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2019 NFL Draft profile: Byron Murphy gives secondary speed, playmaking ability

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Washington might be the new DBU.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret, the Detroit Lions’ secondary has gotten shredded all year. With Teez Tabor getting benched for a UDFA, Darius Slay not playing up to par to what we’re used to seeing, and the rest of the secondary struggling, the cornerback position has skyrocketed to the top of the Lions’ needs heading into the offseason.

Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme change has given the defense some growing pains. We’ve seen a lot more man-coverage than we’re used to seeing, and that hasn’t worked alongside the strengths of many of our current DBs. The Lions need a fast, physical corner opposite of Darius Slay who can succeed in man-coverage. There should be enough of those to choose from for the front office if they take a corner early.

One of my favorite corners so far in this draft is Washington cornerback, Byron Murphy.

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

5-foot-11, 182 pounds

2017 stats: 6 games | 13 solo tackles | 16 total | 3 TFL | 1 sack | 2 INTs | 7 PDs | 1 FF
2018 stats: 12 games | 37 solo tackles | 55 total | 4 TFL | 2 INTs | 12 PDs | 1 FF

Current draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Background

From Washington’s SB Nation site, UW Dawg Pound:

It’s hard to believe but it’s not impossible that Husky fans only get 1.5 healthy seasons of Byron Murphy before he heads to the NFL. But that’s an acceptable downside of recruiting an elite prospect with such clear NFL potential (a top-100 national recruit). Murphy showed from day one last year that he was ready for prime time when he had two interceptions in the season opener against Rutgers. Unfortunately, he suffered a leg injury in practice which caused him to miss seven games in the middle of the season. Murphy returned for the final three contests and finally looked healthy by the Fiesta Bowl when he had seven tackles, one sack, and one interception.

Accolades: 2018 Bednarik Award Semifinalist

Murphy was a highly-touted recruit out of Scottsdale, Arizona with offers from over 20 big name universities. He ended up choosing Washington over his home state school offers, mostly due to academics, but it’s hard to ignore the success of the Huskies program when it comes to defensive backs.

Strengths

  • Plays much bigger than his size and loves to deliver big hits. Willing as tackler and wants to be involved in the run game.
  • Elite change of direction and lightning quick when clicking and closing in zone/bail coverage.
  • Smooth as butter in coverage. Very fluid with his movements and is a great athlete, to boot.
  • Good ball skills, great instincts. Has a good feel for where the QB is going with the ball before it is even thrown when in bail-coverage.
  • Mirrors well in man-coverage. Quick feet and good speed to stay in the hip pocket of his receiver.

Weaknesses

  • Currently too small to play on the outside (listed somewhere between 175 and 184 pounds).
  • Will get outmuscled at the top of routes and give up catches despite good coverage. Needs to add on some extra muscle leading up to the combine.
  • Has shown the ability to deliver blows, but hasn’t shown proper technique or consistency wrapping up.
  • Sometimes trusts in his ability too much and will give up a little extra room in coverage, leading to a completion.

Games watched: 2018 vs. Utah, 2017 vs. Penn State, 2017 vs. Rutgers, 2017 vs. Washington State

Overview and Projection

The most important thing for Byron Murphy is to pack on some extra weight and some extra muscle heading into the NFL combine, much like what former Washington DB Sidney Jones was faced with. If he can add on at least an extra 15 pounds, I think he has what it takes to play outside corner full-time in the NFL.

Currently, Murphy is slotted to go in the mid-to-late first round, which will likely be a little later than where the Lions should end up picking. I could see him lighting up the combine and going anywhere in the top-15, though. I like him a lot more than I did Budda Baker a couple years back, who went early in the second round, and I think Murphy should test better with explosion numbers and similar with speed and agility scores to Baker. If Murphy’s stock stays in its current range, then the Lions might need to trade down or hope that he falls to their second-round pick if they want him.

In terms of fit, Patricia’s scheme may not be the best place for Murphy to go, but I believe that he is more than capable of succeeding here, regardless. He is the type of player that should succeed anywhere and if you can’t figure out a way to use him, then you’ve got a big problem.

I think Murphy would be a great addition for the Lions who are desperately needing talent opposite Darius Slay. Unlike most of Detroit’s current CB stable, Murphy has elite recovery speed and you won’t often see him getting beaten by the deep ball. His ability to mirror in man-coverage is something that the Lions are greatly lacking and he’s even better with his eyes on the QB. Murphy is a pure playmaker in the secondary and I believe he could step in on Day 1 and start making plays for the Lions.