Basically since the time he first found his way to a starting gig, there has been a vocal part of Broncos’ Country looking to replace Todd Davis. He’s seen as too slow to provide anything resembling quality coverage reps. When Vic Fangio was hired right before a 2019 NFL Draft that featured two ridiculously athletic linebackers, it looked like destiny that the Broncos would finally have a speedy backer to take over the middle of the defense.
John Elway had other plans. Instead of taking Michigan linebacker Devin Bush at 10th overall, the Broncos’ GM traded down with the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to gain draft capital. Instead of taking a 5’11 235 lb linebacker with 4.4 speed, the Broncos took Noah Fant.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Broncos picked up Davis’ contract option, even as Vic Fangio admitted a desire to add to the position.
- Looks the part, standing 6’2 and 241 lbs.
- Elite athlete with the explosiveness coaches salivate over.
- Phone booth quickness helps him to slip and skip past blocks.
- Sideline to sideline range with the long speed to hunt down the ball in space.
- Solid play strength, has the requisite tools to be a beast to block.
- Very good against zone runs and has no problem slipping blocks to wreck the ball carrier.
- Solid pursuing the ball out to the boundary with his range.
- Has the athletic tools to be a factor in man to man, can open up and run with opponents.
- Should be a weapon on blitzes, did it a lot for Oklahoma and looks like a missile.
- Adequate mental processing, had issues reading gap plays, anticipating in coverage, and is straight up late on occasion.
- Adequate competitive toughness because he’s so inconsistent from game to game.
- Adequate against gap runs, issues reading pullers limited his impact between the tackles.
- Adequate stacking and shedding due to inconsistent technique and desire to skip past.
- Will over-pursue ball carriers in space.
- Adequate in zone coverage, rarely asked to do more than spot drop, spy, or play forward.
- Coaching staff hid him in man coverage with a lot of blitzing.
- Marginal ball skills, too often late to react.
What I’ve heard/read:
Sleek, playmaking linebacker with chiseled frame and long arms. Murray’s game is predicated on speed with an ability to fly around from sideline to sideline rolling up tackles. While his twitchy burst allows him to make more plays than the average linebacker, he will overflow to ball-carriers at times. Recognition of play development and ability to take on blocks are both underdeveloped currently, but a move to weak-side linebacker would put him in position to minimize those concerns and maximize his playmaking talent. Murray has hit-or-miss qualities and is more splashy than consistent, but he’s immensely talented with the ability to imprint on games on all three downs.
Murray’s success at the next level is going to rely heavily on usage. He’s not Mr. Do-it-all. He’s a hunter in the middle of the field who will limit YAC and make plays in the opposing backfield.
Kenneth Murray is a Day 2 linebacker prospect with a higher ceiling in a different scheme. Behind the slanting front of Alex Grinch and against complex, pulling Big 12 offenses, Murray struggled to generate a high impact play between the tackles, as he was frequently scraping and working to redirect his momentum into the backfield. Murray projects best to a 3-4 SILB or 4-3 SAM role, that allows him to play directly downhill into the trees and blow up blockers, while making strong plays into the boundary with his unique speed and length at his size. Murray is a high upside prospect if deployed correctly, and is a candidate for Year 2 starting responsibilities if he improves his zone coverage drops.
Kenneth Murray is an ascending prospect that improved greatly over his career, playing his best ball at Oklahoma in 2019. A tone-setter on the second level, Murray is an urgent, aggressive and physical defender with outstanding range. He plays with an unrelenting motor and flies all over the field in pursuit. While there are some really impressive fast-to-flow reps on tape, his processing and decision making has room to improve. Additionally, his technique for beating blocks needs work. An every-down defender, Murray has an exciting physical skill set that should make him an excellent coverage linebacker. Murray needs some seasoning, but he’s a scheme and position-versatile linebacker that profiles as an impact starter in the NFL.
In the NFL he is a starting LB with the overall skill set to be used in any scheme. If necessary he would be a 4 phase special teamer, however he is likely to be a day 1 starter and there would be no need in this regard. Overall he is an extremely instinctive, smart, tough and physical LB who you can plug in and forget about the position for at least 10 years, barring injury
Kenneth Murray projects as a potential MIKE linebacker in the pros. If Murray is able to iron out some of the misreads in the middle, he can be a complete player and 3 down defender who can slash into gaps as a blitzer or scrape sideline to sideline. Murray’s length, range and explosiveness pair well for a lot of impact plays and if he fails to polish up his skills keying blocks from the middle, he can default back to the WILL position and take advantage of a more pure pursuit role on defense.
”I tell people this all the time, I just think football to me is not just recreation, it’s a lifestyle,” Murray said. “And I think that’s why the game means so much to me because there are so many life lessons that you learn through the game of football. … So just being able to learn those lessons, being able to see how much the game has given to me, being able to see exactly what it takes to be a good football player, understanding it takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of passion.”
Why he fits
If the Broncos are looking to add more range to the second level, Murray is an intriguing option. If you watch his tape it doesn’t take long to imagine how he can explode down to the flat to wreck a swing pass or beat a back to the corner on outside zone runs. Furthermore, his ability to contribute as a blitzer would add another weapon to Fangio’s arsenal on passing downs and give him ways to get creative in order to confuse opposing passers.
Murray’s weaknesses are pretty clear the longer you watch his tape, but the way you weigh them probably has a lot to do with how much faith you have in his next coaching staff to help him iron them out. If Fangio can help him improve at reading, taking on blockers, and protect him in coverage, there’s a lot to like.
I’m generally opposed to taking most linebackers in the first round because I believe they need to contribute in a big way immediately to justify that kind of investment. For that reason, Kenneth Murray does not make sense at the Broncos’ current selection. He’s going to need to make some rather large jumps in his processing, block shedding, and coverage to be the player his biggest fans believe him to be.
In time I think he could a true 3 down weapon in the right hands, however. Fangio has a long history of squeezing every bit of potential out of his linebackers and Kenneth Murray brings all of the physical tools to believe he could eventually grow into a stalwart.
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