The Oakland Athletics’ top draft pick, Kyler Murray, has officially declared for the NFL Draft.
Picked ninth overall by the A’s this past June, Murray — the nephew of former San Francisco Giant Calvin Murray, who works for agent Scott Boras — received a $4.66 million signing bonus, contingent on him joining the organization in 2019. Since he was drafted by Oakland, Murray won the starting quarterback job at Oklahoma, won the Heisman Trophy and advanced to the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
Murray — who made his intentions known in a tweet shortly after noon on Monday — had originally intended, so his agent Boras said, to play one more year of football, and then join the A’s, for whom he’d be the No. 4 overall prospect. But, the 5-foot-10 athlete had a stellar season for the Sooners, throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns to seven interceptions, while rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 more scores.
Though his height would not be an issue in baseball, there are some reservations about whether Murray — listed at 5-foot-10, but closer to 5-foot-9 — would be a viable option as a starting quarterback in the NFL. That said, scouts have reportedly graded him out anywhere from a first-rounder to a third-round pick, with comparisons to Seattle’s Russell Wilson. He’d also make much more money much sooner in the NFL, as opposed to working his way up the minor league system, making a relative pittance ($1,300 per month at the lowest A-level, to up to $10,000 per month in Triple-A) while living off his signing bonus, until he cracked the big league roster (which could happen in as soon as two years, given his talent level).
Multiple reports on Sunday stated that Murray, the A’s and Major League Baseball marketing representatives met in Dallas this weekend to discuss his future, with MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reporting that MLB officials were vetting the A’s proposal of a Major League contract for Murray. That contract would be worth more guaranteed money, and would reportedly contain four Minor League option years, rather than the usual three, meaning he’d need to join the A’s full-time roster by the 2022 season.
On the baseball diamond, Murray has been compared to Rickey Henderson for his blend of speed and power, comparisons he’s not shied away from. Last spring for the Sooners, he hit .296 with 10 home runs, 13 doubles, three triples and 10 stolen bases in 51 games. In his first season with Oklahoma, he hit .122, but stole 12 bases on 13 attempts and drew 13 walks in 27 games.
Playing both sports at the highest level — which Murray has said he dreams of doing — is not unheard of, with stars like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders turning the trick in the 1980s and 1990s. The trouble comes with the position Murray plays. An NFL quarterback — especially a rookie — has to study far more play variations than a defensive back (Sanders) or a running back (Jackson), and needs to rehearse timing with receivers.
Murray’s decision to enter the NFL Draft does not, so far, impact his ability to pursue baseball. Things could get tricky very soon, though. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reported that the A’s expect to see Murray report to spring training in mid-February. Oakland has yet to release its report date, but will start playing games on Feb. 21 against the Seattle Mariners. The NFL Scouting Combine is slated for Feb. 26-March 4, with quarterbacks scheduled to participate in on-field workouts on March 2.
He could very well train for the NFL Combine and still report to Major League spring training in mid-February, but it would be exceedingly difficult — if not impossible — to balance the two. Should he not report to spring training, he would forfeit his signing bonus. Should he choose the NFL, the club would not receive a compensation pick in the upcoming June MLB Draft. Should he choose football, the A’s would retain his baseball rights should he decide to return to the sport in the future.