Is there a surprise player in this draft the Jacksonville Jaguars may take that we do not know about?
After a dominant 2017 defense continued to struggle against the run, the Jaguars made a trade for former Buffalo Bills All-Pro Marcel Dareus. The run-game struggles against teams like the 2017 NY Jets ceased to exist when the mammoth interior lineman locked onto opposing linemen in Duval County. The Jaguars followed that move with the surprise drafting of Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
This move caused much surprised among a fanbase that knows their team very intimately. UTEP guard Will Hernandez could have plugged a hole in the Jaguars offensive line that remains in 2019. The Giants selected Hernandez early in the second and he helped first-round pick Saquon Barkley draw comparisons to current Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott. The line remains vital to draft high every year and Bryan may end up helping long-term on the defensive side.
With few positions overshadowing line play, such as quarterback, cornerback, pass rusher and any elite player at any position, the Jaguars need to refuse to fall in love with a player prior to the draft. They must select the best talent to add to the team. Similar to the selection of Bryan, the Jaguars may choose to address a strength by adding to it. With that, look for the cornerback position to be a potentially surprising selection.
In the event of a surprise high selection or a rewarding trade down scenario, the Jaguars have many more options than a top tight end, a top right tackle, or a pass rusher – as those are the most mocked positions.
Enter the afterthought cornerback position.
With one half of the field firmly held down by one of the greatest talents in Jaguars history in Jalen Ramsey, and the other side held down by A.J. Bouye – a man that allowed only 417 yards receiving in 2018 while missing only three games – the Jaguars look greedy with talent.
With most fans assuming the Jaguars have no need to use a top selection on a position of strength, this could be exactly the scenario that Tom Coughlin, David Caldwell and the powers that be use to strengthen a strength.
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Ramsey still doesn’t have a big contract, Bouye has a cap hit of just over $15 million, and Jarrod Wilson looks to start at free safety. Among the many arguments for drafting secondary, money might be the strongest. Could the Jaguars look to be rid of Bouye soon as nears his age 30 season? Could the Jaguars look to address an upgrade over D.J. Hayden at nickel cornerback who could replace Aaron Colvin’s amazing 2017 performance?
The Jaguars might combine all the issues listed above with the selection of a cornerback that excels in zone coverage and could play free safety or nickel corner. A secondary member that could add versatility for differing styles of packages that the defense might throw at an opposing offense, rather than lining up and playing mostly simple coverage.
The Jaguars might select…. Washington cornerback Byron Murphy.
With highlight videos showing a physical player that can cause fumbles, hit hard and play great zone coverage with a high awareness of the opposing teams gameplan, Murphy could be an amazing addition the Jaguars. Whether he plays his natural position at cornerback or makes an intriguing switch to free safety, he will certainly play at a high level.
Look no further than last years Texans starter Tyrann Mathieu to see how that same position of hybrid free safety, nickel corner and zone demon can work out. The Chiefs even paid him $35 million for the next three years. Now, that’s value.
At the NFL Combine, Murphy ran a realistic, yet disappointing 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash. A telling time that shows he can’t run with the faster receivers in the league. He does appear to play faster football speed than run track speed. Murphy at one point looked to be a top-ten lock, perhaps even going ahead of the athletic achievement that is LSU cornerback Greedy Williams - who could also be a surprise selection early for the Jaguars after running a 4.37 sec 40-yd dash at 6’2″. Yet Murphy keeps getting those nervously good grades from the draft community.
It’s as if people want Murphy early but can’t do it because of that 40 time.
Redskins fans delighted when Dan Kadar (a famed voice in the draft community) mocked Murphy to them at 15 overall. After the underwear competition known as the NFL Draft, more recent mock drafts placed Murphy at 17th as the highest, but never out of the first round. The lesson: Speed kills, even a prospect. A telling sign would be that Murphy graded much higher when teams only studied film, not the underwear competition.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks loved on Murphy when discussing corner during an episode of Moving the Sticks with Daniel Jeremiah. I can’t find the link, but the discussion centered around Williams being the top prospect but Murphy being the best out of the box candidate with more assured technical skill. The debate remains intriguing.
Standing 5’11” and weighing in at 190 pounds, Murphy had bulked up and that may have slowed him. He hits hard, he plays disciplined football and 4.55 sits plenty fast for a disciplined free safety.
While he may never move to free safety and teams like the Texans and Colts sit in the late first and would celebrate drafting Murphy, the value could hit for the Jaguars in ways that would never make sense to us fans until the pads are put on. The Jaguars need good football players, and Murphy will be called in the first round and will go on to be a good football player. The only question would be value where the Jaguars select.
If interested, there is a great write-up on Murphy at Cleveland.com in which they mention his cons:
"Cons: Jon Ledyard of The Draft Network characterizes Murphy as a “small corner with narrow shoulders and a wiry frame.” Murphy has average height and below average weight for a corner, but he’s a smooth athlete with good long speed."
The best Murphy write-up, however, would be by Aaron Gershon of FanSided, in which he details Murphy’s top-flight awareness. I encourage you to check it out. Here’s a quote:
"Murphy has what anyone wants in a cornerback: a God-given ability to break-up passes.No matter who the ball is thrown to whether it’s a throw to the wideout in man coverage, a slot receiver with the defense playing zone or a running back out of the backfield Murphy can beat them to the ball or knock the ball out of mid-air to break-up the play."
Sounds fun, right?