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The Aaron Murray Mystery

BY PAUL GALLANT, SportsRadio 610
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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – My colleagues at SportsRadio 610 have been pumping out articles left and right about college quarterbacks they want the Texans to draft. And as the station’s “QB Snob”, who better than me to deliver a hot take?

But I’m not about to write an essay on who the Texans should draft in May. Instead, I’m here to investigate the curious case of Aaron Murray.

Cue the 30 for 30 music:

“What if I told you…”
– A four year starter at QB for a powerhouse program in the SEC
– Who played in 52 straight games
– Tossed for 3,000+ yards and 24+ TDs in every season he played
– And held an injury ravaged team together in the 2013 campaign
“…was an afterthought in the upcoming NFL Draft?”

I know Murray tore his ACL late in the season against Kentucky. That obviously hurts his draft stock…especially since he won’t be able to participate in the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and potentially NFL training camp. If you combine that with his height (a little under 6’1) and “small hand-span” (per ESPN scouting reports), it’s easy to see why he’s not a first or second round prospect.

But should that injury – one that we’re seeing become easier and easier to recover from – and those genetic limitations have Murray fall this far?
– 11th Ranked QB on CBS Sports.com (161 overall, Proj. 4-5 round pick)
– 15th Ranked QB per WalterFootball.com (Proj. 4-6 round pick)

Those two projections are the only two credible draft boards that have been updated since Murray’s injury against Kentucky. Again…I understand the injury and his sized played a part in that. But I have no idea how the following quarterbacks are considered better pro prospects:

- Alabama’s A.J. McCarron
– Wyoming’s…yes WYOMING…Brett Smith
– Eastern Illinois’s Jimmy Garoppolo
– San Jose State’s David Fales
– Stanford’s Kevin Hogan
– Miami’s Stephen Morris
– Oregon State’s Sean Mannion
– And Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas…who is honestly one of the worst QBs I’ve seen play at any point football season.

He might be injured. And he might not be able to show off in shorts at the NFL Combine – something I feel is way over-valued these days (though according to some UGA beat writers he may be able to hold private workouts with teams in April). But what I saw of Murray ON THE FIELD this season leads me to believe he’ll be a mid round steal for whoever drafts him.

Think about it. Georgia was ravaged by injuries this season. Before mid-season, Murray had lost receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, and running back Keith Marshall to season ending knee injuries. And for several games, he was without wideouts Chris Conley, Michael Bennett, tight end Jay Rome, and running back Todd Gurley. Yet through them all, Murray was still able to toss for 3,075 yards, 26 TD, and 9 INT playing just 11 games.

Going into 2013, Murray’s biggest knock was that he couldn’t win the big game. He blew that myth out of the water this season. Murray was lights out in September victories over top 10 SEC foes South Carolina (309 yards passing, 4 TD) and LSU (298 yards, 4 Passing TD, 1 Rushing TD, 1 INT). And if not for a missed chip shot field goal against Clemson (323 yards, 0 Passing TD, 1 Rushing TD, 1 INT) and a literal miracle in Auburn (415 yards Passing, 2 Passing TD, 37 yards Rushing, 2 Rushing TD, 1 Int) he could’ve been 4-0 against top 10 teams this season. If you watched those games, you can tell this guy has big…well…MARBLES…in big time moments.

And then you hear about Murray off the field. His leadership ability. His high football IQ and ability to make pre-snap reads (offensive coordinator Mike Bobo estimated to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he makes the correct call 90% of the time at the line). That he’s a film junkie…so much so that he went back to study his game against Kentucky (where he tore his ACL) immediately after being released from the Hospital.

Yes, he has some weaknesses. All quarterbacks do. His arm strength is good…not great. He can move when he needs to (57 yard run against Tennessee for example), but he isn’t particularly fast (which could be more affected by his torn ACL). Sometimes he forces throws into coverage, and other times he holds the ball too long in the pocket. I can overlook those issues – for now at least – after the way I saw him play, and what I hear about his work ethic. I don’t expect Murray to be a top round pick. But if you’re looking an absolute steal at quarterback in the middle of the draft, Aaron UGAis definitely the guy.

Get in contact with Paul Gallant on Twitter – @PaulyGSays – or on Facebook – Paul Gallant.

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