From Heisman to High Expectations

Tomorrow, Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, will make his first NFL start, and the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner will undoubtedly have high expectations. Every team hopes their first-round pick will make an immediate impact, especially when that first-round pick is the first-overall pick, but does history justify that expectation?

Let’s take a look at the last 10 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks selected before Murray: Baker Mayfield(2017), Lamar Jackson(2016), Marcus Mariota(2014), Jameis Winston(2013),Johnny Manziel(2012), Robert GriffinIII (2011), Cam Newton(2010), Sam Bradford(2008), Tim Tebow(2007), and Matt Leinart(2004).

Of these 10, only three went on to win rookie of the year: Bradford, Newton, and Griffin. Collectively, the 10 trophy winners would go 3-7 in their first starts and 48-63 in their rookie seasons. In fact, the only two that would win more games than they lost their rookie year would be Griffin (9-6) and Jackson (6-1).

Breaking it down even further, only four of the last 10 Heisman quarterbacks were selected first-overall: Bradford, Newton, Winston, and Mayfield. Not one of them would win their first start. They’d all finish their rookie seasons going a combined 25-36.

Does this mean Murray can’t make an immediate impact? Not necessarily, it just may not be reflected in the win/loss column right away. However, when we evaluate the two quarterbacks who won more games than they lost (Griffin and Jackson), we find that both quarterbacks were also blessed with the ability to use their feet. Griffin rushed for 815 yards and seven touchdowns in his Rookie of the Year campaign, and Jackson rushed for 696 yards with five touchdowns in 2018. In the opinion of many scouts, Murray enters the league as a better pure passer and runner than both Griffin and Jackson were at the time so while it may be improbable, it wouldn’t be impossible for K1 to turn the Cardinals around immediately.

Murray’s first test will be against the Detroit Lions this Sunday. The Cardinals may have faced the Lions seven times in the last eight years, but there will be very little familiarity come 1:25 pm (PT).

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