It’s always the million-dollar question this time of year: Who is the top-rated quarterback leading up to the NFL Draft? The answer might become clearer now that the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is officially underway.
According to draft experts, two names have emerged at the top -- Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. Opinions certainly vary among the many analysts who break down prospects for a living. NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks gives the edge to Haskins, while his colleague Daniel Jeremiah likes Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy Winner. CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso has Murray ranked higher in his list of the Top 100 prospects, while The Draft Network has Haskins a full 15 spots higher in its Top 100 ranking.
Helping sort through the madness is longtime NFL analyst Greg Cosell, who has worked with NFL Films for almost 40 years and is the nephew of iconic broadcaster Howard Cosell. Greg Cosell joined the set of Big “Blue Kickoff Live” on Wednesday at the combine to break down each of the top two quarterback prospects.
“They have to be part of different offensive approaches,” Cosell said. “So, you’re not comparing apples to apples. Murray, to me, becomes a spread quarterback where there’s a lot of play-action, where he’s in the shotgun, where there’s run-pass options. You’re giving him the opportunity to run a spread game. Haskins, to me, is a prototypical drop-back pocket passer. He obviously played in the shotgun in college, but he’s a pocket player.”
Both Murray and Haskins were Heisman Trophy finalists, but it was the former who came away with hardware, becoming the second consecutive Oklahoma quarterback to win the award (Baker Mayfield won in 2017).
That’s where the similarities end. Murray, who was also selected ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB Draft, played in a spread offense for the Sooners. Haskins, according to Cosell, is your prototypical pocket passer. Then there’s the size difference. On Thursday at the combine, Murray measured at 5-10 1/8, while Haskins measured at 6-3 3/8.
Despite their differences in both size and playing style, Cosell argued both have the potential to be successful NFL quarterbacks.
“Murray is simply going to be the eye of the beholder in terms of his height,” Cosell said. “Murray is a fascinating player and, to me, the reason he is so fascinating is because he throws the ball really well. He’s a better thrower than Russell Wilson. He’s very much like Patrick Mahomes. Now, Mahomes is freakish and Murray isn’t freakish, but I’m talking about the looseness which they deliver the football. He’s just a loose, easy thrower of the ball like Mahomes is.”
On Haskins: “He’s a little bit of a funky thrower, but there’s no question he has a strong arm,” Cosell said. “Ultimately, Haskins is a very good thrower of the football. He has a strong, powerful arm and I think he’s a pocket player with a big arm who can make every throw. The way he throws it, and I’m old school, is a little bit of an issue because his lower body mechanics are not very good. He’s not a pure anticipation thrower, but that could’ve been a function of the offense he played.”
Quarterbacks are scheduled to work out at the NFL Combine on Saturday. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rappport, Murray will not throw while Haskins is expected to. Cosell will be keeping a close eye on each. Despite both being top prospects, he says they both come with a set of question marks.
“One area where I think Haskins needs work is he needs to get much better with pocket movement and being able to navigate within the pocket,” Cosell said. “When you’re a pocket player you have to be able to do that particularly in an NFL where defenses become so much more detailed and nuanced and sophisticated with pressure concepts. He’s a little bit of a funky thrower.”
On Murray: “With Murray, you’re going to run a lot of quick game stuff where the ball comes out quick and the rush is not a factor,” Cosell said. “There’s no question that shorter quarterbacks will always have a tendency to leave the pocket prematurely because there are times they just don’t see it. When you don’t see it, you leave. You can leave throws on the field and by that I mean the route concept will work, the receiver is open, but the quarterback bails because he just doesn’t get a clear picture of it. That will always happen.”
There’s no questioning Murray’s on-field production. In his final season at Oklahoma, he threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Murray also ran for an additional 1,001 yards and 12 scores. That’s how you win the Heisman.
Haskins posted similarly big numbers for the Buckeyes. As a redshirt sophomore, he threw for 4,831 yards and became one of just six players in college football history with 50 passing touchdowns. In doing so, he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and was the MVP in Ohio State’s win over Washington in the Rose Bowl.
So which one of these elite prospects will go before the other, and will either be selected by the Giants, who hold the sixth pick in the draft? We’ll find out on April 25th.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks unveiled his first position rankings for the 2019 NFL Draft.