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College Sports: 5 NFL destinations that make the most sense for Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray

With Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray reportedly heading to the NFL draft, it’s time to take a look at the best possible landing spots for the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner.

Murray was honored as college football’s best player this season, but his size and skillset are atypical for NFL quarterbacks. Murray was often the fastest player on the field this season, but is listed at just 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. 

That means his success will likely be dependent on who drafts him. More specifically what offense the team runs and what personnel will be Murray be surrounded by?

Here’s a list of five potential NFL destinations that could be a good fit for Murray. Four of these clubs have an opening at quarterback, and the last has an undeniable connection. 

New York Giants (No. 6 overall pick)

The New York Giants need a quarterback and, more importantly, a change in offensive identity. New York’s offense was bland this year and ranked just 13th in offensive DVOA. That’s despite having some of the most dynamic playmakers in football in Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., plus capable receivers in Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram.

Eli Manning is 38 and is coming off a disappointing campaign — the Giants went just 5-11 and finished last in the NFC East. Even if Manning does have one last year as the starter, it stands to reason the Giants would want to start thinking about their backup plan now. Who better than Kyler Murray to inject a bit of life into the Giants’ offense? A Murray-Barkley RPO attack, alongside those receivers, would be nearly unstoppable. 

Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 7 overall pick)

Jacksonville appears to be moving on from Blake Bortles. The Jags benched their embattled QB earlier this season, less than a year after Bortles nearly brought the team to the Super Bowl. Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t the same this season, though, and Bortles was even worse. The Jaguars went 5-11 this season after entering the year with high expectations.

Murray would be a good fit here because the Jaguars still have a quality roster outside of the quarterback position. Leonard Fournette is still there, as is Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. Former Sooner Dede Westbrook is expected back as well — he led the team with 717 receiving yards this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 5 overall pick)

The Bucs got inconsistent quarterback play from both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. With a new coaching staff coming in (led by offensive guru Bruce Arians) it’s possible the Buccaneers could want a fresh start under center. 

Murray would be a great fit here. The Bucs have a pair of elite offensive weapons in receiver Mike Evans and tight end OJ Howard. The defense is still a work in progress, but the Bucs offense proved it could be explosive last season even when its quarterbacks turned the ball over (26 total interceptions). Last season, Tampa finished 12th in offensive DVOA but dead last in defensive DVOA. Most importantly, Arians and his staff can be trusted to find creative ways to use Murray’s unique skillset.

Denver Broncos
(No. 10 overall pick)

Denver is committed to Case Keenum through the 2019 season, but it has no longterm plan after that. Keenum was decent for Denver this season, completing 62.3 percent of his passes. However, he threw just 18 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions. The Broncos could be looking to shore up their quarterback situation longterm after passing on Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson in last year’s draft.

As far as fit for Murray goes, that is to be determined. Vic Fangio is the team’s new head coach, so he could be looking to make a splash with his first pick. But he is a defensive guy who will leave the offense up to Gary Kubiak, who was Denver’s head coach when it won Super Bowl 50 in 2016. It’s unclear if Kubiak will want to run the kind of progressive offense that Murray would need to thrive. 

But from a personnel standpoint, it makes sense. The Broncos are beaming with young talent, led by Pro Bowl rookie running back Phillip Lindsay. Denver also got big rookie contributions from receiver Cortland Sutton and running back Royce Freeman. Emmanuel Sanders is the team’s top returning skill player, although he will be coming off a torn achilles.

Arizona Cardinals (No. 1 overall pick)

There are plenty of reasons why the Cardinals shouldn’t take Kyler Murray. For one, they have greater needs than quarterback and are projected to take Nick Bosa No. 1 overall. For another, they drafted quarterback Josh Rosen in the first round just last season and he showed promise as a rookie. Perhaps most importantly, taking Murray at No. 1 would be a reach. 

But watch this video of new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingbury gushing about Kyler Murray before the Sooners and Red Raiders met this season:

Kingsbury recruited Murray in college, so the two have a strong relationship. 

It should be noted Rosen is perfectly capable of running Kingsbury’s offense in Arizona. But if Kingsbury wants a fresh start with a quarterback he knows? The Cardinals would conceivably be able to trade Rosen to another quarterback-needy team and build their future around Murray instead. Perhaps they trade him to the Jaguars for the No. 5 overall pick and take Murray with that selection? A lot can change before draft day, but Murray and Kingsbury’s relationship will continue to fuel speculation on what the Cardinals will do in the future.

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