Scouting Report- Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray

 
Rather than looking at another wide receiver for the upcoming draft, this week we’re switching it up and looking at one of the top inside linebacker prospects. To kick off the start of the NFL combine, let's look at none other than Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray.
 
To get Murray, the Packers will have to trade up or hope he slips to the end of the first round. He’s one of the best off-ball defenders in the class, and Green Bay may look to add more playmaking to a position that has been lacking in that area in recent years. Of course, we’re talking about Blake Martinez, who could receive a big payday this offseason.
 
On Saturday, the team resigned the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in kicker Mason Crosby. The deal is reportedly worth $12.9 million over three years. That means less cap space to resign Martinez, Bryan Bulaga, and then extend Kenny Clark.
 
Of the bunch, it seems Martinez is the odd-man-out.  He’s aiming to be one of the highest-paid players at his position, and the Packers are less probable to pay Martinez if they can find a worthy replacement through the draft.
 
In my opinion, of all the inside linebacker prospects, Murray appears to be one of the better fits to be the immediate starter in Green Bay.
 
At the start of the 2017 season, Murray became the first Sooner since 1975 to start the season opener at inside linebacker as a true freshman. In that game, he recorded just three tackles, however, it set the tone for an illustrious career. Before he declared for the draft following his junior season, Murray totaled 335 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks.
 
Games watched: vs West Virginia (11/23/18), 10 tackles, and one tackle for loss. vs Texas Tech (09/28/19), nine tackles, one tackle for loss, and one sack. vs Texas (10/12/19), five tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack.
 
The first thing that stands out about Murray is his gifted athleticism. He has an athletic stance with good bend and an explosive first step. Murray finished with 37 career tackles for loss in college compared to Martinez’s 13.5. The two are clearly on a different level when it comes to getting downhill.
 
In terms of speed, I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see Murray run a low 4.6 at the combine. For the most part, his play speed matches his timed speed. Murray is rangy, he takes good angles to the ball, and is quick to close in for a tackle. Watching him close on a route to the flat is a sight to see.
 
Another thing I like about Murray is his versatility. As is true for Martinez, Murray is a good blitzer. However, he can also win off the edge with a speed rush. That type of interchangeability can be a rare find for this position.
 
One of the biggest knocks against Martinez is his shortcomings in coverage. Of course, that can be said for a lot of linebackers. But with Murray, I trust his ability to cover up routes while playing underneath zone and manning up on a running back out of the backfield. His athleticism really shines here.
 
I saw solid but not good play recognition out of Murray when diagnosing inside runs. There are some plays when he gets to his landmarks, thus making blockers look foolish. On others, though, he shows aggression but then gets swallowed up and taken out of the play by an offensive lineman. This also speaks to Murray’s block shedding, an area where he must improve. Even though he’s got the size and length to be good at stacking and shedding, his functional play strength appears to be inconsistent because Murray relies on his physical traits rather than technique.
 
I also see Murray occasionally get ahead of himself when making an open-field tackle. Overall, I feel his tackling ability is pretty good but there are times he forgets to drop his weight, causing him to whiff.  
 
In conclusion, there are no red flags that give me reservations about taking Murray in the first round. He would be an immediate starter and would add more explosiveness to the second level of Green Bay’s defense.
 

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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Comments (45)

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pooch's picture

February 24, 2020 at 06:51 am

Jack Baun

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:13 am

Is that Zack's evil twin?

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Stroh's picture

February 24, 2020 at 01:27 pm

He's been a regular player for the Badgers for 3 yrs now and you can't get his name right? Really?!

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flackcatcher's picture

February 24, 2020 at 04:30 pm

Well I misspelled his first name TOO. (Not quite sure I should take credit for that.... :-)

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:15 am

"...the Packers are less probable to pay Martinez if they can find a worthy replacement through the draft."

Martinez will be off the board in the first week after FA opens. It's not a wait-and-see option.

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TheVOR's picture

February 24, 2020 at 09:45 am

There is no comparison to White or Bush, he's not in that prospect level. That said, and IMO, he's the best ILB in this draft hands down. The problem is I doubt he'll be on the board when GB selects at 30. If he was there at 30, I'm make the selection for sure. Here's the deal though, I'd like to see a Murray "In Tandom" with Martinez, not in place of. Martinez is a very active football player, and it wasn't enough, because they couldn't put another ILB beside him that was a worth a s**t. If Martinez leaves via UFA, GB doesn't have another guy on the roster that's a starting caliber ILB, period. GB should have drafted ILB last year, much deeper and better class in 2019, and it's not like we didn't need the same thing last year, and now it's more desperate than ever, because Martinez won't be back IMO. In fact I'd go as far as to say if we did resign him, it would probably be a bad contract, someone is going to overpay for this player.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 10:22 am

I think their desire to see if Burks would develop led them to invest their early picks elsewhere. It makes sense IF you really believe Burks is going to be that guy. We complain about how they keep throwing premium picks at a premium position (CB), imagine how the wolves would howl if they kept throwing premium picks at ILB. Instead, Burks gets hurt again, misses camp, and is playing catch-up all season leaving the Packers to mull overpaying Martinez, finding draft or FA dumpster dive help, or riding with Summers, Bolton, and Burks. It's a mess...

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 24, 2020 at 11:25 am

They have to sign either Bulaga or Martinez. I go with Bulaga and call it a re-load.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 11:52 am

You can bet they'll sign a RT during the FA period...the question is: will it be someone who starts or someone you hope doesn't need to start?

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Leatherhead's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:34 pm

Why sign the older guy with an injury history?

The defense improved from bad in 2018 to pretty good in 2019. We held

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 25, 2020 at 08:52 am

I am not in favor of signing either guy. They would have to commit to an OT by moving up into the first round to secure a starter. Rolling with Veldheer at RT is like a Vegas binge going south in a hurry. See what BG does in a couple of weeks with Bulaga? His health is a big deal for bigger dollars, tough call.

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stockholder's picture

February 24, 2020 at 11:39 am

If he's drafted to replace Goodson. I could understand the TANDEM> But= Yes! They could put another Lb next to Martinez. (Evan Weaver) The ILB has been a failure since Hawk and Bishop. Weaver is just physical as Bishop. Better Tackler. And Hawk was an OLB with 4.5/4.6 speed. Before moving. Peppers , Perry, and CM3 moved around. With Fackrell leaving, we need a OLB in the mold of CM3. Somebody that has to move in the middle in a pinch, or Outside if needed. You just can't find edge players that can move to the middle. But 1 can this year. It's Lewis of Alabama. So yes to "can play" next to Martinez. (Not s**t.) Now is Queen a Hawk?? I'd take Dye before Queen. But a WR before Both. The better player is what were after. If you leave the better player for someone else, you must defense against them. Save yourself the trouble and take him. Gute is looking for WRS and LBs. Not just Murray.

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stockholder's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:35 am

Compare him to White and Bush last year. I don't see the Decision-Making or his misreads a problem. I see his ability to get off blocks the issue. If selected by the packers, you only replaced Martinez. That was your comparison. I don't see replacing Martinez as a must do. I see replacing Goodson and Fackrell the bigger issue. If either Smith goes down. There will be No rush. Murray only will replace Martinez. The sideline to sideline is all your seeing. I believe others could replace Martinez. They wouldn't require a top pick.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:27 pm

So there's a player in the draft who doesn't get hurt and will lead the league in tackles, and who won't be a top pick?

Who? And why do the GMs and scouts agree with you? Or maybe they don't?

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dobber's picture

February 26, 2020 at 07:44 am

You forgot, "can play sideline-to-sideline, and covers RBs and TEs like a S."

Based on the current attitudes around here, that person is anyone not named Martinez.

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Renllaw's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:36 am

I like Murray, but I think Akeem Davis-Gaither or Shaq Quarterman can improve the ILB position in the 3rd or 4th round and let us take a WR, IDL, or OT early. Plus, I'm hopeful that we will sign our starting ILB before the draft.

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Turophile's picture

February 24, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Quarterman and Davis Gaither are very different guys.

Quarterman is a solid-bodied 240lb later pick, who is a physical player that can really unload on ball carriers. Davis Gaither is a 2nd (or 3rd at latest) rounder and is listed at just 220lb. His forte is pass coverage and speed is his best asset.

Drafting BOTH those guys (if Martinez is gone) would be a nice double dip that deals with both run stopping and coverage, very nicely.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 02:38 pm

Yep. Quarterman is a run-down ILB and Davis-Gaither is a nickel/dime ILB.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:54 am

This is the guy that's going to replace Martinez? Good luck with that.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 08:41 am

Nope. Because the Packers won't get a crack at him.

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Handsback's picture

February 24, 2020 at 08:28 am

Since stopping the run has become the weakness in Green Bay...will Murray be the answer? I'm not sure. He will be that sideline to sideline chase LB. They also need that run stopper in the middle as well.
Big year to find all the pieces that the Packer's need to make their defense top notch.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 08:44 am

You can hide deficiencies behind a good DL. It's going to be easier to find good DL this offseason than the kind of good, multipurpose ILBs everyone is clamoring for.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 24, 2020 at 08:56 am

We have 11 guys on defense. Four are pressuring the passer...let's say that's Clark, Lowry, Smith and Smith.

Then you have five guys in the secondary....Amos, Savage,Alexander,King, and Tramon.

So we have room for two more. I don't think replacing Martinez with a rookie is going to be the answer. Maybe somebody with him, and replacing Tramon with a better run support guy would help.

Not as easy as just replacing Martinez and drafting a defensive lineman.

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stockholder's picture

February 24, 2020 at 10:09 am

If the packers draft a DL early. I'd seriously question whether they want to win or not. This FA class is so loaded with bargains. And every Super bowl winner had a DL that was picked up from somebody else. I'm sure the change in scenery helps. But you got players ready for prime time there this year.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 10:24 am

If the best player on the board at 30 is a DL you think is going to be a star, you take him.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 25, 2020 at 08:48 am

They need to get at least one DT/DE from the free agency period. I would bag two. See how hard he pursues Bulaga.
The top OTs are all in round one this year for a plug and play guy. The ILBs all seem the same and I wouldn't take one before round three. Re-sign Goodson for a plugger and search out two more candidates. Gutedkunst will try to absorb his mistake with Burks by keeping him on sp teams.

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scoonie_penn's picture

February 24, 2020 at 09:06 am

Maybe I'm jaded but OU's defense last year was atrocious. I keep hearing/reading about how there are two players from the OU defense that might go in the late first or early second. I watched them play against OSU, LSU and several top level Big 12 offenses and OU wasn't even slowing teams down. I realize college football has changed to be all-out offense but there's a difference between getting scored upon and getting annihilated. they finished the season ranked 64 in total defense just slightly behind OK State, Virginia and FL International.

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albert999's picture

February 24, 2020 at 09:38 am

Draft Isaiah Simmons...Clemson!!!

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Renllaw's picture

February 24, 2020 at 12:32 pm

If we want Simmons we would most likely have to move into the top 10, maybe top 15. He isnt going to drop that far unless he robs a bank before the draft. By the standard draft pick point chart we would have to give up almost our entire draft.... picks 30, 62, 94, 216, 157, & 172... those picks total 1103 points, pick 10 is worth 1300. We would still be short on point value to reach him.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2020 at 12:32 am

Love Simmons! But his is a top five, and at worst a top 10, prospect.

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Turophile's picture

February 24, 2020 at 12:55 pm

While writing about round one picks is fine, the real value at ILB is in rounds 3/4/5.

Brooks, Dye, Davis-Gaither, Harrison, Weaver, Bailey, Strnad, Quarterman, are targets in this area, and while the Packers DO need ILB help, they also need help elsewhere with high picks, like DL, WR. The 3/4/5 area is where I'm expecting ILB to be addressed (and addressed twice if, as is likely, Martinez is gone).

Picking up a veteran TE and drafting something like DL / WR / ILB (coverage), then in whatever order ILB (run-stopper) / RB / WR / IOL / RB, etc, would still leave a couple of later picks and would fill an awful lot of gaps in the Packers position groups (and give some insurance if A. Jones is gone after 2020).

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Fredrik87's picture

February 25, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Agreed and I'd throw in Logan Wilson and Willie Gay Jr. into the mix as well

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Stroh's picture

February 24, 2020 at 01:25 pm

If Murray runs in the 4.6's, he and the entire NFL will be very disappointed. He needs to run in the low 4.5's to be worth a 1st rd pick. Him running a 4.6 might take him out of the Packers plans at #30. 4.6 is not nearly good enough!

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stockholder's picture

February 24, 2020 at 02:01 pm

I'll bet Harrison and Lewis run faster.

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frankthefork's picture

February 24, 2020 at 02:02 pm

Gutey has a bad draft record thus far IMO...hope third time changes that . Alexander is only stud from his first year. Year 2 was better with 3 solid picks, but he reaches (gary and burks)and that scares me. I would never trade up given his record, but Murray is talented.

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Handsback's picture

February 24, 2020 at 02:15 pm

There's a ILB from Oregon that I like much better...Troy Dye. The kid is always dropping back deep for TEs and RBs. Also hits holes quickly and seems to stop the RB when he plugs the hole. I have no idea how fast he is but sure looks good to me.

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 02:41 pm

I'll be curious to see how he runs at the combine, but he seems to be fast enough on the field which is what matters.

He needs a full off-season in an NFL weight room and an expense account at Cheesecake Factory to play inside in an odd front.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 24, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Packers more likely to draft either a player who played OLB or a big SS/hybrid type for Pettine defense to play inside. Packers don't play two ILB types, that may change depending on how they deal with the defensive line. For example Zev Braun? from Wisconsin may be more a fit for this defense than Murray. Just saying....

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flackcatcher's picture

February 24, 2020 at 04:33 pm

(SIGH) Zack (I KNOW I KNOW).......

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4thand1's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:30 pm

there is an edit button. lol

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flackcatcher's picture

February 25, 2020 at 09:39 pm

Yeah I know.... :-)

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CoachDino's picture

February 24, 2020 at 03:14 pm

Everything I read and view makes me very wary of taking Murray in Rd 1.
Value of ILB in Rd 1 is very low compared to other positions
He is not a run stopper. He is the same as Martines but will be able to get to the edges faster.
Poor at shedding blocks and slow in recognition. That's not a small issue. Speed is great but reaction time is much more important;
His coverage ability is terrible. Yes, he's fast and athletic and "maybe" can develop but he certainly doesn't grade out as a coverage plus guy.

So, in the end, he is athletic, fast and makes a ton of tackles....could be an upgrade from our average speed and athletism ILB that makes a ton of tackles but how much? 1st rd pick? no way

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dobber's picture

February 24, 2020 at 07:53 pm

"1st rd pick? no way"

IF he's there, and IF he's the highest graded player on your board AND he fills a position of need...why not? Those are a lot of IFs and ANDs, but still: make value moves in FA to try to fill gaping holes so you can get the best player you can get at #30.

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PhantomII's picture

February 24, 2020 at 09:03 pm

Biggest problem is the defensive coordinators poor scheme or lack of quality personnel to field it on 1-2 down. Need a big NT and 2 good-DT's collapsing the pocket/ stopping the run and both smiths coming at the QB. Until they get that right I don't think any ILB is gonna make the difference we would like. Martinez would not need to make 150 tackles if more beef was on the line on 1st and 2nd down and were doing their job. Ideally this would end up a 3rd and long and rotate NT out and xtra DB into coverage for a 3 and out. Offense has to make first downs so our D doesn't get worn down ,help would be a good slot receiver we don't have yet. If we address what we need this offseason we will be in good shape regardless. One thing affects the other. 2nd year in the offense should be much better. I think things trend up this year and our games don't look so spotty moving the ball.

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murf7777's picture

February 25, 2020 at 06:34 am

I’ve watched game tapes of all three, Murray, Queen and Dye and I think Dye has the most upside potential. He is the best at shedding blocks with his long arms. He’s explosive rangy and can run sideline to sideline. As dobber stated he needs to add weight. He gets taken out if an OL can get their hands on him. GB should be able to get him in the 2nd round.

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