Kyler Murray is one of the most exciting and explosive players in football. Containing an athletic skill set usually reserved for wide receivers, Murray is among the more unique quarterbacks in the league.
The 40-yard dash is one of the most common measuring sticks for a player’s speed and athleticism, but Murray didn’t run at his draft combine as most players do.
In this article, I’ll take a look at the film and past performances to get an idea of what Murray’s 40 times could be and how this game-breaking speed can be utilized at the highest level.
- Murray didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash at the NFL draft combine, leaving us to speculate and estimate what his true 40 times may be.
- Looking at in-game film and the few 40 times available allows us to estimate Murray’s 40-yard dash time to be between 4.35 and 4.40.
- Mobile quarterbacks are becoming more prevalent in the NFL, providing offenses with a unique advantage over traditional pocket passers.
Why Didn’t Kyler Murray Run at the NFL Combine?
The potential injury risk seemed to play a major role in Murray’s decision. “I’d like to get out there and run, but I don’t think it’s that necessary for me,” Murray told ESPN. “I didn’t want to pull anything before I get a chance to throw. I think the film speaks for itself.” 
This wasn’t a one-time decision. Murray hadn’t run a timed 40-yard dash in more than two years as he also neglected to run at his pro-day workout. It’s not unheard of for top-end prospects to pass up some combined drills. Murray’s game-breaking speed was already evident in his college film and attempting a 40-yard sprint after two years could lead to a subpar time. As the best QB in the draft class, there was nowhere for his stock to go but down. 
Estimating Kyler Murray’s 40-Yard Time
While I can’t get Murray’s 40-yard time down to the hundredth of a second, I can still get a general idea of what it would have been. Murray did run a 40-yard dash in 2017 as a freshman at Oklahoma where he clocked an unofficial time of 4.38. 
Steve Ruiz at USA Today also looked at Murray’s college film, finding instances where he ran 40 yards or more. While this is different from the controlled environment of the combine, Ruiz managed to extrapolate a few realistic times similar to Murray’s speed in 2017. 
Ruiz noted that Murray ran 45 yards in 4.44 seconds which extrapolates to a 40 time under 4.4 seconds. The fact that Murray did this in full pads, in a game, with defenders chasing him makes it easy to estimate that he could come close to several combine records if he’d chosen to run.
Perhaps a better way to measure Murray’s theoretical 40 times is to compare his in-game tape to other noted speed demons. WR Tyreek Hill is one of the fastest players in the NFL, and Murray’s 45-yard scamper compares favorably to Tyreek Hill over similar distances. Hill did run at the combine in 2016, clocking a 4.29. This may be on the high end of Murray’s speed when looking at the few data points I have, but the fact that he and Hill are in the same stratosphere is amazing. 
How Kyler Murray Compares to Other Quarterbacks
Even leaning on the conservative side of the spectrum, and assuming that Murray’s 40 time is somewhere between 4.35 and 4.40, that still puts Murray in the pantheon of fastest quarterbacks.
4.35 puts Murray tantalizingly close to the #1 spot held by Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III. At worst it seems Murray can be no lower than a tie for fourth with current Bears Quarterback Justin Fields.
40-times can fluctuate too, with Griffin III also measuring a time of 4.41, so Murray on a good day could theoretically post the best time of any quarterback.
One notable name missing from this list is Ravens QB, Lamar Jackson. Like Murray, he also chose to forego the 40-yard dash at the combine. He does claim an unofficial time of 4.34 in 2017 while playing for Louisville .
How Murray’s Speed Translates to Games
We can debate and estimate 40 times all day, but what does all of this mean for in-game performance? Take a look at the chart above again. Not many of them can be considered “successful” NFL QBs despite their incredible athleticism. The success rate for QBs is low, to begin with, and some like Robert Griffin III had their careers derailed by injuries.
In the last twelve years, the NFL has started to embrace mobile, running quarterbacks more and more.
It’s not linear, but the percentage of a team’s rushing yards and touchdowns credited to Quarterbacks has been rising since 2010. Instead of teams shoehorning running QBs like Michael Vick into traditional offenses, teams have begun to embrace the chaos and field-stretching potential of athletes like Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson. Perhaps the biggest shift in this mentality came in the 2012 playoffs when 49ers QB Colin Kapernick eviscerated the Green Bay defense.
It hasn’t been a clean transition, future MVP Lamar Jackson reported that one team wanted to draft him as a WR instead . But as more teams experiment with this player type, the benefits are becoming more and more apparent.
Mobile, fast-twitch quarterbacks can extend plays with their legs, moving outside the pocket and buying time for their receivers to get open. Forcing defenders to guard for 5+ seconds is almost impossible without someone breaking free.
The constant threat of a running quarterback also requires the defense to commit one or more players to keep them contained. Known as the “QB Spy” this is usually a linebacker or defensive back whose only job is to watch the quarterback and make sure they don’t take off running.
Having one less player in coverage or blitzing alters the math, stretching the rest of the defense thin.
Shotgun and pistol formations have also become more popular and they open up a cornucopia of option-style plays for fast quarterbacks. These go by a variety of names like Run/Pass Option (RPO) and other wordy football-speak. 
But the holes it can create in a defense with a fast quarterback that can read a defense and make quick decisions can feel impossible to stop when executed properly. While Kyler Murray may or may not be a step faster, perhaps no quarterback has done more with these option-style plays than Lamar Jackson.
How Much Does a 40-Time Matter
A good 40 times in a controlled environment can provide a data point for potential success in the NFL. But as we’ve seen, it is not a guarantee for superstardom. Many players have caught the attention of fans and teams with blazing speed but never provided much production.
Thus far Kyler Murray seems to be closer to the top of the list of fast quarterbacks. But he remains a tier or two removed from the best at the position at this time. His smaller stature makes it tougher for him to find open receivers behind big offensive linemen. Questions have also been raised about some facets of his game that are hard to quantify such as his ability to diagnose defenses and his commitment to film study. 
But his speed and mobility certainly have raised his floor and provided the Cardinals with a player that’s a threat to break off a big run or pass every time the ball is snapped.