From Prospect To Pro: Comparing Aaron Murray To Matthew Stafford
By Ken Scudero
The 2014 Draft class promises to be deep when it comes to quarterbacks. There are about 15 QB prospects coming into the NFL who will battle for starting jobs and roster spots next year, with only less than a handful having the real chance to start on opening day. Teddy Bridgewater is the most NFL-ready QB out there and behind him, it's a toss-up.
One gunslinger who has been a consistent starter for four years is Georgia's Aaron Murray. He is a 6-foot-1, 208-pound captain with a rocket for an arm, and he took over under center at Georgia shortly after the departure 2009 No. 1 pick, Matthew Stafford.
In his first three years as a starter, Murray threw 24 TDs, followed by 35 TDs and 36 TDs, and he has 22 touchdowns in 2013 with a few games left in the season. He is 108 yards away from 3,000 yards passing this season -- and it will be the fourth time he's done it at Georgia. There's no question about his arm strength because, like Stafford, Murray can throw the ball across the field as hard as anyone out there. He can throw deep routes with precision, ahead of the defender. Surprisingly, he also has a knack for putting touch on the ball when it needs to be dropped into a small window. His skills as a pure thrower are without question; Stafford is the same type of quarterback.
Murray has been criticized for not being able to win the "big game" in his career at Georgia. Granted, he's kept each game close, and many of the games he's lost have not been on him. Rather, they've been on the defense, most recently a freak play in Auburn. A miracle, if you will. Murray should not be judged on his record against SEC opponents; he should be graded on his ability to throw and his tendency to look downfield and read the routes of several receivers and defenders in each given play.
Like Stafford, he's been given excellent weapons on offense. Still, both Murray and Stafford are able to go to their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th options in the blink of an eye without hesitation. They are quick, efficient decision-makers.
Murray and Stafford played in the same system at Georgia. It is a pro-style offense with several options on each passing play, a system which Stafford has excelled in with the Detroit Lions. In less than five NFL seasons, Stafford has thrown for more than 15,000 yards and recently became the Lions' franchise leader, passing Bobby Layne's record. The offense is built on a strong-armed quarterback with the ability to make a smart decision while watching several receivers at once and also knowing where the defenders are at all times. In Georgia and at the NFL level, Stafford has made his share of mistakes; he's also tasted the end zone more than he's starved for it.
Aaron Murray and Matthew Stafford both have arms that can throw darts at will and most importantly, they both know how to throw the football. At 6-3, Stafford has good size for a quarterback but he constantly changes the arm angles on his throws to avoid a big defensive line. Murray is a couple inches shorter than Stafford but he does the same exact thing. Murray is excellent at sliding along the pocket and finding the best place to release his throw, always aware of the windows he needs to fit the ball into.
With a deep QB class, Murray is easily lost in the mix. But his tremendous arm stength, good decision-making and ability to throw in tight windows between the long arms of defensive linemen can't be ignored. I suspect he will drop to the later rounds, but don't be surprised if a 5th-round pick like Aaron Murray has a big career in the NFL, like the one Matthew Stafford is in the middle of. A team like Houston or Cleveland could end up with Murray in hopes of finding their franchise QB; and if they build a team around him, he has the chance to be great.