There are tons of fans and experts that have fallen in love with Washington cornerback Byron Murphy. Some have gone as far to say that he’s the best corner in the 2019 draft. As a redshirt sophomore, he had four interceptions and thirteen passes defended. Those stats really jump off the page for a college player, and make it easy for fans to develop a draft crush. Many Chiefs fans have written into ArrowheadGuys asking for a review on Murphy. With the need in the secondary, it would make sense to add a “top” tier corner in the draft.
Murphy is a six-foot, 175 pound corner that started his college career as a zone coverage specialist, but has since adapted his game to play both man and zone extremely well. He has great speed and short area quickness that allows him to break on short routes and turn and run in coverage. Being 175 pounds his frame is a little worrisome when it comes to stronger NFL receivers, but the ability to recover and catch up from behind aids him if he falters at the line. Murphy does tons of things well and while I was watching film on him I was impressed by his ability to affect receivers catch point. He’s the best corner in his class at pass breakups.
These two plays embody Murphy when it comes to breaking up passes. He always seems to be able to recover on the throw. Granted, neither throw is perfect, but in the first clip you see him sticking to his receiver on the in route and getting an outstretched arm on the ball as the receiver goes to catch it. I was more impressed with the second clip. He comes underneath the route and slaps the ball away from the receiver before he can make the touchdown catch.
The common denominator in these plays from Murphy is how calm he is when the ball is in the air. He doesn’t panic and finds ways to disrupt catches even when being out of perfect position. His athleticism allows him to make plays on the ball when it’s in the air better than most in his draft class.
I had quite a bit of fun watching his play recognition develop through his film. He either watches tons of film and can retain all of it at once or just has an innate ability to see what’s coming before it happens. Regardless of which one it is, it’s pretty great.
Not sure if Utah ran this play a bunch out of the same formation in 2018, but Murphy knew exactly what was coming before the snap. When the receiver goes in motion, Murphy gets closer to the line of scrimmage anticipating the bubble screen coming his way. On the snap he gets to the intended receiver in a split second, before the ball gets there. Makes the tackle before the play can even develop.
In the NFL this isn’t going to happen nearly as often, but his short area quickness that was on display above will allow him to get around blocks and still have the same impact in the screen game as he did in college. Even though Murphy isn’t a very sound tackler, it’s pretty routine to make a tackle on a guy that isn’t moving. He isn’t going to make a great impact in the run game due to his size, but in space he has the quickness to hit running backs and receivers low and trip them up.
Even though he doesn’t have the ideal bulk you’re looking for in a corner, he delivers hits above his weight grade. He does it with relative ease and always seems to find the ball with his shoulder pads.
Murphy’s responsibility is the outside receiver at the snap of the ball, but when he leaves his zone and the ball is thrown underneath, he’s alert enough to break on the short throw.. Utilizing his speed and quickness he meets the receiver turning to the outside with his shoulder pad. This huge hit lays out the receiver and jars the ball free for the incompletion.
His ability to time his hits with catches is impeccable. He has done this on multiple occasions and with his frame it’s a little shocking to me. But there’s no doubt he’s a football player, delivering hits like that on a gamely basis.
I don’t believe that Murphy is the turnover creator he’s been labeled as to this point in his career. Two of his interceptions were thrown directly at him, being bad throws. Then there’s this one.
The receiver runs a comeback route and beats Murphy back to ball badly. The unfortunate part is that he can’t make the catch in front of Murphy and the ball deflects off his hands, back up in the air off of his legs and into Murphy’s hands, he then runs it back to the house for the only touchdown of the game. Murphy tends to get beaten a lot on comeback routes and out routes. Not sure what he’s anticipating but doesn’t have a great feel for the outside or comebackers.
Overall, I haven’t been extremely impressed with the hype that comes with Murphy. I think playing in the Pac-12 helped boost his numbers a bit. A culmination of below average quarterback play and mediocre receivers contributed to Murphy putting up the numbers he did. His two worst games came against Auburn(SEC) and Ohio State(Big Ten). I don’t expect Murphy to fall to the Chiefs at 29 and I think trading up for a corner that can get pushed around by bigger NFL receiver is a mistake. But if Murphy doesn’t show well at the combine and were to fall, I wouldn’t be mad if he ended up a Chief. He has traits that I covet in his pass break up ability and play recognition. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think he’s as good as advertised. I hope he proves me wrong.