Could the Raiders actually build their team around the talented Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray? If so, Kelly Kriner believes they’ll need to make a move before the NFL Draft even begins.
The decision to draft Kyler Murray will not be made when the Raiders are on the clock with the fourth pick in the NFL draft – it will need to be made a lot sooner than that.
Murray is without a doubt an explosive athlete with rare talent, yet he is far from a plug-and-play NFL quarterback. Whoever drafts him will need to build an offense around his strengths while trying to minimize his weaknesses. Especially his biggest perceived one – his size.
Murray’s size wasn’t an issue at the University of Oklahoma because he played behind one of the best offensive lines in college football. The line includes certain picks in this year’s draft class. Keeping him clean and upright will have to be the top priority for any team who drafts him.
The Raiders added youth to the line in the 2018 draft but they will need some veteran linemen to add depth and experience. If the Raiders line can recapture their 2016 form, Murray can add his elite scrambling ability to keep the sacks and hits to a minimum. Murray excels at short to intermediate throws which were a staple in the Raiders offense last year. Getting the ball out quick will go a long way in keeping Murray clean, but to do that he will need some weapons.
Resigning a 31-year-old (32 when the season starts) Jared Cook was already one of the bigger free agent decision the Raiders would have to make. If the plan is to take Murray in the first round, the decision is pretty much made for them. The total lack of weapons at wide receiver means retaining Cook would give the offense a reliable – but not dynamic- safety blanket for Murray.
The draft will have to be the route the Raiders take in order to find some wideouts to help. Philadelphia free-agent Golden Tate would be the middle of the field run after the catch guy Murray could use but I don’t think the Raiders are interested in paying another 30-something WR big money. With Jordy Nelson returning to the Raiders, they need to find some speed and route running ability they lack right now. Luckily the middle rounds of the draft will be full of #2 and slot receivers that the Raiders can use to build around Murray.
Speaking of the draft, the most important question of all: will Kyler Murray be there when the Raiders pick fourth in the first round?
If the Raiders are sold on taking Murray and start to build the team for him during free agency, they will have to make sure he is there for them to draft. I don’t believe anyone is going to trade up to get him before their pick. That said, the Raiders can’t take that chance. As painful as it could be, a trade up to ensure Murray is theirs for the taking may be needed. A trade has been used to select 10 of the last 11 QBs drafted. Baker Mayfield is the only exception. It may only take one of the two late round first-round picks to move up from four so the Raiders will still have draft capital to build around their new “franchise” QB. If the Raiders secure the #1 pick before the draft they will be able to trade Carr to one of the QB needy teams to add to their draft picks and save $15 million in cap space.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field and a quarterback on a rookie deal is the most valuable asset a team can have. Deciding to stay pat and build around Carr, or start the rebuild with a dynamic talent like Murray, will shape this franchise for years to come.
Chances are if the Raiders decide to make this bold move, we won’t have to wait till draft night to find out.