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Is Kyler Murray’s NFL ceiling higher than Lamar Jackson?

There are similarities to the play styles of two recent Hesiman Trophy winners, but could the most recent awardee be even more successful than one of his predecessors who had NFL success in 2018?

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Another week passes with the Cincinnati Bengals needing to fill out the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve swung and missed on their first three choices for defensive coordinator, as more uneasiness creeps in during the first days of the new Zac Taylor regime.

But, aside from the coaching unrest with the club, there are other long-term questions needing to be answered. All current signs point to Andy Dalton being the team’s quarterback in 2019, but could the team invest in one of this year’s exciting quarterbacks to groom for the future?

Did we mention that Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray expressed his intention to play professional football this week?

Now, when it comes to connecting Kyler Murray to the Bengals, Who Dey Nation is split, to say the least. Those in his corner see the next coming of Russell Wilson and/or a smaller version of Patrick Mahomes; quarterbacks who can use baseball skills of quick feet and creative throwing patterns to create exciting plays.

Others can’t get past the fact that he probably won’t measure taller than 5’10” at the NFL Combine in a couple of weeks. There are also hesitations about his being a one-year wonder and, even with the announcement of playing football, his seriousness to NFL teams.

Given some news with Joe Flacco being traded in principle to the Denver Broncos this week, it got us thinking about Lamar Jackson’s skill set. While there are notable differences, there are striking similarities to Murray and Jackson—both in college awards and style of play.

Does Murray have a higher NFL ceiling than Jackson?

Last season, the Ravens were at a crossroads. With Flacco needing to leave the lineup with an injury, Baltimore leaned on their first round pick as a band-aid in Jackson.

In the seven regular season games he played, Jackson led the Ravens to a 6-1 record and an eventual playoff berth (they lost on the first round to the Chargers). While Jackson was electric with 1,201 passing yards and 695 rushing yards, there were lingering questions.

The read-option offense Baltimore employed with him looked more akin to the “Wildcat” craze that hit the NFL in the late-2000s. These systems are/were built for quarterbacks who had limitations with their arm, but could either run themselves and/or had a stable of solid running backs with them. The 2008 Miami Dolphins were probably the most successful example of the Wildcat offense, with the Ravens ironically beating them in the Wild Card round that year.

Is Murray a guy who would need a simplistic NFL offense, at least at first, as Jackson did in 2018? Can he do more than that right away, or because of his size disadvantage, will he even be able to work well in a one-read-tuck-and-go passing offense that Jackson utilized last year?

“I do think that the Lamar (Jackson) comparison is one of the top-two we’ll hear the most, when it comes to Murray,” John Sheeran noted on this week’s Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast. “It may be the most logical. It’s hard to find a comparison to Murray, though because he’ll be measuring in at no taller than 5’10”...”

As we mentioned, though, the “One-year Wonder” tag is also concerning. Was Murray just the benefactor of being supremely athletic in a very quarterback-friendly system?

“If Murray had started another year in college and he measured in at the same height as Russell Wilson, I would probably take him first overall,” Sheeran continued. “I think he’s that good of a thrower; I think he’s that good of a play creator. He had some issues working the pocket, not because of his height, but I think from a general lack of experience. But, the one thing with Murray that’s causing hesitation from me is that one year of starting experience.”

Last year with the Sooners, Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns, adding another 1,001 yards and 12 scores on the ground. By comparison, in Jackson’s 2016 Heisman season, he threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns, while adding 1,571 rushing yards and 21 scores from his legs.

One of the major metrics scouts and coaches like to use in attempting to translate NFL success, is completion percentage. In Jackson’s three years at Louisville, he compiled a 57% rate, while Murray had a 69% rate in his lone season at Oklahoma’s starter.

Jackson’s college completion percentage translated to the pros, at least for seven regular season games, as he notched just a 58.2% rate (with 48.3% in the lone playoff game). Of course, some teams may be more willing to swallow this because of Jackson’s 4-5 inches of height advantage over Murray.

In using the Wilson comparison, I noted that Murray has adopted the skill of maneuvering in the pocket to create passing lanes, despite Sheeran’s noting of Murray’s lack of awareness on the somewhat-rare occasion. Because both he and the Seahawks quarterback are undersized, they’ve learned to be able to move around (mostly out of the shotgun) and create lanes of their own that are readily there for guys who are 6’5”.

Taylor also plans to use the Rams’ offense as a baseline for what he’ll bring to Cincinnati. “It will be the Cincinnati Bengals’ playbook. There’s no doubt about it. The starting point will be what we did in L.A.,” Taylor said, via USA Today’s Rams Wire. “We had a lot of success there. I believed in what we did.”

A lot of what the Rams did in the past two seasons was based off of play-action. And, in that system, there are a lot of rollouts, which could play to the strengths of a guy like Murray.

What do you think?


Does Kyler Murray have a higher NFL ceiling than Lamar Jackson?

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Also on this week’s program:

  • It’s been a crazy week for the AFC North. What do the respective signings and impending departures of a handful of league stars mean for the Bengals’ roster plans this offseason?
  • Todd Grantham seemed like the most recent front-runner for the Bengals’ job, but like other big names, he has passed on the gig. What’s up with all of these coaches saying “no” to Cincinnati?
  • Marvin Lewis is now a member of the media, so to speak, and he recently took public issue with the state of the offensive line. Who should be pointing the finger at for the current woeful state of the unit?
  • Who are some later-round quarterbacks for the Bengals to keep an eye on in April’s draft class?
  • Could the Bengals look at some big-name free agents at the end of their careers by signing them to potential team-friendly deals?

Our thanks to the many live listeners we had and the multitude of great questions submitted to us in a variety of different ways. You can join us for the live recording of each episode here at Cincy Jungle and on YouTube. Submit your questions to us every week to be answered on the air!

If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher and Google Play Music apps, our YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!