INDIANAPOLIS — As soon as the height and weight digits trickled down Saturday morning for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the predictable avalanche of comparison rumbled in behind it.
Standing 5-feet-10 and 1/8th of an inch tall. Weighing in at 204 pounds. Cue the social media jukebox and set it for replay …
Just like Kyler Murray, who registered the exact same height at the NFL combine in 2019 and came in only three pounds heavier.
A lazy comparison?
“Absolutely,” an NFC West talent evaluator told Yahoo Sports.
“That was what we expected,” chimed in another evaluator, who spent significant time canvassing both Young and Murray. “We knew [the similarities] even if fans didn’t.”
In a world of NFL Draft study that is seemingly always seeking road maps for comparison, Alabama’s Young has long seemed destined to fall into the 2019 “Murray conundrum” — a debate that weighs elite level quarterback talent against the risk of sub-optimal size.
Murray shouldered that burden four years ago when the Arizona Cardinals were zeroing in on the former Oklahoma quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, focusing a portion of their evaluation by mapping him against stature-deficient QBs like now-retired Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
The end of that road featured Murray being deemed worth the risk of not featuring ideal quarterback size, resulting in his selection with the first pick. Yes, he wasn’t in the league’s QB wheelhouse that falls somewhere around 6-4 and 225 pounds. But Murray’s overall skills were special enough that the Cardinals rolled the dice on him being one of the history-defying outliers.
Now we’re four seasons and a handful of injuries later, and the dice roll on Murray has been met with mixed reviews. Undoubtedly one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers when he’s performing at his peak, the questions dogging Murray now have been about his leadership and inability to play through seasons without some kind of impactful injury. Despite those continued questions, he landed a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension, cementing his stature as a player who defines the “outlying” class of quarterbacks. And with that, he joins the class of Brees and Wilson when it comes to pressing Young’s evaluation against historic predecessors.
But as was the case comparing Murray against Brees and Wilson in 2019, evaluators are rolling their eyes at those who are drawing a direct line between Young and Murray.
“Size is the only thing they have in common,” the NFC West evaluator said.
That opinion wasn’t an anomaly, either. Seven evaluators from different teams all expressed some version of the same conclusion: Other than height and weight, Murray and Young have dramatic differences in their game and skill level, including some that favor Murray and others that favor Young. And even when it comes to that size comparison, predicting a similar injury path is tricky at best because teams don’t view them as being built to handle some of the same rigors, either.
“Height and weight isn’t even an accurate [predictor] if you’re debating how you feel about the potential for an injury,” an NFC general manager said. “Drew [Brees] and Russell [Wilson] next to each other — not to knock Drew, but Russell looks like he can take some hits. Drew looks like he’s in competitive cycling. Now put those two next to Cam Newton in a draft. S***, Cam looked like he could have been a defensive end. And everyone would have been wrong about who was going to be durable between those three. Partly because of how each guy played the position. We can’t ignore that. But that’s going to be a similar thing with Bryce Young and Kyler Murray, too.”
Asked to parse out the differences between Young and Murray if they really aren’t similar players beyond their size, there was a consensus on almost every point. Murray was evaluated as a more elite athlete — with a better arm, better athleticism and a more evasive running style. He also is a player who teams believe represented an accurate weight when he came in at 207 pounds in 2019.
“Kyler is more physically gifted across the board,” one AFC general manager said. “Bryce is the more skilled passer and mature person and professional. I think Bryce will be better when he is in the field but I question whether he will hold up from a durability standpoint without elite physical traits to escape. I would bet he didn’t play [at Alabama] at 204. I think he’ll fill in as he gets older later in his career.”
While Murray was seen as the more elite athlete in the evaluations, Young’s leadership appears to be part of the assessment that draws raves that Murray didn’t.
“He’s got leadership skills and character without drama,” one evaluator said. “[Bryce] is also more like Drew Brees in that he plays bigger than his size from the pocket. Watch Bryce’s throwing motion and tell me it doesn’t look more like Drew Brees.”
In that vein, all the evaluators seemed to agree: If Young is going to be realistically compared to anyone, Murray is just noise in the system created by the similarities in weight and height. The better comparison might be removing the two from each other completely.
This story, it seems, is about seeing where Young stacks up against Wilson and Brees, rather than how he fits alongside Murray or any of the quarterbacks in the class of 2023.
As one evaluator put it, “four years from now we might be looking at [Young] like he wasn’t a great comp for anyone before him. He’s probably a little different than all of them.”