INDIANAPOLIS – As soon as the height and weight numbers came down Saturday morning for Alabama running back Bryce Younga predictable avalanche of comparisons rumbled behind it.
5 feet 10 1/8 inches tall. Weighs 204 pounds. Turn on the social media jukebox and set it to replay…
Just like Kyler Murraywho recorded the exact same height at the NFL combine in 2019 and came in just three pounds heavier.
“Absolutely,” the NFC West talent evaluator told Yahoo Sports.
“We expected that,” chimed in another evaluator, who spent considerable time questioning both Young and Murray. “We knew [the similarities] even if the fans aren’t.”
In a world of NFL draft studies seemingly always looking for comparison schemes, Alabama’s Young has long seemed destined to fall into the “Murray conundrum” in 2019 — a debate that weighs elite-level quarterback talent against the risk of suboptimal size.
Murray took on that burden four years ago when he Arizona Cardinals they focused on the former Oklahoma quarterback with the No. 1 overall, focusing part of his evaluation on comparing him to undersized QBs like the now-retired Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
At the end of that journey, Murray was deemed worth the risk of not having the ideal size of a guard, resulting in his selection with the first pick. Yes, he hasn’t been in the QB wheelhouse of a league 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 as one of those who defies history.
Now, four seasons and a handful of injuries later, the roll of the dice on Murray has been met with mixed reviews. Undoubtedly one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers when he’s at his peak, questions that now plague Murray they talked about his leadership and the impossibility of playing through the seasons without some serious injury. Despite those lingering questions, he received a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension, cementing his stature as the player who defines the “edge” linebacker class. And in doing so, he joins the ranks of Brees and Wilson when it comes to putting pressure on Young’s evaluation against historical predecessors.
But as was the case when comparing Murray to Brees and Wilson in 2019, evaluators roll their eyes at those who draw a straight line between Young and Murray.
“Size is the only thing they have in common,” the NFC West evaluator said.
That opinion was not an anomaly either. Seven evaluators from different teams all expressed some version of the same conclusion: Aside from height and weight, Murray and Young have dramatic differences in game and skill level, with some favoring Murray and others favoring Young. Even with that size comparison, predicting a similar injury path is tricky at best because teams don’t see them as built to handle some of the same hardships.
“Height and weight are not even correct [predictor] if you’re discussing how you feel about the possibility of an injury,” the NFC general manager said. “Draw [Brees] and Russell [Wilson] side by side — not to knock Drew down, but Russell looks like he can take some hits. Drew looks like he’s into competitive cycling. Now put those two next to each other Cam Newton in the draft. S***, Cam looked like he could have been a defensive end. And everyone would be wrong about who will be durable between the three. Partly because of how each guy played the position. We cannot ignore it. But it’s going to be a similar thing with Bryce Young and Kyler Murray.”
Asked to break down the differences between Young and Murray if they really are similar players beyond their size, there was consensus on almost every point. Murray is rated as a more elite athlete – with a better arm, better athleticism and an evasive running style. He’s also a player that teams believe represented the correct weight when he weighed 207 pounds in 2019.
“Kyler is more physically gifted in all aspects,” said one AFC general manager. “Bryce is a more skilled passer, a more mature person and a professional. I think Bryce will be better when he’s on the field, but I wonder if he’ll hold up from an endurance standpoint without elite physical traits to run with. I’d bet he didn’t play [at Alabama] at 204. I think he’ll fill it out later in his career as he gets older.”
Although Murray is seen as the most elite athlete in the evaluations, Young’s leadership appears to be a part of the evaluation that inspires enthusiasm, and Murray is not.
“He has leadership skills and a drama-free character,” said one evaluator. “[Bryce] he’s also more similar to Drew Brees in that he plays bigger than his size out of the pocket. Watch Bryce throw and tell me he doesn’t look like Drew Brees anymore.”
On that note, all evaluators seem to agree: if Young is going to be realistically compared to anyone, Murray is just noise in the system created by similarities in weight and height. A better comparison might be their complete removal from each other.
This story seems to be about how Young can line up against Wilson and Brees, not how he fits alongside Murray or any quarterback in the 2023 class.
As one evaluator said, “four years from now we can look [Young] as if he had never been a good companion to anyone before him. He’s probably a little bit different than all of them.”