Momentum Building for Bengals to Draft Elite Defensive Tackle

Byron Murphy II

Getty University of Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II chases down Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

The momentum is building for the Cincinnati Bengals to take a game-changer at defensive tackle in the 2024 NFL draft.

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II is slotted to go to the Bengals with the No. 18 overall pick in the first round in the latest mock drafts from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and SB Nation.

“With his explosive twitch and natural leverage, Murphy moves differently than any other defensive tackle in this draft class,” Brugler wrote. “He is equally disruptive versus the run and when rushing the passer — something the Bengals are looking to add to the roster.”

Murphy is also the unanimous, No. 1-rated defensive tackle in ESPN’s draft prospect rankings.

Byron Murphy II Uncommonly Gifted Athlete for Texas

Murphy combined with fellow Texas defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat to form one of the best interior units in the nation in 2023 as the Longhorns made the College Football Playoff for the first time.

Both Murphy and Sweat were both named All-Americans, with Murphy named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and Sweat named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Murphy led the Big 12 with 33 QB pressures — an almost unheard-of stat for an interior defensive lineman.

Murphy also had one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown and led the way on several “jumbo” blocking packages for the Longhorns.

“Muscular ball of explosiveness with the tools and talent to become a productive three-down defender in the right scheme,” NFL analyst Lance Zierlein wrote about Murphy. “Twitchy first-step quickness combined with flex and power in his lower half create a recipe for disruption as a gap shooter or as a pass rusher. Murphy is powerful and well-schooled at taking on double-teams but lacks ideal mass and length for that role long-term.”

Bengals Haven’t Had Impact Defensive Tackle Since Atkins

While the Bengals have one of the NFL’s elite edge rushers in three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson, it has been almost a long time since they could say the same about an interior defensive lineman.

The Bengals haven’t had a defensive tackle named to the Pro Bowl since Geno Atkins in 2019. Atkins an eight-time Pro Bowler, is also the only defensive tackle in Bengals history to make an NFL All-Pro, doing it twice in 2012 and 2015.

Atkins hasn’t played since 2020 and was released by the Bengals in March 2021 but never officially retired.

“Ever since Geno Atkins was cut, the Bengals have struggled to bring interior pressure,” SB Nation wrote in its mock draft evaluation of Murphy on April 17. “They added D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill, and Larry Ogunjobi in free agency or via trade, and drafted Zach Carter, who has completely failed to live up to his draft billing. This offseason they signed Sheldon Rankins, who is a solid pass rusher, but long-term they need a player who can finally step in and fill the void left by Geno Atkins.

“It is lofty expectations for anyone, and he may never reach the height of Atkins, but the hope is that Murphy can be a similar type of player and bring the interior pass rush the Bengals have needed for so long.”

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