By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Over the past three seasons, Murraywas one of the most consistent and effective linebackers in college football. He was right up there with recent top-10 picks Devin White and Roquan Smith in terms of production, skill set, and leadership on their defense. Murray didn’t receive the same media acclaim as those two did at LSU and Georgia respectively, but NFL teams hold Murray in similar regard to those two star linebackers.
Murray was a reliable tackler for the Sooners in his freshman season when he had a solid debut with 78 stops. As a sophomore, he exploded with 155 tackles and was all over the field for Oklahoma. In 2019, Murray had 102 tackles with four sacks and four passes batted.
Murray is the complete package as a linebacker and a future three-down starter. He has good, not great, instincts but is quick to read his keys to get in position to make plays. For a big and thick linebacker, Murray has surprising speed to get to the perimeter and he eats up space in a hurry. Murray has good length and weight to him as well, so that gives him the versatility to play any linebacker position in a 4-3. Team sources say Murray can really run and is a flexible linebacker who should excel as a Mike – middle – or outside linebacker.
In the ground game, Murray is a very physical tackler with sideline-to-sideline speed and has some ability to take on blocks at the point of attack. He is a very good tackler who wraps up ball-carriers and puts them into the turf with force. White has the size and mentality to take on blocks, hold his ground, shed the block, and get in on tackles. Murray was a tackling machine throughout his collegiate career, as he is a superb run defender and projects to be a force to shut down and limit offenses’ ground game.
Murray is an asset for pass coverage. Team sources like his athleticism and coverage ability, which is vital to being a three-down starter and difference-maker as a non-pass-rushing linebacker in the modern, passing-driven NFL. He covers a lot of ground in zone coverage, is a smooth mover in space, and does a nice job of disrupting throwing lanes. His size and athleticism allows him to have the potential to play some man coverage on tight ends and backs out of the backfield. On dump-off passes to the flat, Murray explodes into the ball-carrier and is very good at making tackles in space. He has the speed to run down the middle seam as well. Murray’s skill set and instincts make him an excellent spy to help neutralize a mobile quarterback as well.
Some scouts say that Murray’s pass-rush ability is better than some players who do it on an every-down basis. He proved he is a dangerous blitzer in 2019, showing speed off the edge with the ability to bend, dip, and turn the corner.
Multiple team sources say Murray is a better prospect than other recent first-round linebackers, including Leighton Vander Esch, Haason Reddick, Tremaine Edmunds and Alec Ogletree. Evaluators feel Murray is closer to being on a par with Roquan Smith and Devin White, although maybe not quite as good as though two. Hence, they see Murray having top-10 potential for the 2020 NFL Draft. If Murray slides lower in the first round, it could be because of team needs and not many wanting to take linebackers early. Another reason he could slide is concern over his medical evaluation as some have questions. Teams rave about Murray off the field and in the locker room with his character and work ethic. They say he loves football and is a valuable team leader.
I think Murray will be an excellent pro linebacker with Pro Bowl potential and the ability to be one of the top Mike – middle – or Will – weakside – linebackers in the NFL.
Player Comparison: Thomas Davis. Murray reminds me, and some team evaluators I’ve spoken with, of Davis. Like Davis, Murray has a physical style of play with hard tackles, good run defense, an ability to cover, and versatility in the middle of the field. I could see Murray having a long and productive career like Davis in the NFL.
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