Washington football is the true DBU, and the redshirt sophomore headlines a strong class that will be coach Jimmy Lake’s next entries to the NFL.
Washington football’s Byron Murphy has been outstanding in his first full season with the Husky defense. With four interceptions and 13 passes defensed this season, quarterbacks had a hard time throwing at Murphy, who has more than lived up to the high expectations he had around him coming out of high school.
After sitting for a year behind Sidney Jones and Kevin King, Murphy shined in his first year as a Husky before breaking his foot before Pac-12 play began. He impressed during the final three games of the season, including making an incredible interception in the back of the end zone on Trace McSorley during the Fiesta Bowl.
This season, we’ve seen Murphy perform at another level, allowing 25 receptions on a meager 48 targets. His 13 pass breakups are also good for fifth in the country this season, not bad for a guy who gets targeted on average under four times per game. Murphy also played a key role in slowing future first-round wide receiver N’Keal Harry to his worst game of the season, and second worst of his career, catching five passes for only 20 yards. He also the highest graded corner in all of college football by Pro Football Focus.
Murphy is a hard-worker who is excellent in press coverage, and he plays big for a guy listed at 5’11, 182. He’s super athletic and a great playmaker with incredible ball skills. He knows how to mirror and stick to a receiver and is quick to react on comeback routes. Murphy has also shown off an ability to fit in any system, whether he needs to play man, zone, or even slide inside to the nickel, even though his skill set fits best on the outside.
He is an excellent tackler for his size and knows how to lay the boom on anyone in his way. Murphy can come down and offer great support in the run game when he’s needed to as well. He can come downhill to set an edge, but it’s nowhere near what his pass coverage ability is.
The only thing holding Murphy back from being mentioned in the same category as LSU’s Greedy Williams, who is the CB1 for most scouts, is his size. Murphy’s 5’11 frame has caused most scouts to project him to play as a nickel back at the next level. A comparison that bodes well for Murphy when it comes to his size is Denzel Ward, who is also listed at 5’11.
If Murphy can retain his athleticism and put on around 10 pounds by the combine, scouts would probably not view him in that same light. Putting on that weight and proving that he can hold the edge might discourage scouts from insisting he can’t play the outside.
Cleveland Browns- The Browns need a second corner to play opposite Denzel Ward, and Murphy perfectly fits the mold. Two strong corners who can go man to man with anyone will fit well with the Browns, especially when they are trying to build a contender that has to face off with Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster twice a year. The Browns also have the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs are the 30th rated overall defense, and the 28th ranked pass defense. 2016 first round pick Vernon Hargreaves hasn’t worked out the way the organization hoped, and they’re in desperate need of a lockdown corner. The Bucs have won too many games to contend for a top-five pick, so Murphy should fall right into their lap.
Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs probably won’t be able to scoop up Murphy with their projected pick, but they desperately need a cornerback. Murphy would step in and probably be the number one corner right away, sliding Kendall Fuller to the number two slot and allowing Orlando Scandrick to play inside.
Murphy truly does fit anywhere, and could also be a great fit with the Oakland Raiders or Cincinnati Bengals. With the passing trends that we’ve seen throughout the NFL this season, Murphy would be a key piece for any defense.
Projection- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are DESPERATE for a cornerback, and Murphy could have a defensive rookie of the year type impact in Tampa. They have some tough receivers to defend in the NFC South, and Murphy could make an impact against guys like D.J Moore in Carolina, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in Atlanta, and Michael Thomas with New Orleans. The Buccaneers need some kind of pass defense if they want any shot in their division, and Murphy could be a building block for that secondary, who used a second-round pick on Carlton Davis, but he needs a lot more help.