By Peter Andrisani (The Mock Draft Guy)
The Texas Longhorns have produced some awesome defensive linemen over time, but recently, it’s been exceptional. This year is no different, and quite honestly, it could be the best duo we’ve seen come out of Texas in a long time. You’ve already heard my spiel about T’Vondre Sweat, but the focal point of today’s prospect profile could be even better, and that’s Byron Murphy.
I don’t remember the last time a school had the best defensive lineman in the conference, and the best defensive player in the conference, with Byron Murphy winning the 2023 BIG 12 Defensive Lineman of the year. Murphy moved all over the defensive line in 2023, totaling 29 total tackles, 8.5 for a loss, and 5 sacks. In an expanded role, Murphy blossomed and showed an ability to be a disrupter on every snap, in multiple alignments.
Against the run, Murphy uses his quickness at the snap to get into gaps and immediately get backfield penetration. Murphy also displays good agility to cross the face of the guard while slanting. This results in Murphy being able to disrupt the track of run plays, forcing running backs to change their path. It also allows Murphy to pursue a play backside with the opportunity to make the play. Murphy is a plus-level athlete, which is shown by his lateral agility and reactionary athleticism reacting to the flow of the offensive play.
As a pass rusher, Murphy's quickness and leverage give him advantages to create pressure on the quarterback or get a sack. Murphy does a good job of immediately getting into a gap. Because he plays with low pad height, it is difficult for offensive linemen to get proper hand placement on him to stop his penetration. Murphy has plus-level functional play strength and can knock offensive linemen’s hands down with hand counters. Murphy is an active pass rusher who will consistently work through the duration of a play and will make plays simply by effort and retracing his steps.
Byron Murphy, like every other draft prospect, comes with areas that he can improve upon. Murphy is considered undersized for the position, standing at just 6’1 and weighing 308 pounds, Murphy lacks ideal mass, there are moments when he will struggle to hold the point of attack against double teams, Murphy also appears to have shorter arms for the position, so gaining leverage against bigger interior linemen can pose a problem.
Murphy doesn’t do the best job of keeping his legs churning once he meets the point of attack, if a more aggressive offensive lineman can get hands-on his body first, his feet stop moving, rendering his bull rush ineffective against double teams as well. Murphy also has a bad habit in run defense, while he can gain penetration pretty easily in on-one situations, he often has a tough time tackling shiftier running backs. Far too often I saw Murphy diving at the feet of the Quarterback or Running back, this goes back to Murphy not keeping his feet active enough. I believe this is easily fixable with pro-level coaching though.
In terms of a scheme fit for Byron Murphy, it seems that his best reps are when he is in a gap or has one-on-one blocks where he can use his functional strength to deconstruct blocks. It appears that Murphy will be best served as a 3-tech in a 4-3 scheme, because a 3-4 scheme may limit his best attributes, which are his first step explosiveness and use of leverage.
Here are 5 teams that I think could target Byron Murphy in the 2024 NFL Draft:
The Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings desperately need an upgrade at defensive tackle, and Murphy could make an instant impact in Brian Flores's Defensive scheme.
The Denver Broncos. The Broncos need a defensive line upgrade even more than the Vikings are. The Broncos need a disruptive presence up front, and that’s exactly what Murphy is.
The Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have some key free agents along the defensive line, even so, I think Murphy would be an upgrade over most of them.
The Houston Texans. The Texans have gotten some pretty surprising production out of Sheldon Rankins and Maliek Collins, but with a young defensive-minded head coach, they might look to add more young talent.
Finally, The Buffalo Bills. The Bills defensive line is an area that could use an upgrade. It’s a thin area group outside of Ed Oliver and Daquan Jones.
My Pro Comparison for Byron Murphy is Grady Jarrett. I know that’s high praise, but Murphy is deserving, and there are many similarities, including almost identical Height and weight. While Jarrett’s playing style fits better in the middle of a 3-4, he and Murphy both have elite first-step explosiveness and are a nightmare in on-one blocking situations. As a prospect, Murphy shows more flexibility and Fluidity than Jarrett did.
Overall, Murphy is an explosive defensive lineman with a high motor who has the physical traits to make disruptive game-changing plays in the right scheme. His ability to shed blocks in on one situation will make him a focal point in offensive game plans to try and limit. While Murphy was more of a backup his first 2 years at Texas, he settled in nicely in his junior season in a starting role and soared up draft boards. I think Byron Murphy will be a top-50 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft Class.
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