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Column: Aaron Murray is a potential NFL Draft sleeper - The Red and Black : Sports

Column: Aaron Murray is a potential NFL Draft sleeper

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  • Pro Day 2014

    Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray prepares to run drills at pro day 2014 in Athens, Ga. on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Pro day gives NFL scouts the chance to see individual athletes up close before the NFL draft.

    Photo © 2014/Diondra Powers, diondrap@uga.edu

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Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:00 am | Updated: 8:53 pm, Thu Apr 17, 2014.

Not even a torn ACL could keep Aaron Murray off the field for long.

Scouts from 23 different NFL teams were on hand for Georgia's Pro Day, and you'd have to bet that many of them came to see the former Bulldogs quarterback. To offer some perspective, the event itself was pushed back for the sole reason of allowing Murray a chance to throw before the NFL Draft and prove to teams that he was indeed healthy.

There was no 40 time, no bench press or any of the other traditional measurable drills. But after making more than 50 throws on a variety of routes and from a wide range of angles and positions, it seemed like the Tampa, Fla., native got what he wanted.

“I think today showed these teams that they don’t have to worry about the knee, they don’t have to worry about someone that might not be able to participate in OTAs, preseason, the season,” Murray said. “That should help come draft time, but we’ll see.”

Murray looked confident on the knee. Almost all of his passes were on point.

Even ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who sat down with Murray on the now-famous (or infamous) "Gruden's QB Camp" series last week, has been impressed.

“"I'd be surprised if he doesn't go in the third round. Maybe higher," Gruden said to USA Today. "He's a coach on the field."

And really, the cerebral facets of the game, which pro scouts certainly covet in quarterbacks, and the intangibles have always been some of Murray's strongest traits. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, typically conservative with his compliments, consistently raved about his quarterback's leadership abilities and work ethic.

And as one of the most prolific passers in the history of the Southeastern Conference, and a player with four years of starting experience, teams will be drafting a polished product.

Sure, several detractors will engage in lazy analysis that usually revolves around his height: one half-inch over 6-foot. Have we forgotten about Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, who can make the necessary throws despite lacking the prototypical 6-foot-5 Peyton Manning frame?

Blaine Gabbert's "ideal" height did not prevent him from becoming a pro-style disappointment. Quarterback height is nothing if not a "First Take" talking point: easy to digest and requiring little background understanding.

If we are discussing legitimate concerns about Murray's game, they might include his ability to connect on some of the deeper, timing passing routes.

“Able to make all the throws. We’re throwing deep outs, comebacks digs,” Murray said. “[I want to show] that I’m able to throw the ball down the field to compete at the next level.”

I would be lying if I said he wowed in this area at Pro Day, though having the brace on his left knee - the "plant" foot, which typically affects accuracy — may have played a factor.

At the same time, there's not a whole lot of new information scouts can gather from any school's Pro Day. Anybody, as former defensive lineman Garrison Smith so eloquently explains, can look good in shorts and a T-shirt.

"There’s a lot of T-shirt All-Americans out there. Alot of guys that can look good running the 40, running the drills. But when you put them pads on, they don’t look that good. That’s not football,” Smith said. “That’s why I say look at my film. Look at my game tape.”

Scouts will no doubt emphasize the same with Murray. Four years of production are typically not erased by size concerns or freak injuries, and the most important factor working in his favor is the track record he will carry into the NFL.

Wednesday's workout was about the knee. In the opinion of this writer, who admittedly has zero medical or professional scouting experience, Murray looked comfortable throwing with the brace.

The longtime Georgia quarterback is expected to go in the fourth round, according to cbssports.com. Some project he will go later. However, I believe a team will draft him even earlier than the fourth.

His passion is easy for fans to see, as are all the intangibles. Now all he needs is one NFL front office to agree.

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