Trent Murphy is one of the most talented and productive players on the Stanford Cardinal defense. He has been able to make a ton of splash plays from multiple positions including outside linebacker and defensive end in a three or four man front on both sides. Murphy seems to be where the Stanford mindset from David Shaw meets tremendous physical talent and upside that allows him to be dominant defensively.
Murphy has a terrific amount of physical skill and some fundamental skill and technique that could allow him to be a great player in the NFL. Perhaps because of how much he moves around and how many different positions he plays for Stanford, Murphy is not complete at any one position and has some fundamental flaws that make him somewhat of a project and work in progress. He shows flashes of what he can be and it may just be a matter of reps and coaching to get him into being an impact player. Murphy projects as a top 100 pick and is more likely to end up going in the top 75 due to the technique he does have combined with impressive physical ability and potential.
Vitals & Build
Murphy is listed at 6’6” 261lbs and is an imposing player with tremendous length for the position that makes him difficult to matchup. The combination of his length and short area quickness make him able to cover a lot of ground in a hurry, but he is not smooth when it comes to dramatic changes of directions and flipping his hips. His overall speed is solid but not spectacular and he is much quicker than he is fast. His strength is impressive but he does not take enough advantage of it. His motor has improved but still tends to run hot and cold. Murphy’s physical potential is pretty good but it largely depends on the position that an NFL team wants him to play at the next level where he wants to go.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Murphy’s snap anticipation is inconsistent and it can range from being right on to being half a beat late. This does not appear to be linked to fatigue and he just needs to continue to work on consistently getting off the ball quickly and effectively. It will enable him not to have to work so hard when it comes to taking on blockers.
Murphy’s first step is typically good and he can really put offensive linemen at a disadvantage with how he can explode off of the football. The fact that he can do it from a linebacker position or with his hand on the ground in a four point stance makes him viable to attack from either spot. It is all about him being consistent and firing off the ball every time he is coming up the field.
Murphy’s ability to shed blocks and the way he goes about trying to take on blocks seems to depend on the stance he begins the play. Out of a two point stance, he tends to play too high and has a more difficult time winning with power. When he comes from a three point stance, he plays much lower and has more power with leverage. He also has a more natural advantage with his length. Murphy does a good job of using his hands to take on blockers and has long arms that give him a natural advantage in controlling opponents and getting rid of them to attack the ball carrier.
What makes Murphy incredibly frustrating is how seemingly unwilling he is to attack with power. There are plays where he will slam into the A gap as a designed play, but for someone with his natural strength and power, he tries to win with speed far too often. It makes him too predictable for one, but considering the success he has when he uses power, it is just a waste not to use his strength, especially when he has natural leverage. Even more frustrating is that he appears to use his power less than he did last year, when it was also extremely effective the times he used it.
Because of the wingspan, strength and leverage Murphy is able to bring, he shows the ability to be a terrific run stopper as a tackler and just closing up running lanes, but he has a few areas to clean up here. As a linebacker, Murphy needs to do a better job of taking the offensive tackle and pushing him inside to close up running lanes while also giving him the angle to tackle the back if he goes outside. Too often, Murphy gets caught outside with the runner having a lane to gain yardage. Murphy also will periodically have trouble locating the football and will occasionally be fooled at the mesh point with who has the ball and there are examples where the running back gets right by him and he does not appear aware that they have the football.
The good news is that Murphy is able to use his arm length to keep offensive linemen out of his body, which enables him to make tackles on the ball carrier as they attempt to go by him. He also shows flashes to collapse the pocket and this should only improve as he continues to add strength and bulk. And when he catches the ball carrier, he is able to simply engulf them and bring them down. He could make more an effort to strip the football when guys are wrapped up or when he is able to secure the tackle.
Murphy has a lot of options as a pass rusher, but he does not use them all enough. Murphy really likes to rush on the outside and work his way around the edge. He does a good job of getting up the field, turning his hips to square himself with the quarterback, which enables him to bend around the edge and use agility to track down and sack the quarterback. Despite his size, Murphy is able to occasionally surprise opponents with his quickness and beat them on raw speed.
With his strength and ability to generate power in a small area and his arm length, Murphy can do a tremendous job of bull rushing opponents, driving into the backfield to collapse the pocket, which can enable him to make a second move or at least take away the ability to step up in the pocket. The fact that Murphy does not really use this bull rush as often as he could is unfortunate. With his power and arm length, he shows the ability to bench press opposing offensive line and drive them right into the quarterback. He can also show speed and then switch to power and catch an opponent trying to lunge to stop him from the side and then simply throw them out of the way.
Murphy also has an effective inside move because of his strength and quickness. He is able to cut inside with agility and get through the gaps quickly. In a broken down position, he is extremely difficult to get away from in this situation, but like with the bull rush, Murphy does not use it as much as he should.
Murphy’s ability to bull rush and attack inside make him credible, so that he can use the outside rush and not have guys be able to assume he is just going to go outside and cheat out there, but they are certainly thinking that way and whether he wants to sell outside before going inside with a bull rush or inside move or just do them, they can be effective and make his outside moves that much more effective. Part of this could be as a result of playing as a standup linebacker on the edge, because that is where his natural motion is to go, so when he is in his four point, it is easy to get in the habit of going outside, but he needs to make a concerted effort to use the bull rush from the linebacker spot and use both when lined up as a defensive end, because they are good and they could increase his production.
The other angle that is going for Murphy because of the way he is used in the Stanford scheme, he has experience rushing from both sides from the end and linebacker position, so he is comfortable attacking and rushing the quarterback from both sides, though he does seem to favor the left side, which is good because that is likely where he will end up the most in the NFL anyway.
Murphy’s closing speed is decent but he has problems getting low and slowing down and adjusting his angle because he is high. When he is able to play low, he is far more equipped to react and make a play against a quicker quarterback between his short area quickness and his length. Murphy can generate power quickly so even if he is not able to get a running start and is making the hit on the quarterback from a stopped position, he can bring a good hit and has no trouble getting them on the ground.
In addition to his ability to rush the passer, Murphy is a player who will jump up and try to deflect passes when he cannot get there and he is a huge player to try to throw around, so he has had success knocking down passes and has also intercepted passes he has gotten his hands on with that method.
Murphy’s ability to contribute in coverage is limited and while he has been used both in man coverage as well as zone, it is best that he avoids man coverage as much as possible. Murphy’s length enables him to cover more ground and he is fine when he is able to keep things in front of him and run in a straight line. Murphy does a good job of getting a jam on receivers that come into his area or in man coverage, but he gets exposed when he is forced to change direction quickly and flip his hips. Especially when he is lined up near the line of scrimmage, Murphy gets into his drops quickly and Stanford also uses him as a nickel backer in coverage at times.
While he can do a decent job, it is a more effective changeup than a standard role and when he is not attacking up the field, it seems like a favor to the opponent. Murphy does have tremendous ability to react and track the football even in close proximity to the quarterback and can not only get his hands on the football with the ability to potentially intercept passes or at least deflect passes that can be picked off by himself or a teammate.
Trent Murphy can play any number of positions depending on the team that drafts him. The best fit for Murphy appears to be as a 4-3 defensive end and he appears to be able to play on both sides. He plays a significant amount of linebacker and a standup end, but he looks his best when he plays with his hand in the ground. Murphy has the speed and quickness to get outside, but if he can embrace his power, he can be a force at the end spot.
Murphy could also play as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. He has good range and is athletic enough where he does not look awkward or uncomfortable attacking from the edge. The key with Murphy is getting him to play with a lower pad level and maintain leverage. Too often, he loses his power because he plays so high and gets pushed back by opponents.
It is also possible that Murphy could end up as a 5-technique end in a 3-4. He has the natural length and potential to add weight without issue. Murphy possesses the athleticism and quickness to be able to rush the passer but the strength to hold against the run. This might be the unlikeliest scenario, but he could do it.
If he gets picked as a defensive end in a 4-3, Murphy could end up resembling Corey Wootton of the Chicago Bears. Wootton was drafted in the fifth round due largely to an ankle injury he suffered in his final year at college but worked himself into a fine player that could play inside and outside in the Bears front.
In a 3-4, Murphy could be more like Paul Kruger of the Cleveland Browns. They have similar length and the ability to accelerate, but both came out with some inconsistencies that needed developed.
Trent Murphy has been an incredible productive player at Stanford but he is still an unfinished product as he goes to the NFL. Much of this could be simply because he does so many things and has shown potential and ability in the process. Still, if he could focus on one spot and master it, he could be a terrific player and has the potential to be a better NFL player than the career he had in college. While he can contribute right away, his best football might be some time and development away. Murphy projects as a top 100 pick and it would hardly be surprising to see him go in the top 75 picks because of the ability he has shown, but also with the significant potential he has athletically going forward.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com