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Minnesota Football: NFL Draft Profile - DB Eric Murray

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Breaking down the NFL Draft potential of one of the best cornerbacks the Gophers have had in years.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

As a three-year starter for the Golden Gophers and an All-Big Ten cornerback, Eric Murray will graduate from Minnesota as one of the best defensive players to take the field under former defensive coordinator (now head coach) Tracy Claeys and former defensive backs coach (now defensive coordinator) Jay Sawvel. Murray, along with fellow graduating senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, is expected to join Brock Vereen and Cedric Thompson as former Gopher defensive backs from the Jerry Kill era to be drafted to the NFL.

If Murray or Boddy-Calhoun are drafted, it will mark the third consecutive year a Gopher defensive back has been selected, which has not happened since 1971-73.

Combine Results

EVENT RESULT CB RANK NOTES
Height 5'11" --- ---
Weight 199 lbs --- ---
40-Yard Dash 4.49 sec T-14th 32 Participants
Bench Press 15 reps T-13th 29 Participants
Vertical Jump 39.5 inches 3rd 31 Participants
Broad Jump 124 inches T-7th 30 Participants
3-Cone Drill 7.08 sec T-15th 22 Participants
20-Yard Shuttle 4.05 sec 5th 24 Participants
60-Yard Shuttle 11.19 sec T-5th 13 Participants

Film

Below is the video that the athletic department produced for Murray with highlights from last season. The problem with putting together a highlight video for Murray is that you run the risk of boredom, because much of his value comes from being a cornerback that opposing quarterbacks know to avoid. With just two career interceptions, he doesn't have a reputation for being a ball hawk, and has largely flown under the radar because turnovers are more exciting than holding receivers below their average yards per game.

Strengths

  • There is one word you're guaranteed to hear when anyone is describing Murray: Physical. Murray is a suffocating cornerback known for being aggressive at the line of scrimmage. He uses his physicality to hold his own against bigger and faster wide receivers and force them to adjust their routes. It is no small feat to find separation against Murray as an opposing wideout.
  • Tackling. Murray is an exceptional open field tackler, making him invaluable against the run and on screen passes. He has been especially aggressive behind the line of scrimmage, notching four tackles for loss last season.
  • Versatility. Murray has made a name for himself in press man coverage, but is also well-versed in off and zone coverages. He is smart and disciplined, and has also been a leader for the defense since he stepped on the field.
  • Durability. Murray didn't miss a single game due to injury during his entire four-year career at Minnesota, which is remarkable when you consider the Gophers' poor luck with injuries over the years.
  • Murray has also been a standout on special teams, blocking two kicks in 2014.

Weaknesses

  • Being a physical cornerback is a double-edged sword, because his tendency to be active with his hands beyond five yards means he could be vulnerable to holding and pass interference calls at the next level.
  • Speed. Murray lacks the top end speed that scouts look for, as evidenced by his middle-of-the-pack combine results. At the next level, that could allow faster receivers to find separation on vertical routes deep down the field, but Murray does possess enough burst to recover well when beat.
  • Size. Murray has been knocked by some scouts as being too small to play the outside corner in the NFL, which would mean he'd project more as a slot cornerback or at nickel. His size has also been perceived as a potential problem in run support against bigger and more physical receivers.
  • Turnovers. As I've mentioned, Murray does not have a reputation as a playmaker. Granted, you can make the case that quarterbacks avoid giving him that opportunity, but his lack of career interceptions has allowed critics to question his ball skills.

Potential Teams

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have had a revolving door at the cornerback position opposite Tramaine Brock -- a former Gopher -- and have a lot of youth at the position, with no clear frontrunner to step up. Murray has visited with the coaching staff in San Francisco, and could be a promising option at a position that could use some help.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are thin at the cornerback position, and Murray could contribute as the fourth cornerback or at the nickel spot. He'd be an ideal schematic fit for the New England defense, and a nice long-term option at the position.

Houston Texans

Murray had a private workout with the Texans. Cornerback is not a position of need for Bill O'Brien, but Murray could be a developmental prospect to bolster their defensive backfield for the future.

Outlook

With only two career interceptions, Murray doesn't receive much attention on a national level, but he is a playmaker in other ways, breaking up passes and forcing fumbles (including a team-leading three in 2015) over the past three seasons and is lauded by Minnesota coaches for his work ethic and competitive drive on and off the field, also excelling on special teams.

The above quote from a CBS Sports scouting report best sums up Murray. He isn't a big name, and his abilities and athleticism aren't going to wow scouts. But he will be a sleeper pick and a solid contributor early in his career, either on special teams or as a back-up, with the possibility of developing into a potential starter.

Projection: 4th-5th Round