Road to the Draft

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O'HARA'S 2019 DRAFT PREVIEW: Quarterbacks

Kyler Murray cleared hurdles that other quarterbacks haven’t faced in his pre-draft evaluation process.

Questions about his size and commitment to football over baseball all have been answered favorably.

Whether that means Murray will be drafted first overall by the Arizona Cardinals might not be answered until they announce their choice on April 25.

Regardless of where Murray’s drafted – and odds are either he or Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State will be the first quarterback taken at some point – Murray has brought star power and entertainment value to a 2019 quarterback class that is less than stellar.

Other quarterbacks below Murray and Haskins – Drew Lock of Missouri and Daniel Jones of Duke are the chief candidates – might be drafted later in the first round because of pressing needs at the position.

The Detroit Lions likely will be in the market for a quarterback, but not in the first round.

For Murray, one big question he had to face at the Combine was whether he was big enough, despite the athleticism he displayed and statistics he compiled for Oklahoma in winning the Heisman Trophy.

View photos of Bucky Brooks' Top 5 quarterback draft prospects.

He weighed 207 with an official height of an eighth inch over 5-10 to pass the size question.

Murray never seemed bothered about the constant speculation on his height.

“It’s not a big difference, but it is what it is,” Murray said in his Combine media interview. “I think we can put a lot to rest now.”

He’s also fully committed to playing football, Murray said. Oakland drafted him ninth overall in the 2018 baseball draft.

“It’s a final decision,” he said. “I’m here. I’m ready to go. I was born a football player. There was no turning back when I made this decision.”

Following is a breakdown of the top quarterback draft candidates, with one to watch and others, along with the Lions’ position breakdown, draft priority and key stat:

Quarterback draft rating: Not a strong position, and far below last year, when five were drafted in the first round.

Lions quarterback breakdown: Three are on the roster with the recent addition of veteran free agent Tom Savage to compete with Connor Cook for the backup job. Matthew Stafford is going into his 11th season as the starter. Cook was signed as a free agent in January. He has negligible NFL experience since entering the league in 2016 as the Raiders’ fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State.

Lions draft priority: High that they will draft one at some point, but very low that it will be in the first round.

Key Lions’ stat: 128 – Stafford’s consecutive starts, from opening day of 2011 through the end of 2018.

Top 8 quarterback prospects:

(Note: Workout results are from Combine or Pro Day.)

1. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma: 5-10-1, 207.

Profile: Passed one big Combine test when measured as an eighth-inch taller than 5-10. Compiled mountain of stats in 2018: 4,361 yards passing, 42 TDs, 69-percent completion rate. Threw for scouts at Pro Day but did not do any tests. Shouldn’t matter. Running for 1,001 yards, 12 TDs prove he’s plenty fast.

2. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State: 6-3, 231.

Profile: Lacks Murray’s “wow” but showed efficiency and coolness under pressure in 2018 in his one season as a starter. Threw for 4,831 yards, 50 TDs against eight interceptions and a 70 percent completion rate leading OSU to 13-1 record. Not fast (5.04 Combine 40), but moves in pocket, has quick release.

3. Drew Lock, Missouri: 6-4, 228.

Profile: Good athlete in his own right – 4.69 Combine 40 and good performance in agility drills. Took over as starter last eight games of 2015 and improved steadily, with a breakout 2017: 44 TD passes, 13 picks. Followed that in 2018 with 28-8 split, career-high 63 percent completion rate.

4. Daniel Jones, Duke: 6-5, 221.

Profile: Good size, skill level – 4.81 Combine 40, 10-0 standing broad jump. Developed well under Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. A 2015 redshirt, started last three seasons, except for missed time in 2018 with broken clavicle. Career stats aren’t overwhelming – 52 TDs, 29 picks – but has upside.

5. Ryan Finley, N.C. State: 6-4, 213.

Profile: Transfer from Boise State to N.C. State, where he had a 50-25 split in TD passes to picks as three-year starter (2016-18). Second in school history record book to Philip Rivers with 63.0 percent career completion rate, and to Russell Wilson with 339 straight passes in 2017 without a pick.

6. Will Grier, West Virginia: 6-2, 217.

Profile: 2012 Parada high school player of year with 77 TD passes, 1,251 yards rushing, 13 TDs. Went to Florida in 2013, suspended for year for NCAA rules violation regarding supplements. Finished up at West Virginia. Posted big stats in two 11-game seasons: 3,490 yards, 34 TDs in 2017; 3,864 yards, 37 TDs in 2018. Plays with confidence, goes for big play.

7. Tyree Jackson, Buffalo: 6-7, 249.

Profile: Great Lakes tour took him from Mona Shores High and Lake Michigan to Buffalo and Lake Erie. Athleticism (4.59 40) to go with size. Playing for what’s become MAC power improvement after 2015 redshirt: From 9 TDs, 9 picks (2016) to 12 and 3 (2017) and 28-12 (2018). Must improve on 55.8 percent career accuracy. Skills are there to do it.

8. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn: 6-2, 218.

Profile: Strange college journey: Starting at Baylor in 2015, threw 12 TD passes as a freshman. Left after Art Briles was fired, took online courses while out of football in 2016. Productive last two seasons at Auburn: 36 TDs, 11 picks, 64 percent completion rate, but didn’t take major step forward in 2018.

One to watch: Gardner Minshew II, Washington State: 6-1, 225.

Profile: His five-year trek through college after graduating from high school in Mississippi could have qualified him for a double major: Travel and persistence.

It was a northwest to northwest route – a year at Northwest Mississippi Community College and a year at Washington State in the Pacific Northwest, with two years at East Carolina in the middle.

There was almost a stop at Alabama, where he would have been a third stringer, but he ended up at Washington State for a final year that was good enough to make him a draft prospect.

Minshew’s 2018 season was spectacular: 4,779 yards passing, 38 TD passes, nine interceptions and a 70.7 completion rate. He finished five in the Heisman voting and was voted the Pac-12 Offensive player of the year.

Others: Clayton Thorson, Northwestern; Brett Rypien, Boise State; Trace McSorley, Penn State; Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt; Easton Stick, North Dakota State; Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi St.; Jake Browning, Washington.

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