Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford (6-6, 261)
In a relatively weak defensive end class, Stanford’s Trent Murphy looks to be established as one of the top options behind Jadeveon Clowney as we enter draft season. Alternately lining up as both a hybrid-linebacker and defensive end in the Cardinal’s 3-4 scheme, the fifth-year senior led the nation in sacks in 2013 with 14, while also racking up 21.5 tackles for loss over the 13 games.
Murphy is arguably the top defensive player in the Pac-12 and, as highlighted in this feature from November by SI’s Stewart Mandel, fits the prototypical mould of the blue-collar pass rusher to a T, both background-wise and in playing-style.
A former track star, the 6-6, 260-pound Murphy flashes a unique blend of size, speed, balance and reach. While he may not be the most nimble pass-rusher in the 2014 class, it would be a mistake to dismiss him as simply a ‘try-hard guy’. He’s not flashy and explosive like some of his peers towards the top of the draft, being only adequate in his change-of-direction and lateral movement, but overall is plenty athletic for the next level – 7/10
For a player his size, Murphy is surprisingly adept in coverage, with Stanford’s defensive scheme in 2013 asking much more of him in this department. He is used as a nickel backer at times and gets into his drops quickly, showing good diagnostic skills and looking comfortable when he is able to keep things in front of him. He does a good job getting physical and using his hands to reroute receivers who come into his area but where he understandably can get into trouble is when he is forced to change direction quickly and flip his hips. However, his limitations here aren’t so severe that they would prevent him from playing as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. – 6/10
Murphy is at his best off the edge, where he can use his speed to bend the corner, demonstrating an effective spin move, as well as the quickness and flexibility to dip his shoulder and lean around. He also uses the bull-rush with effectiveness, playing low and pumping his legs to get the leverage he needs when attacking from a three-point stance, but needs to be more consistent on counter moves. If explosive enough from the snap, he is capable of crossing the face of the tackle or putting his blocker on skates to take him back into the pocket, showing a late burst to accelerate, where he keeps his eyes in the backfield and chases down the quarterback if they hang onto the ball too long. – 8/10
Read and React
Murphy is an instinctive player, who shows good awareness on the field, getting an edge in the fight to the ball thanks to his ability to anticipate the snap. He recognises blocking schemes quickly and also does a great job reading the quarterback, with seven passes defended and an interception returned for a touchdown in 2013. – 8/10
A sure run defender, who knows his assignments, Murphy uses his impressive wingspan to stack and control the edge. He works hard to get down the line if the play gets away from him but lacks the speed to consistently contain quicker backs when lined up away from the line of scrimmage. – 8/10
Murphy’s strength and long arms are a huge asset in his ability to defeat blocks but he can also use a subtle pass-rush moves to catch his opponents off balance, particularly from the linebacker position. However, he looks much better attacking from a three-point stance, where he plays much lower and with more power and leverage, sliding by offensive tackles when unblocked on the edge. There has been some talk of him playing as a 3-4 end but, while he can anchor as a 5-technique or kick inside to tackle in even fronts every so often, a fulltime role there would clearly be ill-suited to his skillset. That highlighted versatility however is an obvious bonus. – 8/10
Murphy is not a quick-twitch athlete but has enough explosiveness from his stance to accelerate past the tackle cleanly at times, particularly when rushing from the left side. His top-end speed is only average but he shows a good second burst which is evident in his ability to close when the ball-carrier is near. – 7/10
Murphy shows solid strength at the point of attack, with good leverage on the edge, getting under pads and moving tackles into the backfield. He has the type of upper-body strength to make him an effective bull-rusher in the NFL but must improve using his hands to consistently disengage from blocks. For someone with clearly a lot of natural power, you would like to see him use it more, as he tries to attack with speed too often. – 8/10
A classic chase and drag-down tackler, Murphy has the ability to stalk and close down the ball-carrier in the backfield. He is helped by his rare combination of height, speed, agility and long arms and, though he will lose the footrace downfield, shows great hustle tracking receivers and running backs on short throws. – 8/10
While concerns over Murphy’s athleticism and ability to play in space appear largely overblown, NFL teams will still likely fret over whether he can operate full-time in a 3-4, especially if he puts up disappointing numbers at the combine and workouts. That worry aside however, Murphy is a hard-worker and exemplary leader on and off the field, who gives all-out effort on every snap. When draft folk talk about prospects with a “blue-collar work ethic”, he’s the type of player they have in mind. – 8/10
A durable, hard-working talent, Murphy plays every snap to the finish, continuing to put up impressive numbers while being the focal point of everyone’s pass protection. From a height, weight, speed, athletic perspective, he’s an excellent prospect, who makes up for a lack of top-end explosiveness by being one of the most complete pass-rusher in the 2014 class. Comfortable playing in space as a 3-4 outside linebacker but more so with his hand on the ground as a defensive end, the dearth in legitimate 4-3 end prospects this year makes Murphy one of the top options at the position, while his versatility should put him in play for consideration from numerous teams needing pass-rush help. As he has shown at Stanford, Murphy is a smart player, who can be used in multiples positions and roles, and could prove a real weapon for a creative-minded defensive coordinator – there simply aren’t many guys that size who can do what he does. If concerns over where he’ll fit at the next level or the fact he’s not a flashy athlete cause him to drop further than anticipated come draft day, some team will be getting a real steal. – Pro Comparison: Patrick Kerney
76/100 – Late-First/Early-Second