1st Round Pick 28: Myles Murphy
Grade: A (93/100)
The Bengals’ front office was not tasked with a difficult decision on day one of the NFL Draft. Cincinnati was more than happy to submit their card with Myles Murphy’s name on it. You won’t find a better prospect at a premium position that is so young with so much potential. This is why Zac Taylor and company admitted they were surprised that Myles Murphy was available for them to take.
The Bengals couldn’t have been happier to be wrong about Murphy’s draft stock. There was no talking them out of making this pick. Despite trade offers from teams looking to sneak back into the end of the first round, says team writer Paul Dehner Jr.:
Yet the Bengals were unshakeable in their belief that Murphy was their guy as the first round slipped away and the phone rang with offers of a trade back. Not far back, but far enough. They weren’t going to risk losing Murphy and his productive career on the Clemson edge, they decided, so they stayed at No. 28 during a week the AFC stepped up its arms race stockpiling elite quarterbacks.
There’s no understating the value the Bengals feel they got in Myles Murphy at the end of round one.
I had Myles Murphy as the second-best edge prospect in this class behind only Will Anderson. No other edge prospect can lay claim to his Murphy’s combination of youth, size, and athleticism. Standing at 6’5 268, he shouldn’t be able to move as fast as he does. To put his speed into perspective, if he had run a 40-yard dash with correct form, his time would have been better than all wide receivers who ran except for 17.
Murphy’s strength and long arms make him a classic AFC North run defender on the edge. Murphy’s career 37 tackles for loss at Clemson prove he’ll be another force in a stout run defense. His 90.9 run defense grade since 2020 from PFF will join a top-five run defense in yards allowed and top nine in yards per carry.
Murphy pairs his strength with an effective explosion off the line. His first step and acceleration put him in position around the edge to finish with strength. His strength not only aids him in run defense, but he also has powerful hands and a strong push to flatten angles with power.
You can never have too many pass rushers, especially in the AFC with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson running around. Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo knows this better than anyone after the last two playoff runs, facing a gauntlet of superstar quarterbacks.
“(We) get a guy that brings position flex — he’s played both outside and inside (and) can rush from different spots,” Anarumo said of Murphy. “(With) the teams we have to play and when we have to play them, the more rushers we have on the field at one time, the better we’ll be. He’s the guy who will fit right in with that in that moment.”
The Bengals couldn’t get to Mahomes nearly enough in the AFC Conference championship game, even on a bad ankle.
The Bengals are spending the 3rd most on the defensive line in the entire NFL, spending over $59M. Despite the heavy allocation of resources, the Bengals are at the bottom of the league in sacks with just 30. This is unacceptable and unsustainable for an AFC contender. Cincinnati’s season has been ended back-to-back years by a lethal pass rush. It’s about time the Bengals get one of their own.
Adding Murphy gives the Bengals juice, a rotation piece to keep Hendrickson and Hubbard fresh, and ultimately allows them to get cheaper at a premium position. With big extensions looming for the Bengals with Trey Hendrickson, D.J. Reader, and Logan Wilson, among others, not even considering the offensive big three, it’s imperative the Bengals start drafting their future stars instead of paying them.
Having a player of Murphy’s potential on a rookie deal is key to sustaining glue guys elsewhere on the roster. With Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard’s sack production falling and their ages rising, adding Murphy gives them the flexibility to move on from one of them as a cap casualty next offseason.
Although there is much to love about Myles Murphy’s game, no one is perfect. What’s lacking is a pass-rush plan. Murphy needs to be more decisive when rushing and defending the option. His process can be sped up, and that will come as he develops more pass-rush moves. Until then, we may see him having to work his way up behind Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, and Joseph Ossai. His playing time may be limited, and when he is on the field, will he be able to turn those into meaningful reps?
Which begins the question, how big of an impact will Myles Murphy have in year one? The uncertainty there keeps this from an A+ grade. Ideally, a team competing for a Lombardi trophy will generate a large impact out of their first-rounder. With Murphy, that is no guarantee.
Usually, with a “high upside” pick, there comes a healthy amount of risk. But with Murphy, that may not be the case. Coming out of Clemson with zero medical or character red flags shows you can count on Murphy to be available and hard-working. Being only 21 favors his chances of developing. He is yet to fully grow into his body and into his game as he learns to put his pass-rush plan together. The best of Myles Murphy is still within him. This is a matter of “when” not “if” for Myles Murphy. If he doesn’t turn into a plus starter, it is on the coaching staff’s inability to progress his game further.
Being able to land a potential pro bowler at a premium position is tremendous value at the end of round one. His talent and tools are waiting to be molded into just that, a pro bowl skillset. Murphy is a low-risk, high-reward pick. The fit both in play style and body matches an AFC North defender. Murphy matched the need for more pass rushers for the Bengals while also being the best player available. Sometimes it just works out perfectly that way. This is an A pick.