Learn how a three-star recruit became one of the best linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft. Background, film analysis and much more.
As the NFL continues to incorporate more spread offensive schemes into their playbooks, defenses will have to evolve to keep up with the changing offenses. As defenders are spread further and further apart by four and five wide receiver sets, speed and dependable tackling will continue to increase in value for front-seven defenders.
No other position has seen this change over the last decade more acutely than the linebacker position. In the 2020 NFL Draft, NFL general managers will be looking for quick, twitchy linebackers that can double as both run defenders and intermediate pass coverage experts. Being able to predict receiver routes and quarterback play-action has become just as important as run-defense for the NFL linebacker in 2020.
While linebackers have a tendency to be undervalued in the NFL today, no other position requires such athletic dexterity on defense. With motions being used more and more, a weakside linebacker must be ready to become a strong side linebacker if a tight end moves to his side of the offensive line.
The era of large, hulking presences in the middle of the field, defending against run-centric offenses is over. This new era requires linebackers to play a variety of roles on the defense, from pass-rusher to strong safety.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, no player epitomizes this synthesis more so than Clemson safety/linebacker Isaiah Simmons. He is considered a top-five player in the first round this year, useful as a versatile defender who can fill a variety of roles on all positions on the defense. But while Simmons has got all the first-round attention this year, he is hardly an outlier at the position.
Meet Oklahoma Sooner linebacker, Kenneth Murray. Like Simmons, he was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. Murray also had to adapt to the new reality of playing defense against predominately spread-style offenses in the Big 12, where coverage skills are just as important for the linebacker as run-stopping.
What you see on the field is just a glimpse of the value Murray brings to the NFL, as he is more than just a linebacker. He is also a phenomenal human-being and is almost certainly destined to be a locker room leader in the near future.
In this article, we will do a thorough examination of Murray as a 2020 NFL Draft prospect. We will explore his background, examining his time in high school and college. Next, we’ll explore his on-field production, his style of play and what he does well versus what he needs to work on in the pros.
Finally, we’ll explore three NFL teams that would make excellent landing spots for Murray. Now that free-agency is underway, team needs in the 2020 NFL Draft have become more crystalized and it will be clearer which NFL teams require a linebacker of Murray’s skill set.
For more scouting reports and analysis of the 2020 NFL Draft make sure to check back with NFL Mocks, as we are constantly adding new articles every day to give you the latest draft information you need.