Could the Seahawks target Byron Murphy?

April 2nd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

By now we know the Seahawks generally don’t draft cornerbacks early. Shaquille Griffin (round three) is their earliest pick at the position in the Pete Carroll era. Aside from that the norm is to wait until day three and find their prototypes.

The chances are that will be the case again this year.

Yet a couple of things have just made me pause on that thought…

Last week I was listening to Brock & Salk. Brock Huard does a daily segment called ‘Blue 42’. He answers three football questions on various topics. In this particular edition he was asked by Salk which position might be a target with their first pick. I was expecting a pretty standard answer (eg pass rush). Huard suggested cornerback.

I don’t have the exact quote to hand or a link to the audio but the gist is Huard wondered whether this would be the year they take a corner early. He suggested if there was a really talented player at the position available in the late first round they might feel obliged to pull the trigger.

At the time I found it pretty surprising. Then I read this mock draft by Eric Galko. I’m not sure how connected Galko is to the Seahawks or anyone who would know their thought process — but he paired Seattle with Washington cornerback Byron Murphy with the following blurb:

“Often linked to Murphy by league people, he fits what they need now. Potential surprises would be Delware’s Nasir Adderley or Maryland’s Darnell Savage. They have interest in both.”

So at the very least people ‘in the league’ are talking about the Seahawks and Byron Murphy.

This could all just be a red herring of course. They might just take a pass rusher with the first pick. That’s where the safe money is. Receiver, quarterback and a couple of other positions might be in the running. However — I still want to consider the thought process just in case there is some truth to this.

The Seahawks have essentially lost one key starter since 2018 — Justin Coleman. You could argue Earl Thomas but we all know they’d pretty much moved on from Earl a year ago and played most of the 2018 season without him anyway.

They’ve already replaced J.R. Sweezy. They re-signed K.J. Wright, Mychael Kendricks and D.J. Fluker. They’ll need to replace Shamar Stephen but they can do that in this draft class (John Schneider said on 710 ESPN yesterday he’d not seen a D-line class like this in 27 years).

Coleman is the one quality player they’ve lost.

Pete Carroll stated at the end of last season that he felt they have a competitive roster capable of contending. It just needed a bit more development and competition. If he truly believes that — replacing Coleman and then using the depth at D-line could be a possible plan. Here’s Galko’s line about Murray: “He fits what they need now.”

Even while writing this I have to check myself. They plucked Coleman from the Patriots and turned him into a big-money free agent. They just re-signed Akeem King to try and develop as a replacement (and he’s not the only corner competing for that role currently on the roster). If there’s one position they can draft and develop it’s cornerback.

But what if Huard’s point is crucial here? What if they’re willing to consider replacing Coleman with their first pick if a truly standout cornerback is available?

That’s where Murphy comes in. He’s a quality player. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and felt he was the most natural defensive back in this draft class. Here’s what I wrote about him in mid-October:

I spent some time watching Washington corner Byron Murphy last week and was wowed by his potential. I just wonder if he’d make a fantastic safety. He’s not the biggest (5-11, 182lbs) but he has that gliding running ability, he’s so quick to the ball. He’s physical and will deliver a jolting hit. Every snap I watched at corner — I kept thinking, ‘I’d love to see him at safety’.

And there was this note from November:

Murphy is undersized at CB but he’s sudden, quick to the ball and extremely physical. I’d love to see if he can convert to free safety.

When you watch Murphy you certainly see the kind of sudden athlete the Seahawks like. He’s incredibly physical despite his lack of size and a real force defending the run. There are some snaps where he competes for the ball and knocks it loose that are very reminiscent of Chris Harris Jr. He made plays on 31% of his targeted throws over two years and recorded seven interceptions and 20 pass-breakups in just 87 career targets.

PFF graded him as a the top cornerback in college football in 2018:

In addition to his top-ranked overall grade, Murphy ranked inside the top-20 in forced incompletion percentage (24.2) and yards allowed per coverage snap (0.66) among the 189 cornerbacks with 50-plus targets in 2018. He also ranked inside the top-20 in passer rating allowed (54.5) and yards allowed per target (5.16) among the same group.

Isolating Murphy’s play to just targets of nine or fewer yards, he led the nation in forced incompletion percentage (26.7), ranked tied for third in yards allowed per reception (5.0) and fourth in yards allowed per target (3.3). He ranked tied for fifth in coverage grade (90.1) when targeted in that area of the field, as well.

Numbers aside, Murphy dominated the short and intermediate areas of the field – both in coverage and when playing the run. He earned an impressive 86.7 run-defense grade and logged eight run stops this past season, an aspect of his game he holds in high regard.

Here’s how PFF compared Murphy in various aspects to the ‘average’ for the 2019 draft class:

He loves to tackle and deliver jarring hits:

This is why I thought he might fit at safety. You don’t want him matching up on the outside against taller, faster cornerbacks. Put him inside in space and let him fly to the ball and tackle and he can be a major factor.

Increasingly we’re seeing safeties switch to the ‘big nickel’ in college and I wonder if that’s Murphy’s role at the next level. If the Seahawks are prioritising replacing Coleman with a dynamic hybrid defender — Murphy fits the bill even if he isn’t their prototype for outside corner.

Then you have to factor in his grit, his maturity, his exceptional character. Murphy has the attitude and the motivation (already a father) to succeed. The Seahawks will likely love his personality and the way he plays the game.

What about his testing? At the Washington pro-day yesterday he reportedly ran a 4.15 short shuttle and a 6.83 three cone. Had he worked out with the other safety/big nickel types at the combine — that would’ve been the fourth quickest three cone (behind only Marvell Tell, Amani Hooker and Taylor Rapp). It would’ve been the eighth fastest short shuttle but he was only marginally slower than Darnell Savage (4.15) and he was quicker than Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (4.20).

For those reasons — I’m inclined to not totally rule out Murphy-to-Seattle with their first pick. They’ll be trading down from #21 and it’s possible he won’t be there when they make a selection. If he is though — he might be a name to keep an eye on.

It also fits in line with some of the other players they’re meeting with. Galko linked Darnell Savage and Nasir Adderley to Seattle. They’re two more physical, tenacious defensive backs who could fit the big nickel position. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson met with the Seahawks and he switched to nickel for the 2018 season. Juan Thornhill is a former cornerback converted to safety and could also be viewed as a big nickel. They’re looking at guys who can play this position.

Murphy is a better player than the names above. He’s a better fit for this specific position. I think people look at the safeties visiting the VMAC and believe they’re looking for an Earl Thomas replacement. We’ve been saying for a few weeks — it’s probably more likely they’re looking for a versatile nickel.

It’s something I hadn’t really considered with their first pick but I’ll be keeping a more open mind going forward. Murphy to Seattle? Or one of these nickel prospects? Possibly. The game’s changing. Justin Coleman played 67.81% of the defensive snaps last year. The Seahawks play nickel in base like everyone else. Finding someone who can fit that role while defending the run and being able to tackle isn’t easy. That’s what Murphy can do. He’s not a burner, he’s not an outside corner. He’s a guy who will fly around and hit you while also having a knack for making big plays.

Their draft history says it’s unlikely but don’t dismiss Murphy being picked first up.

The counter to this? The fact they’ve done absolutely nothing to upgrade the defensive front and have actually lost players (Shamar Stephen, Dion Jordan) from last season. It’s possible they intend to fill out their D-line in the middle rounds but it’s risky. They need more up front. More pass rush, better run defense.

Seahawks interested in Greg Gaines?

According to Tony Pauline they are:

“Gaines has watched his draft stock take off since the Senior Bowl and I’m told the hometown Seattle Seahawks like Gaines and have their eye on him.”

It’s an interesting note from Tony. We’ve been discussing Gaines for a couple of years, dating back to the start of his blossoming partnership with Vita Vea. The two were a great double act. Gaines consistently impacted games — he just lacked the frame and traits to stand out.

The Seahawks in the Carroll era haven’t drafted a defensive lineman with sub-33 inch arms in the first two days. Gaines had 31 1/4 inch arms.

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42 Responses to “Could the Seahawks target Byron Murphy?”

  1. Tnx for accepting possibility that nickel/fs can be first pick after trade back. You know I am for that for a long time.
    Do you think Murphy can be FS or only big nickel?

  2. Trevor says:

    I would love to see Murphy in that Coleman type role. He is such a natural in the slot and I think will be a turnover machine in the NFL. Any of those guys Murphy, Savage, Thornhill, CJG would be a really nice addition to this secondary and may be in ideal range after a trade back or two.

    With the depth at DT and WR perhaps after a trade back or two into the last 1st early second they could go.

    Pick #1 Savage or Thornhill or Murphy
    Pick #2 Hill or Wrenn or Saunders
    Pick #3 Mclaurin or Emanuel Hall or Myles Boykin

    • Devin says:

      I like this, though it kind of depends on them having three early-ish picks. Murphy at 29 McLaurin/Hill mid/late 2nd and then Hill/Hall in the 3rd. not mad at all if thats the result. I’d be a little upset with the other two safeties as the first pick though)

      • GoHawksDani says:

        We won’t have a mid/late 2nd pick. Either 2 3rd round picks with a late 1st or early second with two 3rd.

        But I think Savage/Thornhill/Murphy and Saunsers and Hall or Boykin is an option as I guess Saunders and Hall or Boykin will be there in the 3rd

  3. Volume12 says:

    Jesse Williams and EJ Wilson had arms less than 33″. Did Jacob Martin?

  4. Wooowww…

    BREAKING: Russell Wilson has told the Seahawks he wants a new deal done by April 15, when Seattle opens offseason workouts.

    The two sides have had negotiations in recent days. (via @bcondotta) https://t.co/ONEmJhQgQL

    • Rob Staton says:

      I will write about this and likely publish something later today or tomorrow. Don’t want to shift this article down immediately. But I do have some thoughts on this development.

      • Sea Mode says:

        I think it’s great. We were talking about the Seahawks not being able to set a deadline before the draft because the Wilson camp would just blow it off. Now they don’t need to because he just set it himself.

        • For sure it is good news. Deadlines create deals and now we have one. Sounds like Wilson just wants to get it behind him as well.

        • Rob Staton says:

          But is there any pressure on either party to compromise this early in the process?

          That’s my concern.

          If Wilson is setting a deadline like this but then is asking for silly money — they aren’t getting a deal done.

          If he’s willing to compromise having set his own deadline — good. Fine.

          But I’m not convinced he’ll do that. And my fear is this is simply the latest counter move in a long, boring game of chess.

          • DCD2 says:

            I don’t really get this either. What is the ultimatum that comes with this deadline? Negotiations are off until next year if they don’t get a deal done in the next 2 weeks? Seems like a poor tactic to me.

    • King_Rajesh says:

      The HEAT is ON.

      Going to be an interesting two weeks.

      I’m hoping for around 35.6m APY (which is just above the percentage of the cap that Aaron Rodgers got last year – 18.90% to 18.91%).

      I think that Wilson wants a 4 year deal, which would set him up for two more contracts if he wants to play for another 10 years.

      4 years, 142.4 million, 60m signing bonus, 105m total guaranteed would be where I think the two sides could meet to suit all parties.

      Wilson would be the highest paid QB in all established metrics:

      Total money? Exceeds Andrew Luck’s 6yr/139m contract.
      APY? Exceeds Aaron Rodgers (see above).
      Percentage of the Cap? Exceeds Aaron Rodgers (see above).
      Signing Bonus? Exceeds Aaron Rodgers’ 57.5m.
      Fully Guaranteed Money? Exceeds Matt Ryan’s 100m.

      For the Seahawks, this deal would be probably be a bargain after Mahomes destroys the market. When the legal gambling money hits the cap, it could also explode, further making this deal seem cheap.

    • Madmark says:

      Listening to JS interview I thought was enlightening. He stated that 2 most important people on a team was Head coach and QB. The fact that JS found RW in 3rd round and he’s won more games in his 7 years, than any other QB. PC/JS are locked in for another run and Russel Wilson and Bobby Wagner are the 2 most important pieces. They definitely helped themselves as far as Wagner by resigning K.J.Wright. They are not letting Russel leaving at all.

  5. CaptainJack says:

    What are the chances the Seahawks view Murphy as more of an Earl Thomas replacement than a Justin Coleman replacement?

    Because if that’s the case, the interest in Murphy lines up with the interest in Chauncey Gardner, Savage and Thornhill

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think you’re looking at it the wrong way round. People think the Seahawks are looking for the next Earl. There isn’t going to be another Earl. They like the safeties they have. They’re almost certainly looking for someone who can play big nickel and replace Coleman. Gardner-Johnson played nickel in 2018 for Florida. Murphy is going to be a nickel. Thornhill is an ex-corner and suited to big nickel. Savage might have the speed and range to play free safety but even he might be best at nickel.

      • Elmer says:

        Right. There is only one Earl Thomas. Just like in soul, there is only one Aretha Franklin. You can draft a replacement for the position, but you can’t replace the man.

  6. If they can’t get a deal done before april 15th…trade Russ to OAK for two first this year + two first next year…trade for Brissett (3rd 2019+3rd 2020) and give him 10-15mil per year on 3-4 year contract…if they see he isnt the guy they can use next year 3 first round picks to take QB…

    • Rob Staton says:

      The Raiders have practically no available hard cash to spend. There’s no way they can afford to trade for Wilson and then meet his financial demands.

    • Ashish says:

      I will take that – we would have some cap space just one more +ve. I like Russ what he brings to table but always felt under utilize by PC and not a top talent as A-Rod. For both those reasons does not make sense to get top dollars.

  7. cha says:

    How is Murphy in supporting run game defense? That wasn’t a strength of Coleman’s but seems important at that slot position.

    Also the slot corner blitz?

  8. DCD2 says:

    Nickel, DL and WR seem to me to be the likeliest top 3 picks. Assuming we can trade our #21 for a 2nd & 3rd (fingers crossed), it becomes a matter of the discrepancy between the guys at say #35 and #95 at each position. If the dropoff is highest at one position (on their board), then that’s where I think they go.

    In the KC trade down scenario you’d have #29, #84 & #92 for the top 3. Can you land Charles Omenihu and Marvell Tell at 84/92 and go for best WR at #29? Or, do you feel better about Miles Boykin and Omenihu at 84/92 and taking your shot on Murphy at #29?

    Can you trade down again from #29 to get #35 & #140 from OAK and go after a Justin Hollins in the 5th and go Tristan Hill or Murphy at #35, giving you two 3rd rounders for DL/Nickel & WR?

    Lots of ways this could go. Can’t rule much out at this point.

    • Devin Wojick says:

      If I get the option im going Murphy at 29 Trysten Hill and then best WR available. Deebo Samuel, Hakeem Butler? WR and Hill could be swapped depending on how the board shapes up. Going to be an exciting draft.

    • Rob4q says:

      How about wheeling & dealing John Schneider!

      Original Picks
      R1 (21)
      R3 (84)
      R4 (124)
      R5 (159)

      Sea trades 21, Evan Pocic to KC for 29, 93, 201
      (800 vs 780)

      Sea trades 29, CJ Prosise to TB for 39, 145, 215, Gerald McCoy
      (640 vs 549.9)

      Sea Trades 84, 93, 145 to Cin for 69, 98
      (331.5 vs 353)

      Sea Trades 124 to GB for 150, 185
      (48 vs 49.8)

      R2 (39) – Paris Campbell, WR Ohio State
      R3 (69) – Anthony Nelson, EDGE Iowa
      R3 (98) – Trysten Hill, DL UCF
      R5 (150) – Sheldrick Redwine, S/CB Miami
      R5 (159) – Gary Jennings, WR West Virginia
      R6 (185) – Evan Worthington, S Colorado
      R6 (214) – Trevon Wesco, TE West Virginia
      R7 (215) – Lester Cotton Jr, OG Alabama

      Any of the Rd5 and Rd6 picks above could probably be swapped around depending on how the draft played out.

      Trades –
      KC needs a Center and Sea gets the draft equivalent of a mid 6th round pick for Pocic. not ideal, but it’s something!

      In TB, Arians has already made it clear McCoy is on the way out so this trade is basically Prosise and the draft value of a mid 4th rd pick for McCoy. And he gets to move back up into the late 1st rd. But will he deal with the Seahawks? We know how much he loves Seattle! This would give Sea a still valuable DT, but he would have to sign a new contract for sure…

      Sea-Cin trade is about them moving up to make sure they get their man – no matter who it is!

      Finally, GB calls wanting to move up for a player they target and JS is happy to add one more pick!

      This draft thing sure is fun to speculate about!!!

  9. Rob4q says:

    So if the Hawks were to trade back at least once, Murphy would be a late Rd1 / early Rd 2 pick then? I understand the thinking and the references above as to why this might make sense, but it still seems odd that they would actually pick a nickel CB with their first pick – no matter where that falls! But still interesting to propose!

    What about someone like Sheldrick Redwine from Miami for this role? Could draft him later for sure and might fit that profile…

    http://draftanalyst.com/sheldrick-redwine

  10. Sea Mode says:

    Ian Rapoport
    @RapSheet

    A potential reunion 10 years in the making: Free agent S Taylor Mays is working out for the #Seahawks tomorrow, source said. The former #USC All-American, who is flying there now, could rejoin his old coach, Pete Carroll.

    2:25 PM – 2 Apr 2019

  11. Sea Mode says:

    Rob (or whoever), could you post me a screenshot of that PFF graph for Rock Ya-Sin?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’m not sure how to without posting it in an article but essentially he’s similar in coverage, yards per snap and run defense grade but virtually at the average line for the rest.

  12. cha says:

    Speaking of nickel corners…

    Mike Garafolo

    Verified account

    @MikeGarafolo
    16m
    16 minutes ago

    More
    Veteran CB Jamar Taylor is visiting the #Seahawks today, source says. Team needs help at nickel with Justin Coleman gone to the #Lions.

  13. Dale Roberts says:

    The Hawks are hosting Jamar Taylor and he looks interesting. He hasn’t quite fit with his other teams but Pete in the one with the magic. He ran a 4.39 forty, a 4.06 shuttle, and 22 reps on the bench. I don’t know if he has the feel for the game to play either safety or nickel but he’s athletic and a hard hitter. Any comment on him?

    BTW Rob, credit where credit is due. I was the one who commented a while back that Byron Murphy would fit the Hawks needs to a tee and be a turnover machine. I don’t like to brag but I so rarely get anything right that I’m claiming this one. LOL

  14. Quinn says:

    Rob, when are you going to get Tony Pauline on the podcast? He always has great insight and is an easy listen. Also are you going to be doing a pod with Brian from Hawkblogger? Really enjoyed the discussion that directly pertains to the Seahawks.

  15. McZ says:

    I really don’t get the idea of converting Murphy to safety, if you can draft his team colleague Rapp 10-20 picks later.

    Especially, as it would absolutely require to pick at #21, and trading back will bring you a R3 + R5 pick, the latter enabling a Husky-backfield-double-dip in Jordan Miller, who I think is an immediate upgrade over Griffin, if the latter fails to step up his game.

  16. […] We talked about Byron Murphy earlier this week. He might be the best defensive back in the draft. He’s certainly the most naturally skilled defensive back. He’s a terrific fit for the nickel given his coverage ability, run defense, tackling, willingness to deliver a blow and short-area quickness. He’s gritty and has the competitive spirit the Seahawks will love. […]

  17. […] stands out in that regard, as we noted in our review of him a couple of weeks ago. He hits like a hammer when given the chance, is sudden and quick to the ball-carrier and he can […]