Kliff Kingsbury once said he’d draft Kyler Murray No. 1 overall. Good news, Kliff!
Kingsbury’s Cardinals own the top pick at the 2019 NFL Draft. Back in October, Kliff Kingsbury was just a struggling head coach at Texas Tech, preparing for what promised to be a shootout with eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma. And when it came to the Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray, Kingsbury had nothing but high praise for the playmaking dual threat passer. Kliff Kingsbury with some high praise for OU QB Kyler Murray:"Kyler is a freak.....I would take him with the first pick of the draft if I could." pic.twitter.com/aYYamjMu7o— Eric Kelly (@EricKellyTV) October 28, 2018 “I’d take him with the first pick in the draft, if I could,” Kingsbury told communications staffers at Tech. “I know he’s signed up to play baseball, but he’s a dominant football player. I would take him with the first pick.” Murray was dominant. He proved a worthy follow-up to Baker Mayfield in Norman, throwing 42 touchdown passes and running for more than 1,000 yards to lead the Sooners back to the College Football Playoff. His efforts earned the 2018 Heisman Trophy in the process. That monster season has led him to reconsider Kingsbury’s statement, and now the Oakland Athletics — the team that draft him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft — expect him to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Where Kingsbury and his new team will be waiting. With the No. 1 overall pick. Murray will give the Cardinals’ head coach a chance to back up his praise It took fewer than two months for Kingsbury to make the journey from fired Texas Tech coach to USC offensive coordinator to head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Kingsbury, who’d never coached a day of his life in the NFL, impressed Arizona brass enough with his history of high-impact passing offenses to earn a promotion to the big leagues. He’s got his work cut out for him. The combination of a lack of playmakers and and underwhelming group of quarterbacks doomed the Cardinals to the league’s worst record last fall. That forced first-year head coach Steve Wilks out and gave Kingsbury his chance to shine. That means he’ll be a major factor in the franchise’s decision making for the foreseeable future — including in April, when his club is slated to make the first pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Spoiler: the Cardinals are not going to draft Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick Murray could wind up being the best quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. He could wind up being its best player. But he’s not what Arizona needs right now. The Cardinals already have 2018’s No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen on the roster, and Kingsbury was hired specifically to groom the former UCLA star into a franchise passer. Rosen struggled as a rookie, completing just 55 percent of his passes and recording an 11:14 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While that was undeniably awful, it was as much a product of a lack of talent around him as anything; an aging Larry Fitzgerald led an anonymous receiving corps with a career-low 734 receiving yards last fall. Rookie struggles aside, Kingsbury is high on his emerging young quarterback: New #AZCardinals coach Kliff Kinsbury on @gmfb calls Josh Rosen “an extremely talented thrower” and lauds his toughness. As for his old QB Patrick Mahomes this week, Kingsbury said “He’s a guy who loves the bright lights on him and I expect him to play his best football."— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 10, 2019 That leaves the Cardinals with bigger holes to fill with the No. 1 overall pick. The player widely regarded as 2019’s top prospect is Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who would create a potent bookend for All-Pro Chandler Jones in the Arizona pass rush. Other defenders, like Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and Michigan lineman Rashan Gary, will all make their case to be this year’s top selection in an arduous pre-draft process. Any of them would boost a defense that was great at stopping big passing plays, but bad at just about everything else. Murray will have his own hurdles to overcome just to be a first round pick in April. While there’s no denying his talent as a college quarterback, questions about his size will haunt him through the predraft process. At 5’10 he’s an inch shorter than the league’s shortest quarterback, Russell Wilson. But teams are thirstier than ever for dynamic playmakers behind center. Murray’s mobility and ability to extend plays before delivering darts downfield — combined with his predecessor Mayfield’s rookie success in Cleveland — should make him an intriguing prospect this spring. Just probably not Kliff Kingsbury’s prospect, no matter what he said back in October.