With his 35 1/2-inch vertical jump, 33 7/8-inch arm length and 80 3/8-inch wing span, the Cardinal has had tremendous success batting down passes at the line of scrimmage, along with being one of the most disruptive forces inside an opponent's backfield in the college game.
Much like Washington's Ryan Kerrigan and Philadelphia's Connor Barwin, Murphy is a "quiet assassin," a mortal enemy of quarterbacks and ball-carriers that dare to enter his territory. A starter for his last 42 games, during that span, he has had a hand in sacking the quarterback 37 times (solos/assists), in addition to making a stop behind the line of scrimmage on 63 plays.
During that 34-game span, Murphy's 32.5 sacks (28 solos, nine assists) not only leads the nation's active Football Bowl Subdivision players, but rank 11th in FBS history, is tied for ninth in Pac-12 Conference annals and placed third on the school's all-time record chart. His 52.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage (43 solos, 21 assists) are tied for 17th on the conference all-time record chart and ranks fifth-best in Stanford history.
Murphy has made a "habit" of coming up with big plays. During his last three seasons as a starter, he delivered 16 touchdown-saving tackles (10 vs. the run, six vs. the pass). He has also had a hand in killing 40 potential scoring drives, registering 34 of his tackles on third-down snaps and four more on fourth-down plays (forced the opponent to either punt or attempt a field goal), in addition to causing one fumble and returning his first two career interceptions for touchdowns.
While most rush linebackers are usually known for their ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, Murphy has quietly put together impressive numbers in pass defense. He has had 81 passes targeted into his territory, but the opposition has completed only eight of those tosses (9.88 pass completion percentage). In addition to his interceptions, he has batted down 11 other throws and rerouted/jammed his coverage assignment away from 50 of those attempts (61.73%).
In his typical fashion, Murphy terrorized opposing backfields in 2013, recording a career-high 15 sacks, which is tied for second on the school season-record chart and 11th on the Pac-12 annual list. He delivered 23.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, the best total in the league and fourth-best in the FBS ranks. He returned his second career interception for a touchdown and recorded a career-high 62 tackles.
Stanford University Cardinal
Murphy has good upper-body muscle development and room on his frame to carry more bulk, if a team decides to keep him on the defensive line. With his quickness, range and change-of-direction agility (6.78 three-cone drill was second-best for all linebackers and defensive linemen at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine), he is more than capable of playing as a strong-side rush end or linebacker. He has good arm and chest muscle thickness, soft hands for the reception (as a tight end), good bubble and adequate thigh and calf thickness. As his frame continues to develop, he knows how to use his strength efficiently to compensate playing against the larger blockers.
Murphy has a solid frame, playing at a good pad level and displays excellent quickness coming out of his stance for a rush end or tight end. He plays with good suddenness and leverage, showing no issues when having to change direction, which are ideal traits to have if he possibly moves to linebacker, but with his forward burst and impressive raw power, he will likely be utilized as a rush end. He has that sudden burst to consistently give backside chase coming off the edge, as his above average balance will usually see him sift through trash. He generates a very good initial burst off the snap and is quick to build acceleration on the move. He has outstanding lateral pursuit ability and does a very good job closing down the line. He is a strong wrap-up tackler with good hand usage and uses those hands effectively to keep blockers off his body. His ability to stay on his feet is the result of his above-average balance.
Murphy has no problems taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. He has no problems grasping the mental aspect of the game. He is a low rep type that shows above-average alertness to his surroundings. You can see on film his good ball-location ability (see 2013 San Jose State, Southern California and Arizona State games). He understands his role and will not hesitate to ask good questions from the coaches, knowing their input can only help him more. You can see that he picks up traps and pulls quickly and is very capable of handling the mental aspect of the game.
No task is too much for Murphy to handle, evident by his accepting his role as the team's jack-of-all-trades, as the team will often stunt him, utilizing Murphy on the front wall and linebacker units on the weak- and strong-side areas (depending on wherever he is needed to stop the big play). He uses his athletic ability well, knowing when to avoid the pile or simply explode into a blocker in attempts to overpower. It is rare to see him get reckless in his play. He plays with good "fire in his belly" and will do anything possible to get to the quarterback and disrupt the play action. He shows good urgency running down the ball from the backside and has good intensity in his play. He hustles in pursuit and takes well to hard coaching. The game is important to him and he has demonstrated very good aggressiveness battling combo blocks. He is the type that will always give good effort and likes to hit and punish ball-carriers. Still, this is a player who has yet to realize his full potential and ability.
Murphy shows good explosion in his first step, with a proper rise in his pad level off the ground. He does a good job of reaching and sticking his hands into the fray in order to gauge the offensive lineman's attack. He flashes that burst to surprise a lethargic blocker (see 2013 Washington, UCLA, Oregon State and Southern California games), which allows him to get instant penetration. He is a quick twitch type in his play, but must be conscious of keeping his arms inside the frame, as when he fires them too wildly, he leaves his body exposed for bigger blockers to lock on and control him. Still, Murphy shows consistent explosion coming off the snap. He has very good initial quickness and can change direction effortlessly. He is especially effective generating that burst coming around the corner on the pass rush. He has more than proven that he is a quick-twitch player who can easily burst up field and has made strides in generating the same quickness with his hands to disengage and it was very rare to see him be late coming off the line of scrimmage (see 2013 Washington, Utah and Oregon State games).
Strength at Point
Because of his good pad level, Murphy is capable of slipping under slow blockers. He has the strength to shed and go vs. tight ends and fullbacks, but must continue to improve his hand usage in order to do a better job of combating double teams. He has that natural strength to impact an opponent, along with good knowledge on the proper way to execute counter moves and generate good body lean. He just lacks the size and bulk you want in attempts to split or play the double team (when he drops his hands, he can be walked off before he can reload and hold ground at the point of attack). Each game, you can see the conscious effort he is making to use his hands to get inside control and leverage, but it is still a work in progress. He has the strong hand jolt to push blockers back on their heels and also has the speed to separate and then chase down the ball. The thing you notice on film is that when he gets his hands on an opponent, he can tie up the blocker, standing them up and shed. His lower leg strength prevents lead blockers from being successful in attempts to reroute him (works better on the move than when stationary). He recovers off blocks quickly and is generally a disruptive force working down the line. As a senior, he was using his hands much better to control the blocker, allowing him to play with good leverage (see 2013 Washington, UCLA, Oregon State and Southern California games). With his low pad level and sudden surge off the line, the offensive tackles assigned to block him did not register any knockdowns vs. Murphy in his last seven games.
Use of Hands
Murphy has good strength to control tight ends and lead blockers, but needs to be more effective with his counter moves and keeping his hands inside the frame to prevent blockers from attacking his body. When he gets good hand position, he has the quick moves to fight off the edge and defeat the pass block. He has improved in using his hands to fend off chop blocks in order to continue his flow to the ball when on the move. He needs to continue to work on his technique, but you can see that when he keeps his hands active, he is effective at creating separation. It is evident that he has very fast hands on the pass rush, especially when disengaging. When he uses his hands to get inside control and plays with good technique, he will rarely give up any body surface (except when he gets a little too high in his stance). He also shows enough strength and pop to get off blocks, separate and jolt the blocker. At his size, if he did not generate the hand punch he has, he would have had trouble getting off the bigger blockers.
Thanks to his exceptional balance and good change-of-direction agility, Murphy could also become a candidate to play strong-side linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. He plays with good knee bend working through trash, especially when needed to chase off the edge (see 2013 San Jose State, Washington, Oregon State and Southern California games). He gives 110% effort in pursuit, as he is relentless trying to get to the ball. He moves well in the open field, thanks to his lateral range and his high motor lets him make big plays chasing across the field. He can close down the line of scrimmage quickly and shows the sudden burst needed to chase down plays from the backside. He is a good hustler who will run the long distance needed to make the plays at the opposite end of the field. Just look at the 2013 Oregon State and USC games. You will see on all of his involved sacks that Murphy will run a long way to deliver a hit. He simply refuses to give up on the play and has developed quite a good feel for the runner's path and how to angle to get to the ball.
Murphy is still adjusting to playing defense and wrap-tackling, but he does collision with lead blockers and ball-carriers with a strong thud. He has the power and good pad level to impede the runner's forward progress by attacking his opponent's outside leg. Early in the 2013 season, he would tend to lunge and reach, but in recent games (more so from reps and experience), he has been playing with much better control and awareness. If he continues to flow to the ball and not try to overpower blockers, he will develop solid wrap technique. He shows good aggression in pursuit and explosiveness behind his hits. When locking up, his upper body strength allows him to drive through smaller blockers. In the open field, he willingly throws his body around. When he sets his sights on the quarter-back, he will generally unload behind his hits. Later in 2008, Murphy showed that he has the quickness and strength to be an explosive tackler, but you would like to see him attack the ball more often than the man in order to jar the pigskin loose
On 42 running plays he made stops on, the opposition has managed just 5 yards. He needs to continue working on his hand usage at the point of attack, but he does a nice job of locking on and shedding the lead blockers when playing the ball in his area. He has that above-average balance needed to make plays in pursuit, showing good knee bend. He will get covered up and contained by the bigger blockers, when he runs right into the pile, but while he is still a work in progress as a stack-and-shed type, he doers a very good job of stringing out plays and playing off blocks on the move. He makes quite a few plays in pursuit and shows the hand strength to shed and make plays while defending the tight end's low blocks. He has very good balance, but must continue to be active with his hands in order to wear down the blockers during the game. For a player of his size, Murphy has shown very good strength taking on blockers in 2008. He might lack the "sand in his pants" that you look for in a defensive end, but coming off the edge, he has shown steady strides in holding his ground at the point of attack. Still, he is best when making plays on the move, rather than wait for the action to come to him.
Pass Rush and Blitz
Murphy is very capable of becoming a quality pass rusher in the NFL, thanks to his pad level, change-of-direction agility and quickness off the snap. When he explodes off the ball and gathers in the middle of his pass rush, few bigger blockers have the quickness to mirror him. He knows how to dip for arm action pressure and has a nice reverse spin move to attack from the back door. Having learned to use his hands, he became much more effective using inside counter moves as a senior (see 2013 Utah, Washington and Arizona State games). He has the proper pad level needed to work on the offensive lineman's edge when working in-line. He is simply a quick-twitch type with a very explosive up field burst and smooth hips. He shows very good rip, swim, counter and bull rush moves. He will sometimes get a little too anxious in pursuit and overshoot the quarterback, but is quick to recover and get back into the action. His counter moves are becoming quite effective, especially when bending around the corner. With Murphy's up-field speed and knee bend, when he comes off the corner, he can easily beat the offensive tackle or counter back inside if the blocker over-plays him on the outside. He has also started to develop a nice array of pass rush moves (spin move is the best of any rush end in the 2013 draft).
Closing on the Quarterback
This is where Murphy's speed is most evident. He has shown excellent spin-move action to play off blockers when engaging them up field. His ability to escape with suddenness allows him to apply backside pressure (see 2013 San Jose State, Washington, Utah and UCLA games). He has that burst that consistently surprises a lethargic blocker. When left out on an island, he is very capable of delivering the "knock out" blow to the quarterback. He does get out of control, at times, but you would rather that he plays with a relentless motor than just pick his moments. When free coming off the edge, it is as if he takes dead aim for the quarterback. If he breaks free from his blockers, he can generate lots of heat in the backfield with his quick pursuit. He has the burst to close on the quarterback off twists and games. Even in long pursuit, his quickness is above average. He has that great burst to accelerate around the corner to close the deal fast on the pass rush.
Murphy is a quick learner who rarely makes the same mistake twice. He has a good feel for block pressure, but there are times he just runs into the pile and gets absorbed. The quicker he adjusts to reading blocking schemes, the better he will get. He is good at sifting out the plays in the back-field, but because of his size, he will sometimes have to work harder to find the running plays in a crowd. He shows good awareness to find the ball and reacts with quickness when on the move than when working in the trenches. He picks up the ball on the run very well in pursuit. While he is becoming effective reacting to block pressure, he can get rerouted by the offensive tackle when he gets too high in his stance. Still, he is a smart player with an instinctive feel for blocks and can generally find the ball in the open field. He has developed a good feel for the game and has done a very good job of locating the ball on the move. He makes good adjustments to slip through and avoid blocks and has become much more alert to blocking schemes. Earlier in his career, he would just run into spots and try to overpower the blocker. Now, he shows good savvy in his play and has developed the hand placement and technique to beat blockers off the edge. He also displays a good feel for angling in attempts to shorten the field in his quest to get to the ball-carrier.
CONNOR BARWIN, Philadelphia: Like Barwin was during his senior year at Cincinnati, Murphy is one of the most underrated defensive ends in the collegiate ranks. He has a developing, athletic physique with room for additional growth. He shows good upper body muscle definition, tight waist and hips, thick thighs and calves and a good bubble. He has excellent quickness and explosion coming off the snap. He is a physical tackler who can close down the line of scrimmage and shows excellent lateral pursuit ability. He has also made good strides in using his hands to defeat low blocks.
Murphy is a disruptive force in the backfield due to his lateral agility and chase speed. He does a very good job of working off the offensive tackle's edge when chasing around the back door. He is an active pass rusher who relies on a very effective swim move and a strong burst to close on the quarterback. He is relentless in pursuit and knows how to use his size to gain leverage. He just needs to stay consistent in getting his hands into the blocker to stand up and push back the opponent coming off the snap.
As a defensive end, Murphy does not have the bulk to prevent from getting locked up or rerouted, and is much more effective playing on the move than in the trenches. He is steadily developing fast hands, and already displays smooth hips and excellent quickness coming off the edge. Combine that with his rip, swim, counter and bull rush moves and you can see why he will generally face regular double-coverage coming off the edge. He will get a little high in his stance at times, but his change-of-direction agility and foot speed allows him to separate and redirect.
When he plays at a good pad level, Murphy is capable of attacking the pocket with his burst and also does a nice job of using his suddenness to penetrate coming off the edge. He is usually explosive in his initial move and can snatch, separate and shed blocks with efficiency vs. smaller blockers. He has the instincts to find the ball in traffic, but must develop a stronger anchor to hold ground at the point of attack.
The thing you notice on film is his ability to come across the blocker's face and the low pad level to collapse the rush lanes when working down the line. His backside closing burst and lateral agility allow him to string out plays to the sidelines with blockers on him. Against the run, he is slowly developing the hand usage needed to protect his body and play off cuts.
Murphy has good strength to gain leverage on the move and has enough strength to shock the smaller opponent coming off blocks. Against the pass, he has the agility to drop some on zone blitzes and shows good awareness to knock down the pass at the line of scrimmage. His burst and acceleration working in space makes him very effective chasing down the ball in long pursuit.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.