NAME: Byron Murphy
CLASS: RS Sophomore
JERSEY: No. 1
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 175 lbs
Man Cover Skills – Sublime stickiness playing man to man coverage. Has necessary short area quickness and footwork needed to play turn and run coverage effectively from the line of scrimmage. Illustrates adequate length and has requisite play strength to not get bumped off at top of route stems.
Zone Cover Skills –Intelligence is apparent very quickly. Does well with eyes in the backfield to feet developing routes and shade as necessary to position for a challenge of the football. Understanding of route concepts and where teams are attempting to attack is impressive.
Feet/Change of Direction –Delightful feet. Choppy steps and elite foot quickness, either in backpedals or transitioning out of bail technique to pick up ground and explode into a challenge. Has good lateral step along the line of scrimmage to mirror and challenge receivers.
Ball Skills –Angles when looking for the football are excellent. Awareness in space and timing to arrive and meet the football are effective in preventing premature arrivals. Active hands. Has hauled in several turnover opportunities and has yielded great ball production.
Flexibility –Effortless mover who plays with unreal transitional quickness. Can flip the hips and carry speed effortlessly. Torso mobility allows for ample shoulder swing to look back and find the football on vertical challenges. Dynamic base for hard cuts and breaks.
Acceleration –Very good click and close ability. Has explosive burst from over-top leverage and can close ground quickly to undercut throws and attack the football. Possesses necessary long speed to play isolated deep coverage in one on one situations.
Zone Spacing –Mobility, anticipation and ball skills result in high overlap and ample opportunities to challenge the football. Does well to hold his water and peel off an initial stem to protect from overrunning delayed routes. Reach and wingspan supplement for catch point challenges from afar.
Competitive Toughness –Plays like a heavyweight hitter, provides explosive hits and drops the pads on all comers. Fearless flying up into the flats and when playing in rally support to the football. Shows good aggression with his hands to stab and jolt blockers or receivers at the LOS.
Run Support –Hits much harder than his weight would indicate. Scrappy to fight through contact and is quick to discard of a block and uncover on the boundary. Awareness as a tackler to alter his challenges based on the size/speed of the ball carrier.
Tackling –Meets requisite traits from a length, weight and functional strength perspective. Smart tackler who will attack the football in a pile. Has explosive pads that have punished ball carriers, both aware and unaware of his arrival after the catch.
PROSPECT COMPARISON – Kyle Fuller
BEST TRAIT – Zone Cover Skills
WORST TRAIT – Run Support
BEST FILM – Utah (2018)
WORST FILM – Auburn (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Byron Murphy is an elite prospect who can plug into just about any system at play at a high level. Murphy has surreal mobility and polish for a younger prospect. His explosiveness, ball skills and route recognition skills make him a great fit to play in both shallow and short zones. Murphy would have little issue stepping up and filling on the boundary or contesting shallow throws in front of his face. Murphy has the upside to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL by the end of year 3.
Feet – Exceptionally balanced and quick feet. Blends patience with clean transitions and elite burst. Explosive plant and drive skills when breaking forward. Has no issues pattern matching and his change of direction ability is rare.
Man Coverage – Blends quickness and fluidity with astute mirroring skills. Has a natural feel for anticipating routes with the ability to remain in phase with anyone. Often finishes running the route for the receiver. Sticky and competitive.
Tackling – Closes in on receivers with purpose and intent. Has a consistently low aiming point. Rarely gives up large amounts of separation so not only can he close in a hurry but the distance is often minimal. Plays well above his weight class. There are some reps on tape where he unnecessarily leaves his feet and dives into the ball carrier instead of squaring and wrapping up.
IQ/Awareness – Tremendous ability to anticipate routes. Knows how to layer coverage and squeeze throwing lanes. Finds the football in the air. Has a natural feel to coverage spacing and knows how to leverage routes. Diagnoses route combinations rapidly with an understanding of what the play concept is intended to achieve and how to take that away.
Physicality – Willing to mix it up in the contact widow, use his hands to redirect routes, crowd receivers and play a disruptive style of football. Plays above his weight class when corners are aggressive with him at the release or at the top of routes. Brings good contact power for his size.
Ball Skills – Modest length works against him but has a natural feel for the balls arrival and how to extend his arms and disrupt at the catch point. Plays with precise timing and technique when breaking on the football. Mitts are reliable to secure interceptions. Game slows down for him at the catch point. Does well to scrape at the football as an assisted tackler.
Press Technique – Will stalk receivers at the line of scrimmage and operates from a balanced base. Gets his hands into the framework of the receiver to achieve firm jams. Has redirect power in his hands. Recovery speed allows him to be aggressive.
Flexibility – Loose and fluid in his hips, ankles and torso. Has smooth and explosive change of direction skills and cleanly transitions. Plays with great bend and leverage. Springy and explosive mover. He glides moving in all directions.
Versatility – Can fit in any scheme and play any technique at a high level. Love him in zone, press, man, off-man… he does it all. Can be a touch more consistent in run support but it’s a fairly minor gripe. Has been an effective blitzer and features tremendous ball skills.
BEST TRAIT – Coverage
WORST TRAIT – Run Support
RED FLAGS –
Murphy’s fluidity, quickness, speed, ability to mirror routes, press technique, zone awareness and ball skills make him a scheme-transcendent talent. He features lockdown coverage skills with the ability to make game-changing plays on the football. He may have only started 20 games in college but his football IQ and athletic ability is good enough to contribute right away. Murphy has the potential to be among the top cornerbacks in the NFL by year three.
Vertical Coverage – Almost always bailing from press alignment into shuffle technique, which makes it tough to get vertical on him. I watched seven games and he was targeted vertically with a catchable ball like 3-4 times. Seems to have the speed to match outside receivers down the field, and has the quickness to recover when he gives up some early separation.
Fluidity/Agility – Fluid hips and pretty smooth transitions in his footwork in coverage. Frenetic pace does impact his balance at times, but when he’s under control, has easy movement skills to flip and run with receivers or collect and close on an underneath route. Stickiness to stay connected even against sharp cuts is impressive.
Ball Skills – Playing a lot of zone and off-man coverage allowed him post strong ball production with his eyes consistently on the quarterback. Does a good job targeting the ball in coverage, but knows when he’s too late and needs to separate man from ball too. Can get up to contest the catch point and adjust to balls outside his frame as well. Can he find the ball vertically with his back to it? Wasn’t tested in that way often, made one great PBU vs Oregon like this though.
Click-and-Close – Excellent closing speed on the ball from off-coverage. Isn’t overly twitched-up, but plays with excellent anticipation and is always ready to attack forward. Has forced a ton of incompletions/PBUs with physicality at the catch point due to strong recognition and breaks on the ball.
Press Ability – Big area of concern for Murphy. Got posted up by receivers on in-breaking routes at times and rarely impacted the release game when he was in press coverage. Tough and physical, but too small and lacks the length or consistent technique to disrupt receivers, putting himself behind or off-balance early in the rep. He’s patient and not overly sloppy, but I can’t see a press-man heavy NFL team coveting him as an outside cornerback early in the draft.
Route Recognition – Elite vision and mental processing in zone coverage. Rarely caught out of position and closes down on patterns quickly. Works through route combinations with quick recognition to arrive at his assignment in time to contest throwing windows. When he gets high-lowed in zone coverage, has a tendency to bite up and allow the ball behind him. Gave up a RZ touchdown vs UCLA in this way. Has to make better decisions on when to jump routes.
Tackling – Generally solid form and consistent intensity as a tackler. No hesitation, closes quickly and has surprise hitting power for a smaller cornerback. Closes down space between himself and the receiver before his opponent can transition to a runner. At times he’ll launch a shoulder at an opponent or drop his eyes/head and come up empty as a tackler.
Run Support – Effort, intensity and physicality are elite. Active eyes to find the football when it bounces and turn runs back inside. Flies up to beat blockers to spots and help out on tackles near the edge. Brings it against receivers on the outside, push-pulling and working his hands furiously to get off blocks. There will be some physical matchups he’ll have a tough time winning when taking on blocks and tackling.
Competitive Toughness – Exceptionally scrappy and tough. Hangs in against bigger receivers in the run game. Never hesitates to stick his nose in the box as a run defender. Strong effort to get in on the action when the ball goes away from him.
Athleticism/Size – Small corner with narrow shoulders and a wiry frame. Average height and below average weight for a corner, but a smooth athlete with good long speed. Should test fine for the position.
BEST TRAIT – Route Recognition
WORST TRAIT – Press Ability
RED FLAGS – None
In a weak cornerback class, the safety of acquiring a player like Murphy at the position is attractive, as he should check athletic boxes and shows some exceptional instincts and awareness in off/zone coverage. Murphy made a lot of plays on routes breaking in front of him, closing with physicality and a nose for the football.
I do think there are concerns with Murphy in press-man coverage, as he can lose physical exchanges at the line of scrimmage and at the top of the route. His best fit in the NFL may ultimately come as a nickel corner, especially considering how active he is against the run, but in the right scheme he can still be an asset on the outside. Murphy may not fit every defense, but he’ll be a top three cornerback on the roster of the teams that do know how to use him right away. The only question is how much you value what he offers compared to traditional Round 1 corners, but I’ll take him on my squad.
PROS: Silky smooth corner who looks to make plays. Has fluidity to fully hinge his hips and redirect, with good explosiveness in all directions. Change of direction ability while connected to larger wide receivers particularly impresses. Loves to play in deep third zone or in side-shuffle with downfield leverage to keep his eyes on the quarterback. Knows where all of the routes are around him and is always looking for an opportunity to jump and make a play, which leads to multiple INTs and PBUs but also missed assignments. Has great closing burst to attack the football in the air and can make catches away from his frame with good ball tracking.
Despite smallish frame, loves to come up and hit–will get low and put his crown in the ball-carriers gut; has caused multiple FFs and incompletions with willingness to drive and strike. Good recognition ability allows him to play so aggressively. Has good press technique, though is limited by frame. Very patient when soft-shoeing with excellent foot placement and fluidity. Can plant and explode to come back against curl and stop routes, though will occasionally take too many gather steps.
CONS: Small frame limits him a press corner and as a tackler. Can’t really create displacement in the press while remaining balanced; does well to attack catch point but may be limited by length. Bites ankles as a tackler in space despite quick feet, resorting to lunges unnecessarily. Not going to be a significant run-fill player, which casts some shadow over a potential transition to nickel that may be in his future.
Will go all out to make impact plays and leave his defense exposed. Attacks for PBUs that he has no chance of making and fails to wrap up with trail arm as a contingency plan, thereby allowing for YAC. Plays soft in his zones and doesn’t like to get connected to receivers in an attempt to lure QBs into risky throws, but often gives up unnecessary completions in this effort. Does not locate the football quickly down the field when turning his head, which exacerbates the length to catch point issue. May be relegated to nickel duties given diminutive stature, but has a profile to be an excellent cover man therein.