs 204 pounds. Turn on the social media jukebox and set it to repeat…
Just like Kyler Murraywho registered exactly the same height on the NFL combine in 2019 and was only three pounds heaviest.
“Absolutely,” NFC West’s talent evaluator told Sportzshala Sports.
“That’s what we expected,” chimed in another evaluator, who spent a lot of time interviewing both Young and Murray. “We knew it [the similarities] even if the fans didn’t.”
In the world of NFL draft research that is seemingly always looking for roadmaps to compare against, Young of Alabama has long felt like he’s destined for the 2019 “Murray Mystery” — a debate that weighs elite-level quarterback talent against the risk of sub-optimal size.
Murray took on that burden four years ago when the Arizona Cardinals focused on the former Oklahoma #1 overall quarterback, focusing part of their valuation on matching him against undersized quarterbacks like the now-retired Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. . .
At the end of that journey, Murray was deemed risk-worthy due to not having the ideal quarterback size, resulting in him being selected as the first pick. Yes, he hasn’t been in the league’s QB wheelhouse, which is somewhere around 6-4 and 225 pounds. But Murray’s general skills were special enough that the Cardinals rolled the dice on him being one of history’s defyers.
Now four seasons and several injuries later, Murray’s roll of the dice was met with mixed reviews. Undoubtedly one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers when he’s at his peak, the questions that haunt Murray now concern his leadership and inability to play through seasons without some serious injury. Despite these ongoing questions, he received a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension, solidifying his status as the player who defines the “remote” class of quarterbacks. And with that, he joins the class of Brees and Wilson when it comes to comparing Young’s score with historical predecessors.
But, as with Murray’s comparison to Brees and Wilson in 2019, raters are rolling their eyes at those who draw a straight line between Young and Murray.
“Size is the only thing they have in common,” an NFC West appraiser said.
This opinion was also not an anomaly. Seven evaluators from different teams came up with one version or another of the same conclusion: in addition to height and weight, Murray and Young have significant differences in their game and skill level, including one in favor of Murray and others in favor of Young. And even when it comes to size comparisons, predicting a similar injury trajectory is tricky at best because teams don’t feel like they’re built to handle the same challenges either.
“Height and weight aren’t even accurate [predictor] if you’re discussing how you feel about a potential injury,” the NFC general manager said. “Drew [Brees] and Russell [Wilson] next to each other – not to knock Drew down, but Russell looks like he can take a few hits. Drew looks like he’s in a cycling competition. Now put these two next to Cam Newton in a draught. Damn, Cam looked like he could play defensively. And everyone would be wrong about which of the three would be the toughest. Partly because of the way each guy played in position. We cannot ignore this. But the same will happen with Bryce Young and Kyler Murray.”
Asked to analyze the differences between Young and Murray, if indeed they are dissimilar other than size, there was consensus on almost every point. Murray was judged to be more elite with a better arm, better athleticism, and a more evasive running style. He is also the player that teams thought represented the exact weight when he reached 207 pounds in 2019.
“Kyler is more physically gifted in every way,” said one AFC general manager. “Bryce is a more experienced passer, a mature man and a professional. I think Bryce will be better off when he’s in the field, but I doubt he’ll hold up in terms of longevity without elite physicals to escape. I bet he didn’t play [at Alabama] at 204 years old. I think he will replace him when he gets older in his career.”
While Murray was seen as the more elite athlete in the scoring, Young’s lead seems to be part of the scoring that draws rave reviews that Murray didn’t have.
“He has leadership qualities and a character without drama,” said one evaluator. “[Bryce] also more like Drew Breeze in that he plays oversized from his pocket. Look at Bryce’s throw and tell me he doesn’t look like Drew Breeze at all.
In this vein, all the evaluators seemed to agree: if Young is really comparable to anyone, then Murray is just noise in the system created by the similarity of weight and height. The best comparison might be to remove them completely from each other.
This story seems to be about seeing Young play against Wilson and Brees, not about him pairing with Murray or any of the quarterbacks in the class of 2023.
As one evaluator put it, “In four years we may [Young] as if he wasn’t a great companion for anyone before him. He’s probably a little different from them all.”