The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been vocal in their support of the current cornerback crew, even stating that former first round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves will be the outside corner opposite Carlton Davis rather than the inside corner where Hargreaves excelled, That doesn’t mean that they won’t still look to address the position in the draft.
Washington’s Byron Murphy is one of the better cornerback prospects out there and could be a guy that the Bucs would want to take a closer look at bringing aboard.
Byron Murphy’s Career
Murphy played just twenty games during his tenure at Washington - having missed seven games with a broken foot - before declaring for the NFL draft following his sophomore season. He finished with 74 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, six interceptions, twenty passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a touchdown.
He finished in the top four in the PAC-12 in interceptions, interception return yards, interceptions returned for touchdowns, and passes defensed in 2018. He would then go on to be named first team all PAC-12 and second team All-American.
Murphy has speed, fluidity, and great anticipation. He’s one of the top rated corners for a reason. He can adapt to any and all schemes, playing press man or zone with nearly equal effectiveness. He has solid ball skills and can be a challenge - both mentally and physically - for opposing receivers. Murphy was targeted 87 times when at Washington and he either intercepted the ball or broke up the pass on 27 of those pass attempts - a staggering 31%. His ability to anticiapte and read routes is well beyond where he should be at this stage in his career, allowing him to be one of the most sought after corners in the draft.
The small amount of experience is a bit concerning. Had Murphy stayed for his junior year and continued to hone his craft, we could be talking about a top ten pick. His size is also a bit of a concern as he’s 5’11”, 190 lbs. Going up against some of the larger receivers in the leage, that may hinder his effectiveness. He’s a little slow on the backpedal but has enough closing speed to make it a non-issue in college. However, at the NFL level, he will have to work to get quicker and more smooth in that area.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
The Bucs are still in need of help in the secondary. Even if VH3 works out as an outside corner under Bowles, there isn’t a lot of depth at the cornerback position. Outisde of Hargreaves and Davis, you have a cornerback corps of De’Vante Harris, David Rivers, and Ryan Smith. The Bucs have to find some help there whether it’s via free agency or the draft.
Murphy would be an instant upgrade and day one starter for this team and has the flexibility to play inside or outside. He’s a ball hawk in the making and any defense will become better the instant his name is called.
Will It Happen?
Without a trade back scenario, no. The Bucs have needs all over the defense but their needs within the front seven outweigh those in the secondary in the first round. Now, should the Bucs trade back and find themselves on the clock with no Ed Oliver, Devin White, Devin Bush, or Brian Burns, then yes - Murphy could 100% be the target. I just believe there are too many needs to address along the line and with the linebackers to take a corner ahead of one of those impact players the Bucs will have sitting there for them.