There is a trend towards smaller quarterbacks at the college and professional level. The need for more athletic signal callers comes by way of offenses at the NFL and college level wanting more explosive plays from the quarterback position.
It’s just that now, unlike 10 or 15 years ago, the volume of athletic quarterbacks has exploded because coaching staffs accept the concept of quarterbacks gaining yardage with their legs and their arms. Those players also created something for NFL owners and fans to monitor that dictates who wins games.
Who’s the best quarterback? Can this signal caller lead our team to the Super Bowl? Does this quarterback have the ability to help us win a national championship?
Those are some of the common questions posed by NFL and college football fans alike. It’s just that it used to be a standard where a quarterback that was under 6’3” did not necessarily receive the same looks from college coaches and NFL scouts that would today, and that’s tied in with sheer athleticism as well. Maybe it was Russell Wilson that helped change that trend.
He’s one of the NFL’s best players, and the Seattle Seahawks quarterback is probably closer to 5’10” than his listed height of 5’11”. The man makes plays, and he may have made NFL scouts look at the quarterback position differently. Overall, he’s been a part of a transformation of quarterbacks that are more athletic than they are tall.
No longer is the NFL, or college football for that matter, a league of just sitting in the pocket and rocketing a pass down the field to a wide receiver. Many NFL quarterbacks will defeat a defense with his legs as often as he will defeat a defense with his arm.
That leads to the current NFL situation. There are certainly a number of talented pocket passers making big plays, but there are also several run-pass quarterbacks that helped change the way NFL and college quarterbacks play like Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens. From those three superstar NFL quarterbacks, Rodgers is 6'2", Mahomes is 6'3", and Jackson is 6'2".
Those are now basic measurements for an NFL quarterback. Plus, they are different in terms of how they play the game of football, which is allowing even shorter players to become big-time college and NFL signal callers because their height does not matter nearly as much with them making so many plays outside the tackle box where throwing over tall defensive lineman does will not be a factor.
Each of those three can be defined differently under the title of run-pass quarterback. For this exercise, do note that the bottom line is that all three keep plays alive to throw the football down the field, as well as take off and gain valuable yardage with their legs. There’s also an additional run-pass quarterback to discuss.
The third-year NFL player from the University of Oklahoma, by way of Allen (Texas) High School, applied many of the same skills as the players above, and he does so while being “listed at 5’10” (is he really that tall?) and being the NFL’s shortest starting quarterback.
Murray was the NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick in 2019 after posting a 4.31 forty time at the NFL Combine. He’s not a running back, wide receiver or cornerback. He’s a quarterback. His physical abilities do resemble top-notch NFL players at those positions, however. Same with several notable NFL quarterbacks previously mentioned above.
Murray possesses one of the strongest arms in the NFL like Rodgers, makes accurate off-platform throws like Mahomes, and makes defenders miss in space like Jackson. One could argue that Murray is truly the most unique quarterback playing pro football.
Again, he’s a big-time quarterback but just 5’10”. He’s a great example of why college football programs began to accept the concept of recruiting shorter quarterbacks, and then the NFL followed suit.
Now, a shorter signal caller needs to provide the natural athleticism to be a running threat, albeit not necessarily the freakish athlete that Murray provides to an offense, to offset the height deficiency when throwing from the pocket.
Look at some of the best college offenses over the past 10 years and the signal caller that led those teams. Notice how all but two of the following quarterbacks were listed at 6’1” in college? Some of those sizes would probably be generous measurements, by the way. Many of them, like the first player on this list now playing for the Dallas Cowboys, don NFL uniforms or soon will.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, 6’2”
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, 6’1”
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, 6’1”
Zach Wilson, BYU, 6’1”
Sam Howell, North Carolina, 6’1”
Sam Ehlinger, Texas, 6’1”
Jalen Hurts, Alabama/Oklahoma, 6’1”
Matt Corral, Ole Miss, 6’2”
There would be other talented college quarterbacks that made an impact even this year, although they do not receive nearly as much attention as some other quarterbacks, that also represent the same style of player as Murray.
D’Eriq King, Miami, 5’11”
Malik Willis, Liberty, 6’1”
Who’s the Next Kyler Murray for the NFL?
Well, that’s a tall order to undertake. Perhaps it will be Willis. He leads college football quarterbacks with 105 carries for 655 yards and nine touchdowns. His 6.2 yards per carry average accents his passing statistics.
Willis has thrown for 1,679 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He’s also completed 66.1% of his passes. It may not be Willis, but he’s as good a bet as any for NFL general managers and scouts attempting to throw massive contracts at their next future NFL quarterback.
Figuring out which player will translate to playing well at the NFL level is one of the hardest jobs an NFL general manager or scout can do, but there’s no question that they will be looking at many quarterbacks that do not fit the traditional mold of a professional signal caller.
Who’s the next Murray? Hard to say, but it’s such an incredible transformation that’s taken place at the college and now NFL level that college and pro football fans will likely be seeing more and more shorter quarterbacks take center stage for their favorite teams.
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