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Who Is The Russell Wilson Of The 2014 NFL Draft?

By Joe Halverson - Posted: 02/07/14 05:13AM UTC
Russell Wilson has gone from 3rd round pick to Super Bowl champ in just two seasons.
Russell Wilson has gone from 3rd round pick to Super Bowl champ in just two seasons.

It's official:  Russell Wilson the biggest draft steal of the decade.

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In retrospect, the fact that Wilson lasted until the 75th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft seems like a complete joke.  Wilson had just completed a remarkable college career that saw him earn All-League honors in two different conferences, lead the nation in passing efficiency while picking up a pro-style offense on the fly, and post off-the-charts scores on the intangibles of the position. 

But Wilson's lack of height - at 5'11", he is the shortest quarterback in the league - led to every single team to pass on him at least once, and even Seattle's selection in the third round was met with controversy at the time.  Little did anyone (except perhaps Pete Carroll and John Schneider) know that Wilson would be the starter from day one, becoming the fourth quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl win in his second year and setting a new record for wins by a quarterback in his first two seasons.

Wilson's success - much like that of former 6th rounder Tom Brady - is the latest reminder that great quarterbacks are often found far from the top of the NFL Draft.  He also stands as proof that undersized signal-callers can have great success as long as they can make the throws that need to be made. 

And there's a quarterback in Athens who is poised to take advantage.

Aaron Murray will be a tremendous value to whichever team selects him in the NFL Draft.
Aaron Murray will be a tremendous value to whichever team selects him in the NFL Draft.

Aaron Murray's profile should sound very familiar.  A four-year starter at Georgia who has held the job since day one of his redshirt freshman season, Murray is the Southeastern Conference's all-time leader in both passing yards and touchdowns.  He also racked up a 35-17 record and guided the Bulldogs to within an eyelash of the BCS Championship as a junior, carving up Alabama's defense but ultimately coming up just short in the SEC title game.

Murray is somewhat undersized (6'1") but can make all the throws, and his decision making - he threw 121 touchdowns to just 41 interceptions in his career - is as good as it gets.  He has also spent his entire collegiate career running a pro-style offense, which gives him a leg up over most college quarterbacks in this year's draft. 

As a prospect, Murray is much closer to Drew Brees - another undersized quarterback with a Super Bowl ring - than Russell Wilson.  Murray does not possess Wilson's phenomenal mobility in the pocket (though few quarterbacks do), and the torn ACL that ended his season prematurely will probably scare off some teams. 

But Murray figures to be fully recovered in time for his April pro day, and any team who is concerned about the rehabilitation causing him to miss the Senior Bowl only needs to look at the 52 games he did start to make a strong evaluation of his talent.

NFL teams have taken note of Russell Wilson's success and are on the lookout for the next undervalued quarterback prospect who could make an immediate impact.  Aaron Murray sure looks the part, so much so that his NFL Draft rating among quarterbacks is nearly identical to Wilson's two years ago.  If that is not a neon sign pointing the way, I don't know what is.

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