When Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray decided to return to Athens for his senior season, he changed the entire landscape of this year’s NFL Draft. You could even say he altered the look of free agency as well.
As the college season was winding down, many pundits (myself included) had Murray as the top quarterback in the draft and almost a sure thing to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. He’d be stepping into a situation where there would be plenty of talent around him to help his development into a stellar NFL starting quarterback and provide a safety net for some would-be rookie mistakes.
It turns out Aaron Murray had different plans. He decided to come back for one more season of college football, presumably to have a shot at winning a national title and potentially a Heisman Trophy. That decision had a butterfly effect on the NFL offseason that will continue through the first round of the NFL Draft tonight.
Once Murray decided to return, a carousel of sorts started where it seemed like a different quarterback each week was being projected as the top overall pick to Kansas City. Names like Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray were all kicked around as potential signal callers for the Chiefs. One by one, analysts and scouts starting picking those guys apart to the point where, even heading into tonight, some were asking if this was the worst quarterback class in NFL Draft history.
I have to believe Andy Reid and the Chiefs thought this way, which is what led them to trade for the top available player at the quarterback position — Alex Smith.
Now, we head into the first round of an NFL Draft where some are asking whether or not ANY quarterback will be drafted on day one. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that happened.
Had Murray declared for the draft, Kansas City would likely have planned on drafting him No. 1 overall. That would have kept Alex Smith out there. Looking around at what other teams did during free agency, the Raiders would have likely ended up with Alex Smith, leaving Matt Flynn as the next best option for a team in need of a quarterback. He probably ends up in Buffalo instead of Kevin Kolb. Kolb finds his way to Cleveland and Carson Palmer still lands in Arizona.
Murray’s choice didn’t just change the options of a few NFL teams. He also may have changed his own fortunes and cost himself some money in the process. There was little doubt that he would have been the first quarterback taken tonight — likely No. 1 overall. Now he’ll head into the 2013 college football season as perhaps the 4th or fifth best NFL prospect, regardless of how he performs.
There’s now a chance that Aaron Murray will watch three or four quarterbacks that he is just flat-out better than get drafted this weekend higher than he’ll go next season.
Sometimes, timing is everything. Unfortunately for Aaron Murray, I think his timing was all wrong.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON APRIL 25, 2014