Not only did an ACL injury end a brilliant senior season for Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray, but it also hurt his stock in the 2014 NFL Draft. Despite being a fourth-year starter in college football’s best conference and holding countless SEC records, Murray only projected as a third-round pick, and he will likely drop even further after the injury.
Murray’s stock dropping means that some lucky NFL team is going to have a major steal on their hands when they pick up Murray in the latter rounds of the draft. One team that should keep a close eye on Murray and look to draft him if he’s still available on day three of the draft is the Arizona Cardinals, who would be a sensible landing spot for Murray.
The Cardinals and first-year head coach Bruce Arians need to be on the look out for their future quarterback in next year’s draft. Arizona has gotten by this season with veteran Carson Palmer, who has played well and kept them in contention into December. But while Palmer is still a viable NFL quarterback, he’s certainly on the back-end of his career, and may only have another year or two left as a starter that can put the team in position to win games on a weekly basis.
That’s where Murray comes in. The Cardinals wouldn’t need Murray to be their starter right away, as they could stick with Palmer for at least another season. So, it wouldn’t matter if the injury keeps Murray out for the entire 2014 season. By 2015, Murray would be in position to either challenge or succeed Palmer as Arizona’s quarterback, which could be the ideal scenario for the Cardinals moving forward.
If Arizona covets Murray, they would not have to use a high draft pick on him, nor would they have to pay him a high salary as a late-round draft pick. If Murray were to ultimately emerge as the starting quarterback in Arizona, they would be in the same boat that the division rival Seattle Seahawks are in now: having a young and talented starting quarterback that makes little money, allowing them to spend their money elsewhere.
That formula is working for the Seahawks, and it could work for the Cardinals as well. It may be the only way that Arizona can compete with Seattle in the NFC West on a yearly basis.
If the Cardinals choose to use a first-round pick on a quarterback, no one would blame them. But, Palmer gives them some flexibility and Murray gives them a chance to get a talented quarterback at a bargain price, and it would make a lot of sense if Arizona went that route and took a chance on Murray.