Over the past few years, the Ravens’ front office, scouts, and coaches have had an affinity for drafting players out of Oklahoma. In this year’s draft, we could see that trend continue as many draft pundits are linking ILB Kenneth Murray to the Ravens at pick #28.
Despite the strong play of linebackers L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes during the latter portion of the season, the Ravens need an impact player at the middle linebacker position that has the ability to change games and make opposing offenses account for his abilities. The Ravens haven’t had a player of that caliber since C.J. Mosley led the defense during his five-year tenure as a Raven. Especially during the divisional round of the playoffs, the Ravens were exposed for their lack of inside linebacker talent as Derrick Henry gashed the front seven for huge gains. That being said, Murray would be an ideal first round pick as he would start immediately and mitigate any uncertainties at the middle linebacker position.
Murray is a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker who demonstrated his ability to make plays all over the field on a consistent basis. His athleticism paired with his uncanny anticipation of plays will translate to the next level. Albeit, concerns arise about Murray’s angles at the ball carrier as well as his inconsistent block shedding abilities. Putting him in the right system with proper coaching should alleviate such concerns.
Oklahoma ILB Kenneth Murray
2019 Stats: 69 tackles, 33 assisted, 17 TFL, 4 sacks, 4 PDs
Murray's strong tackling abilities are imperative, and his 17 tackles-for-loss are a testament to his ability to shoot gaps as well as anticipate the direction of plays. Murray has a number of promising strengths that’ll give him opportunities to make impacts as a pro early on, but he also has a number of notable weaknesses that may cause some teams to shy away from him.
- Very productive during his time at Oklahoma; he dominated during his sophomore season as well
- A very consistent and aggressive tackler, almost always is a sure thing when he wraps up ball carriers
- Unquestioned athleticism and speed; he makes plays other linebackers simply cannot
- He is often the first defender to the ball, especially in run plays
- A true sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can tackle players from anywhere on the field
- Demonstrates great anticipation; it often seems that he knows where the play is going before anyone else on the defense
- A very talented blitzer that can blow up plays and sack the quarterback
- Is very good at outrunning tight ends and offensive linemen while pursuing the ball carrier
- Has a high level of competitive toughness
- Relentless motor
- Has star potential in the pros
- Is susceptible to over pursuing and taking himself completely out of the play as a result; despite his tremendous game speed, it sometimes comes back to hurt him
- Is a victim of taking poor angles to the ball; he needs to develop a more open-minded approach when pursuing ball carriers
- Was seldom used in man coverage and has limited capabilities in that area; he would need to learn quickly if he wants to immediately start and be a leader for the defense
- Still needs to develop his zone coverage abilities, but his athleticism and anticipation will greatly aid his abilities in that department (not to mention the stable of cornerbacks the Ravens will most likely use on a weekly basis, which would put less pressure on Murray)
- Needs to improve his block shedding as he often found himself having trouble disengaging from blockers
- Despite his strong tackling abilities, Murray needs to improve his open field tackling
Floor Comparison: Darron Lee
Ceiling Comparison: Roquan Smith
How Murray fits with the Ravens:
If Murray is available at pick #28 there is a real chance that the Ravens will turn in their draft card with his name on it. Murray's athletic ability would fit perfectly in the Ravens’ scheme. His tremendous blitzing ability would be a wonderful addition to Wink Martindale’s defense, which consistently leads the league in blitzing. Murray would have to improve his coverage, but with the support of a deep secondary, Murray won’t have to be thrown into the fire immediately. That being said, Murray's improvement in coverage will be a determining factor in how much playing time he receives early on in the season.
Murray's skills in run defense will greatly improve the teams ability to stop the run, especially against workhorse running backs. Murray will be immediately impactful for whoever drafts him, and he will only ascend as he gets more experience.