Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (6-1, 208)
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray supposedly gave some serious thought to declaring early for the NFL draft after his junior year, claiming he had received a “second- or third-round grade” from the advisory board, before ultimately deciding to return to school. Considering their usually cautious approach, that grade seemed a wholly ambitious one at the time, though indications are that Murray does indeed possess plenty of fans amongst scouting circles. In fact, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy even went as far as to say last November that, if he were the Chiefs, he would have taken Murray first overall had he declared for the draft – bold words indeed.
With Georgia currently sitting at 6-3, Murray may not have lead the team into National Championship contention as he had hoped to upon his return, yet the senior quarterback has still visibly improved upon his play of 2012 and thus likely helped boost his draft stock in the process.
The Bulldogs’ signal-caller is also looking to become just the third quarterback in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards in four consecutive seasons, while already setting SEC career records for both passing yards (12, 568) and touchdowns (115) this year. Nevertheless, despite his impressive statistical résumé, Murray still remains a hugely polarising prospect in the eyes of the draft community, with opinion largely split over his NFL future.
The short passing game has been Murray’s bread and butter throughout his Georgia career and he does an excellent job of leading his receivers on crossing routes over the middle. He’s a great rhythm passer with a clean pocket and likes to move the chains quickly with flat routes and screens. He has the three-stop drop, hitch and delivery down to a T. – 8/10
Murray’s intermediate accuracy is also extremely sound and some of his best throws come when finding the receiver along the sideline with a back-shoulder throw or on a comeback route. His throws off play-action have also proved extremely effective, especially to the middle of the field, and resulted in some big plays over his college career when defenders bite on the fake. – 8/10
When Murray has time in the pocket or to extend the play he can throw a nice deep ball, though his limitations as a downfield passer mean he frequently underthrows passes over 20 yards. When he does go long, his throws can lack a bit of a zip and float and he actually looks much better passing deep when on the run than when sitting in the pocket. – 5/10
Throwing on the Run
Murray’s ability to extend passing plays on the move is one of his key strengths. He does a great job rolling out of the pocket, creating enough time to find and direct receivers into open areas. One does wonder though just how effective he’ll be in that area against superior NFL defenses. – 8/10
Murray’s arm strength is far from what you’d label ‘elite’ but it is much better than advertised. He shows great zip on underneath patterns and short outs and can force the ball downfield when he has time. His ability to air it out on these deeper passes may only be adequate, with a fair amount of effort behind the throw, but it’s certainly a baseline NFL arm and will play at the next level. – 5/10
This is the area in which Murray has come under most scrutiny, especially when it comes to the ‘big’ games. The Georgia quarterback has a high football IQ and made huge strides in his decision-making since last year but he still seems to predetermine a lot of his reads – often locking into shorter throws instead of seeing open downfield options. Occasionally, his confidence to try to force throws into tight windows in the short-to-intermediate passing game will also backfire in Favre-like fashion. In the past this has been a habit which has gotten worse with the game on the line, though the 2013 Murray has looked much more composed in these types of situations and reassured observers that he has the mind-set to succeed at the next level. – 6/10
Murray shows consistent, clean mechanics and a quick, compact release. He has worked with QB guru George Whitfield recently to shore up his throwing motion, which he claims has helped him create more torque and added velocity. Possessing an ideal over-the-top delivery, he does a good job of maintaining things when under heavy duress. – 8/10
Murray is a pass-first quarterback but also a very underrated athlete, who bears a striking resemblance to Aaron Rodgers when on the move. He’s an extremely tough runner, who knows when to slide but will also put his body on the line at times for those extra yards – a trait a lot of NFL coaches will appreciate. He’s not especially elusive but is mobile enough to pose a dual-threat and keep defenders on their toes. – 7/10
Murray looks comfortable in the pocket for the most part but doesn’t always display a great feel for it. He can hold the ball for too long and sometimes doesn’t feel the pressure coming, resulting in him taking an unnecessary beating now and again. His height also causes a couple of issues here, as he has trouble seeing down field with defenders coming up the middle, as well as problems with passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage in the past. That said, he certainly shows good footwork in the pocket and has the ability to extend the play and avoid the sack. – 7/10
The main concern with Murray is obviously his height, as he’s likely to measure 6-1 and perhaps even closer to 6-0. People cite the likes of Drew Brees and now Russell Wilson whenever a successful but short quarterback comes along in the draft but they’re anomalies rather than the norm. Up until this year too, Murray had an awful habit of wilting in big games and making poor decisions, though since an excellent performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game last December he appears to have put those issues behind him. – 6/10
Murray certainly doesn’t ‘wow’ in any one area but he is an intelligent, successful four-year starter, who’s starred in a pro-style offense against some of college football’s elite opposition. He’ll never be one to consistently make the deep throws but he does all the little things well and could carve out a role for himself in a West Coast-style offense. The key to his NFL success will be cutting out the inconsistent decision-making and showing improved awareness. – Pro Comparison: Colt McCoy
68/100 – Third Round