Former Oklahoma inside linebacker Kenneth Murray precisely what Packers' defense needs

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray checks all the boxes for what the Packers' defense needs.

Latest in a Packers Prospects series looking at players Green Bay could select in the April 23-25 NFL draft.

GREEN BAY - He grew up idolizing Ray Lewis. Watching him. Studying him. Dreaming he could one day be him.

Kenneth Murray is the prototypical inside linebacker. The same mold Lewis set two decades ago – all over the field, making plays in coverage and against the run – is what Murray hopes to bring to the NFL.

Which is to say he’s precisely what the Green Bay Packers’ defense needs.

Murray is both big and fast. At 6-2, 241 pounds, he has the bulk to defend in the box against the run. His 21 bench-press reps tied for fifth among all linebackers at the NFL scouting combine. More importantly, he ran a 4.52 40, ranking sixth at his position and flashing more than enough speed to hold up in coverage.

That Murray can defend the pass and run is important. The Packers believe their second-level coverage improved when they signed free agent Christian Kirksey, a more athletic linebacker who doesn’t play the run as effectively as Blake Martinez. They also lost run-defense linebacker B.J. Goodson in free agency, so the position needs an added presence in stopping the ground game. But the Packers also made clear pass coverage is a priority.

In Murray, they could select an inside linebacker capable of doing both, a rarity at the position. They interviewed him at the NFL scouting combine, doing their homework. Now they’ll have to wait and see if he’s available when they’re on the clock with the 30th overall pick.

Age next season: 22.

Combine measurables: 4.52 40, 21 bench-press reps, 129-inch broad jump.

Stats: 102 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 passes defended.

Pro Football Focus analysis: Murray immediately stepped into a starting role on the Oklahoma defense as a true freshman in 2017, but he struggled out of the gates. He wasn’t providing consistent support in the run game or in coverage, and he missed too many tackles with 17 on the season. He ended that freshman campaign with just a 52.9 overall grade. Things improved for Murray as a sophomore across the board, however, as he finished the year with grades of 64.8 or better as a run defender, tackler, pass rusher and in coverage. His 2019 performance in coverage was another step in the right direction. Murray recorded a career-high 80.6 grade in coverage, improving as a read-and-react defender while cutting down on some of the missed tackles.

Draftniks say: “Murray dominated at Oklahoma – I remember watching him tally 18 tackles against Army last season when he firmly entered the 2020 draft conversation – and has shown the instincts and most important the speed to be a threat as an every-down ’backer.” – Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

Quotable: “A lot of times, people don’t really understand my intelligence. I feel like sometimes people may question if I see things a certain way and don’t really, truly understand the scheme that we have in place. And so I think that’s what these meetings are for. I think having these formal meetings and sitting down and talking some ball with these coaches and general managers and just letting them understand how smart I am, showing them how I can articulate on the board and just be a general of a defense. So I think that’s just something I think is a misconception, but definitely something I’m out to prove.” – Kenneth Murray

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