Guerry Clegg commentary: Georgia's Aaron Murray best QB in draft

May 6, 2014 

I don't pretend to be an NFL scout or general manager or coach. And I know the NFL is a much different game than the college version, especially at the most demanding single position in any team sport -- quarterback. So college numbers -- whether personal statistics or victories -- are not an accurate predictor or success in the NFL.

Whatever.

The more I read and watch about this year's draft, which begins Thursday, the more I convinced of one thing:

Three years from now, the best quarterback of this class will not be Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles. It will be Georgia's Aaron Murray.

If Murray were taller, all the draft-niks would be talking about him as a first-rounder and probably the first quarterback taken. As it is, Murray is just a bit above 6 feet tall, which is a good four inches shorter than NFL teams want their quarterbacks to be. Or, about the size of Drew Brees.

There are people who watch endless tapes of workouts and chart every physical trait they can find. They conclude there are seven better quarterback prospects in this draft. The aforementioned "top three," plus Tom Savage of Pitt, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, AJ McCarron of Alabama and Derek Carr of Fresno State.

And some would prefer the man ranked right behind Murray, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, his former roommate at Georgia.

I'll take Murray over any of them. To me, the physical part of playing quarterback in the NFL comes down to this:

Is his arm strong enough to make the throws?

Is he accurate with his throws?

Does he have a quick release?

Those are the prerequisites because the NFL game is so fast. Defensive backs and linebackers are so quick. A quarterback has to be able to throw the ball 50 yards on a line on a split-second notice with little margin for error.

Murray's arm is stronger than many think it is given his size. Not as strong as Mettenberger's, but plenty strong enough. Stronger than Peyton Manning's right now, and Manning is coming off one of the best seasons any quarterback has ever produced.

Brees and Seattle's Russell Wilson have proved that being 6-foot-2 is not a requirement to playing effectively in the NFL. Granted, Wilson is more mobile than Murray. But for the most part, Wilson uses his mobility to buy time so he can throw the ball down field.

From there, it's a matter of toughness -- physical and mental. And this is why I like Murray so much. As a freshman, he took a beating by Auburn, along with a couple of cheap shots from Nick Fairley. He threw three touchdown passes, the last one tying the game at 28-all in the third quarter. Auburn won the game, but Murray played like a veteran.

Fast-forward to Murray's last game as a Bulldog. It was late in the first half against Kentucky. He scrambled left -- yes, he can run some -- and could have hit the turf after getting the first down. Instead, he saw daylight, so he planted his left foot to cut back. When he did, he felt his left knee pop. He knew then that he had torn his ACL. But he refused to come out and threw another touchdown pass. Recently, Murray explained himself to ESPN's Jon Gruden.

"I pretty much knew. But last home game … so I told Coach (Mike) Bobo, 'You're going to have to drag me off this damn field,' because I wasn't coming off," Murray said.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened later. The next hit ended Murray's record-setting career.

It wasn't necessarily wise. But that game proved just how tough Murray is.

It's worth noting that Gruden, perhaps the most astute judge of quarterbacks in the business, rates Murray higher than the rest of the evaluators.

Said Gruden: "I like this kid a lot."

There's much to like.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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