The Arizona Cardinals secure their future behind Patrick Peterson with the selection of Washington cornerback Byron Murphy.
Steve Keim neglected their need for offensive linemen and wide receivers to add a first round talent that seemingly fell to their laps at No. 33 overall. The selection, Byron Murphy, looks to be a day-one starter in the Cardinals defense, and as a hometown kid (Saguaro High), it’s hard not to root for him.
Measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 190-pounds, Murphy isn’t a physically imposing cornerback. Nor did he turn heads at the combine with a performance including a 4.55 second 40-yard-dash, 36.5-inch vertical, and 120-inch broad jump. But, what he lacks in measurables and testable athleticism, Murphy makes up in ball-skills, tenacity, technique, and football IQ.
In Murphy’s final season of play at Washington, he tallied 50 total tackles, four interceptions, and nine pass deflections. Per Pro Football Focus, he also allowed 320 yards for three touchdowns and a 54.5 passer rating. He finished 2018 with an elite PFF grade of 92.0 including a coverage grade of 92.1 and a run defense grade of 86.7.
Murphy isn’t just an analytics hero. His tape is impressive, which has earned him high grades from well-respected draft pundits. ESPN’s Todd McShay had Murphy as his 27th best player, while Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had him at No. 18, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had him ranked at No. 20.
Perhaps the most instinctual and physical cornerback in the 2019 NFL Draft, Murphy has a knack for finding the ball and making a play on it. He’s a well-coached player as he’s disciplined in zone coverage, and technically proficient as an off-man coverage cornerback.
But Murphy is best set as a zone coverage cornerback. He’s a ball-hawk cornerback with excellent concentration and abilities to read quarterback eyes. As a quick-twitch athlete, Murphy can sit behind wide receivers, bait them open, and make a play on the ball. Trust me, he does this often.
When you combine burst, tenacity, a knack of playing the ball, football intelligence, and solid size, you get an excellent zone coverage cornerback; which is exactly what Murphy is. But he’s not just that.
One of the best aspects of Murphy’s game is his versatility. The skill set that makes him so good in zone coverage translates perfectly to the inside and vice-versa. Murphy may not be best set to immediately play in the NFL in press-man because of his lack of speed, and developing back-pedal, but he’s shown the ability to shadow receivers at a high level.
Ultimately, Murphy fell to No. 33 overall for a reason. He’s only played in 20 career games, isn’t the most physically imposing cornerback, and isn’t technically refined in press-man coverage to make up for his lack of speed. But Cardinals fans should be ecstatic about this pick as the team gets a high upside prospect in the second that should start immediately in a much-improved defense.
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