NFL Draft Riser, Defensive ‘Engine’ Emerges as Possible Bears Target at No. 9

Getty Defensive tackle Byron Murphy of the Texas Longhorns.

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has spoken for two years of a difference-maker who will transform the defense. The franchise may finally secure that player in next weekend’s NFL draft.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, April 21, authored a deep dive into Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II, who is rolling up draft boards and who appears the precise type of three-technique tackle Eberflus has been fixated on for the past couple of seasons.

Murphy could be a perfect fit at a position Eberflus has described as the “engine” of the defense. A difference maker at that position provides much more than statistical production as an interior pass rusher. The scheme is designed to get consistent penetration in the B-gap, with the three-technique aligned on the outside shade of the guard. He can draw the center in pass protection and can be a disruptive force versus the run.

In a conference call last week, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah mentioned Murphy as a player who could emerge as a top-10 selection. If so, the Bears would figure to be an ideal landing spot, and it’s unlikely he slides out of the top half of Round 1. It’s possible the Bears could trade down slightly and pick Murphy, but there’s buzz he could be the first defensive player selected.

Hype Around Byron Murphy to Bears Late in Draft Season Similar to Path of OT Darnell Wright to Chicago in 2023

Darnell Wright

GettyOffensive tackle Darnell Wright of the Chicago Bears.

Murphy’s relatively late emergence as a serious candidate for Chicago with the 9th overall pick (its second in the first round after No. 1) follows a similar trend that led to the Bears’ selection of offensive tackle Darnell Wright out of Tennessee in 2023.

Chicago also held the rights to the 9th pick in last year’s draft, though the team traded back one spot off of that pick to No. 10 before selecting Wright to anchor the right side of its offensive line. Jacob Infante of Windy City Gridiron posted to X on Sunday how Murphy’s potential path to the Bears locker room is mirroring that of Wright.

“Last year, there was a good amount of late buzz around Darnell Wright as someone the #Bears liked,” Infante wrote. “This year, we’re seeing the same with Byron Murphy. I don’t think this is a coincidence.”

Byron Murphy Earned Top Overall Score for Defensive Tackles at Combine

Byron Murphy

GettyUniversity of Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II.

NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlein afforded Murphy the top overall rank of every defensive tackle who participated in this year’s combine after Murphy claimed the fourth-best production score and the second-best athleticism score of the class at his position.

Despite standing 6-feet and one-half inch tall and weighing 297 pounds, Zierlein notes size/frame as perhaps the biggest potential weakness for Murphy at the next level. However, there isn’t much to criticize beyond that.

“Muscular ball of explosiveness with the tools and talent to become a productive three-down defender in the right scheme. Twitchy first-step quickness combined with flexion and power in his lower half create a recipe for disruption as a gap shooter or as a pass rusher,” Zierlein wrote. “Murphy is powerful and well-schooled at taking on double-teams but lacks ideal mass and length for that role long-term. He’s successful at bypassing protection with sudden hands and quick feet, while his motor and passion create an activity level coaches will love.”

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