Trent Murphy, Outside Linebacker
Alter ego: “The Yeti.” When he’s not wrestling steers, the 6-foot-6 Murphy likes to tower over quarterbacks — and then wrestle them, too.
CBSSports.com projection: 2nd/3rd round
Cardinal career: The country-strong Arizona native first made a major impact as a junior for the Card, starting all 13 games and finishing with 6.5 sacks. However, Murphy really broke onto the scene as a senior; the AP third-team All-American and All-Pac-12 first teamer recorded 10 sacks, the most by a Cardinal defender since 2004, and 18 tackles for loss, the most since 2000. He memorably flashed his instincts at the line of scrimmage by reading a screen pass and leaping in front for a pick-six against Washington at Century Link Stadium.
Though some pinned his 2012 success on the fact that he was playing alongside highly touted pro prospect Chase Thomas, Murphy dispelled that belief with authority in 2013. Murphy chose to return to Stanford for his fifth-year senior season and had arguably the biggest impact of any Cardinal player during Stanford’s second straight Pac-12 title run. He led the entire nation with 15 sacks, finishing his Stanford career third all-time with 32.5 sacks, and recorded 62 tackles, two forced fumbles and a blocked extra point.
Additionally, Murphy again stepped in front of a screen pass for a pick-six at Century Link Stadium — this time against Washington State – and had six pass breakups as he became well-known for reading where the quarterback wanted to throw.
Strangely, Murphy did not win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award, as Arizona State’s Will Sutton took home the honor in spite of far poorer statistics and performance. But he was a consensus All-American and All-Pac-12 first team selection after one of the best seasons ever by a Cardinal defensive player.
Pro stock: The strong, physical defender is somewhat unfairly viewed as a “tweener” that lacks the bulk to play on the defensive line and lacks the speed to play linebacker, despite having played both successfully in college. However, it’s hard to find any flaws in the 261-pound Murphy’s game when watching his tape. He has the explosiveness to blow through the line while also possessing the finesse and speed to weave his way by offensive linemen, as evidenced by the variety of his sacks and his performance in the three-cone drill at the NFL Combine, where he had the second-best time by a linebacker.
Murphy’s instinctiveness at the line of scrimmage has allowed him to tip passes and step in front for interceptions while also reading and defending the run. The statistics support his unquestionable talent and any team that takes Murphy will get a hard worker with first-round talent. He might have the most upside of any Cardinal prospect in the draft.
Highlight: Rather than picking between one of many, it’s easiest to show you several. Notice his continued ability to disrupt the passer, whether he blows through the line of scrimmage or sticks his hands up over his blocker.
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.