NFL draft: Kyler Murray goes to Cardinals with the first pick

Oklahoma's Heisman-winning quarterback will forfeit a baseball contract worth millions to join an NFL coach ideally suited to his style of play.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray goes through passing drills at the university's pro day for NFL scouts in March.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray goes through passing drills at the university's pro day for NFL scouts in March.Alonzo Adams / AP file

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By Alex Johnson

The Arizona Cardinals chose University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick in the National Football League college draft on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, uniting Murray with a coach who many experts say is a perfect fit.

Murray — a two-sport star at Oklahoma — became the first athlete ever to have been chosen in the top 10 selections of both the NFL and Major League Baseball drafts.

Kyler Murray was picked first overall by the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.Andy Lyons / Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers had the second pick and selected Nick Bosa, an offense-destroying defensive lineman from Ohio State University. The New York Jets took defensive lineman Quinnen Williams with the third pick. The Oakland Raiders surprised many by picking Clemson pass rusher Clelin Ferrell at 4, but the New York Giants brought the biggest shock of the first round when they selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at 6 to become Eli Manning's heir apparent.

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Murray signed a $4.6 million contract last year with the Oakland Athletics, who'd selected him with the ninth pick in the baseball draft. He said at the time that he intended to play baseball — but that was before his breakout season in football, when he threw for 54 touchdowns, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.

Murray will forfeit $3.6 million in salary from the Athletics, and he will return most of the $1.5 million bonus he'd already received.

As late as February, Murray had been expected, at best, to be chosen around the middle of the first round in the NFL draft. Carrying only about 200 pounds on a 5-foot-10 frame, he was thought to be too small to survive the punishment dealt out by 300-pound defensive linemen.

But Murray impressed many — though not all — teams in interviews at the NFL's annual scouting combine in February, where he appeared bigger and stronger than expected.

Then, last month, he dazzled scouts by completing 61 of 67 passes at Oklahoma's pro day, when top prospects players show off their talents for the NFL.

Full coverage of the NFL draft on NBCSports.com

That shot Murray — after only one season as a full-time college starter — to the top of the draft projections, where the Cardinals were waiting with the No. 1 pick and a new coach, Kliff Kingsbury, who's considered an offensive genius whose specialty is getting the most from undersized but mobile quarterbacks.

As an assistant coach at Texas A&M University and then as head coach at Texas Tech University, Kingsbury was credited with discovering and developing two Heisman-winning quarterbacks — Johnny Manziel and Baker Mayfield — as well as Patrick Mahomes, who in only his second season in the NFL led the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.

Murray is expected to quickly unseat Josh Rosen, who won only three of the 13 games he started as the Cardinals' quarterback last season, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.

"Here's the one thing you need to know about Kyler," Jim Zorn, a veteran NFL quarterbacks coach and former head coach of the Washington Redskins, told ESPN this month. "Short goes away when you see what he can do."