American Football

Byron Murphy II is the best defensive player in the 2024 NFL Draft

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Texas v Houston
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If all three wide receivers are gone, the best option on the board for the Chicago Bears will be Murphy.

I’m ready for the hate in the comments, so bring it.

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks looking at the options for the Chicago Bears at nine, including guys that would be available in the 10 to 20 range in case of a trade back.

I’ve kept in mind the Bears’ needs, their likes, and their profiles, and I’ve come to a conclusion that’s probably going to shock some people.

First of all, let me preface this by saying that as I’m building my “Chicago Bears at nine big board” and I still have some more watching to do, I’m confident I’m going to have the three wide receivers taking up the second, third and fourth spot behind Caleb Williams. The fifth spot is up for grabs, and right now, I’m making a statement about it.

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II is the best defensive player in this draft.

I am really high on this prospect. If all three receivers are off the board and the Bears can’t find a partner to trade back, I would be perfectly content if the Bears selected Murphy at nine.

Before I get to Murphy, let’s briefly discuss the three popular edges that could also garner attention as the top defensive player. Laiatu Latu’s tape is fantastic. Of the three edges, his tape is better than both Dallas Turner and Jared Verse’s. I know the UCLA doctors are confident that the issues with his neck are behind him, and if this was a second-round pick or even a late first-round pick, I’d feel a lot more confident about selecting a player like Latu. But the Bears need a blue-chipper to hit with this ninth pick, and I am just too scared that Latu’s neck trouble could become an issue for him moving forward.

I like Verse a lot less than the experts. And let me say, I am not an expert the likes of Dane Brugler or Daniel Jeremiah, but I don’t love how Verse translates. First of all, he’s almost 24. He’s just a couple of months younger than Aidan Hutchinson, who’s entering his third season in the league. I don’t love Verse’s bend, and I think he’s going to have some limitations at the next level. I expect Verse to be good, but I’m not sure I see a blue chip stud personally.

Turner is my favorite edge of this group. I do wonder if Matt Eberflus is going to look at Turner and question if he’s going to fit in Flus’ 4-3 front. Turner looks a lot more like a 3-4 OLB edge who has the athleticism to drop into coverage at times and be a little more versatile around the ball. Turner needs to add a little more strength, but he’s a playmaker that just spends a lot of time in the backfield when you watch his game. He feels like he has the potential to become a true gamewrecker.

But the guy who looks more like a game wrecker across the defensive line out of this class is Murphy.

First the negative on Murphy: he’s a little small. It’ll be interesting to see if Murphy’s new team will want to see if he can add some mass to his frame and not lose his explosive athleticism. His arm length isn’t ideal but they aren’t stumps on his shoulders either.

But the positives for Murphy are off the chart. He has elite speed and athleticism. Despite being on the small side, he has tremendous power with quick hands and he’s really instinctive at getting to the ball.

Murphy gets off blockers smoothly, consistently collapses the pocket on quarterbacks but also is a disruptive force in the running game. His motor doesn’t shut off all game long.

This is the guy for Matt Eberflus’ defense. I know plenty of locals love what they see from Jer’Zhan Newton, who is also a high-quality prospect, but the sky is the limit for Murphy’s ceiling. We’ve heard for three offseasons that Matt Eberflus’ defense needs a dominant 3T to fire on all cylinders. Gervon Dexter looks like he’s going to be a quality player, but I don’t see the dominant disruptive force that I see in Murphy.

If all three of the top receivers are off the board, the ideal move for Ryan Poles would be to trade back and select Murphy, but if no trade partners are available and the Bears are forced to pick at nine. If they want to add to Flus’ defense, Murphy is the way to go.

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