The New England Patriots have a chance to land a top linebacker in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft without having to move their spot in the order.
The New England Patriots can change and reset the direction of their team with the 23rd overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Considering the depth within this year’s draft class — and the plethora of mid-round draft picks the Patriots have — the team will have plenty of opportunities to retool their franchise, as they are still hopeful to remain a championship-contending team this season.
But the key in doing that is by starting to replace the large number of players that parted ways with the Patriots during free agency.
It has become a known fact that Bill Belichick-led football teams are notorious for having standout, versatile defenses. A strong and capable defense is part of the Belichick “system” we so often hear about.
For example, just this past season, the Patriots defensive unit started off strong and was on a record pace by leading the team to weekly victories. But unfortunately for New England, they will be without the services of their top-two linebackers from 2019 in 2020: Jamie Collins (Lions) and Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins), as both have joined new teams through free agency this offseason.
Other than Ja’Whaun Bentley, New England does not have any other linebackers who can hold their own from the middle linebacker position. The Pats will need to acquire someone who is capable of lining up and running next to Dont’a Hightower in the middle of the defense.
At this point, Belichick is going to have to find this perfect player through the draft, possibly even with the 23rd overall selection nearing the end of the first round.
That player should be Kenneth Murray.
In my humble opinion, Murray should actually be long gone by the time the New England Patriots are on the clock for their first pick of the night. Murray is a player who has only improved each year in the BIG12 and has made the All-BIG12 teams each year while playing at Oklahoma.
But Josh Norris of NBC Sports and ProFootballTalk has Murray falling all the way down to 32nd overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in his latest mock draft, making him available to the Patriots who currently own the 23rd overall draft selection this year.
To gain more clarity, I reached out to NBC Sports Boston’s Patriots insider, Phil Perry, and I asked him: “If Murray was available to the Patriots 23rd overall (via Josh Norris), is he a player that the Pats would draft at that point?”
Perry responded by saying that Murray is a great athlete and there would be possible intrigue/potential for the Patriots to draft him if he was still on the board there. Perry also mentioned that the decision would come down to who is still on the board at that point.
If Murray is in fact available to the Pats to close out the first round, then they should most definitely consider taking him.
Murray has all of the makings of being a productive linebacker in the NFL. He’s 6’2, 242 lbs, and finished his three-year college career with 325 total tackles (36.5 for loss and 9.5 sacks).
While at the combine, Murray impressed everyone by running the 40-yard dash in just 4.52 seconds; he also logged 21 bench press reps, performed a 38 inch vertical jump, and had a broad jump of 129 inches.
After spending three years at Oklahoma, Murray has proven to be an intelligent football player, and he has used that to his advantage to sharpen his skills as a linebacker. He is incredibly fast and knows what his strengths are as a player, which has allowed him to be more versatile and play more freely at the same time.
The Patriots are better than most teams in designing their defense with essentially a player who is capable of lining up anywhere and being productive — we have seen it done on numerous occasions with Collins in the past, for example.
If Murray is available to the Patriots in the first round, he would more than likely be the best player on the board in the position, thus tempting the Patriots even more to draft him.
Murray’s perfect blend of strength, speed, and size will quickly improve the defense for New England, as they are starting to prepare for the next phase of their franchise. Remember, we all know that “defense wins championships,” and the Patriots may have to rely on that mantra more than ever as they move forward into the next phase of their franchise.
Murray fitting in nicely next to Hightower would be a situation very reminiscent of how well Jerod Mayo lined up next to Tedy Bruschi back in 2008 when the Patriots drafted Mayo in the first round, as well as when Hightower came to New England and lined up next to Mayo.