MOBILE, Ala. — When we paired up Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray and Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in a recent mock draft, it was based purely on a hunch.
After all, mock drafts this time of year tend to be a little … shall we say, speculative?
So imagine our ears perking up when we heard Gruden talking Tuesday at the Senior Bowl about the quarterbacks in this year’s draft — he wasn’t asked specifically about one in particular — and he basically offered up that Murray was someone he was keenly interested in.
Whereas Gruden once might have believed that a quarterback needed to be a certain size, it appears he’s opened his mind to all possibilities.
“I used to think [about a QB prototype] a lot, until I saw Drew Brees twice a year in Tampa, then I met Russell Wilson coming out of N.C. State, and now I’m watching this kid Murray coming out of Oklahoma, and I’m putting away all the prototypes I once had,” Gruden said. “I used to have a prototype for hand size, height, arm strength, all that stuff.
“We’re looking for guys that can play and do a lot of different things. They come in all shapes and sizes nowadays.”
Murray is listed as 5-foot-10 on OU’s roster, but there has been some scouting buzz that he could end up measuring shorter than 5-foot-9. Perhaps even more concerning is Murray’s weight, which could fall somewhere in the 180-pound range. Both would put him in the lowest percentile of QBs drafted, or even invited to the NFL combine the past few decades.
As far as Gruden’s history, the closest-sized quarterback he might have ever had in the NFL who compares to Murray could be 5-10, 190-pound Joe Hamilton, who never attempted a pass in his few seasons with the Bucs in the early 2000s.
Sure, there was a time when Gruden was a TV analyst, and the running joke was that there was hardly a quarterback he didn’t love. His on-camera praise sometimes earned eye rolls as the quarterbacks he threw bouquets at often reciprocated by throwing bad interceptions shortly thereafter.
But there’s something to this unprompted comment that is sticking with us a day later. It didn’t feel like coachspeak or lip service. It almost felt like a proclamation: that yes, Jon Gruden is willing to adapt to the times and consider players he might previously have looked past.
The Raiders have three first-round draft picks this April: Nos. 4, 24 and 27 overall, landing the latter two via the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades. Debate the value of those deals until you’re silver and black in the face all you want, but the Raiders are positioned to take a quarterback — and one they can let percolate at the proper rate — this spring if they want to.
Gruden also has four pupils down here this week that he has a scouting edge on. Missouri’s Drew Lock, Duke’s Daniel Jones, Penn State’s Trace McSorley and North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley. Of the four, Gruden appeared to be showing the most interest in Lock in the first practice session open to the media on Tuesday, but that also can be misleading. For now, let’s assume that all of those players would be in play for the Raiders, although only Lock and Jones might warrant first-round consideration.
But would Murray? That’s the burning question. And if Gruden is to be taken at face value, we certainly can’t rule that out.