If you have been a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs for very long you know all to well that the NFL draft rarely goes how you think it should. For what felt like an eternity it seemed that KC should draft a wide receiver in the first or second round and they never did. Fortunately, they signed Jeremy Maclin last year to fill that need, but the point is that the Chiefs rarely draft the position that many fans believe that they should. As the 2016 draft approaches it seems almost universally agreed upon that the Chiefs need to draft a cornerback early in this draft to help fill the hole created by Sean Smith’s departure. If history repeats itself for KC fans this means that the Chiefs likely won’t draft a corner early and fans will be left hoping that their team can find a “diamond in the rough” in the mid to late rounds of the draft.
Anticipating this turn of events I have spent the past week looking over as many mid to late round cornerback prospects as possible in search of ones that I think could both be a good fit in KC’s system and have the upside to develop into starters given time and good coaching. In case anyone that is reading this isn’t aware, the Chiefs run a press man system with their outside cornerbacks. That means that they will often line up right over the wideout and attempt to knock him off his route right at the line of scrimmage. From there they are responsible to stick with the wideout in single man to man coverage, often with no help over the top from the safety. So if a corner is going to have a shot at starting on the outside for KC he has to have both the size and strength to jam receivers at the line and the man coverage skills to stick with them after that.
After reading up on and watching tape on over a dozen different mid to late round corners I have three that top my list. Keep in mind this list does not include guys like William Jackson III who will go in the first round or even guys like Xavien Howard who will likely go in the second round. All three of these prospects are guys that should go no earlier than the fourth round. They all have some question marks of one kind or another, otherwise they would be drafted earlier. However, of all the prospects that I studied these are the three that intrigue me the most.
Eric Murray – Minnesota
5-foot-11, 199 pounds
4.49 forty, 15 bench press reps
39.5 inch vertical, 7.08 3-cone drill
Eric Murray is probably the most well known of the three prospects on my wish list. Murray played in the Big Ten and has plenty of experience and game tape against major opponents. Minnesota used him in press man coverage on a regular basis so he already has familiarity with the basics of the Chiefs system. While he may not be the ideal height for an outside corner in KC’s system, he is only one inch shorter than Marcus Peters. What he does have is the physical frame to jam wideouts at the line and enough speed to keep up with them down the field. What I really like about Murray is his physical style of play. He’s aggressive and loves contact. He’s solid in run defense and would make an outstanding special teams contributor (he had a couple blocked kicks in college).
Besides being a little small for the outside, Murray’s other major issue is that his physical style of play can draw flags. If forced to start outside early in his career he would be a target for good quarterbacks to pick on knowing that even if the receiver doesn’t beat his coverage he may still draw an interference flag. Murray also has questionable ball skills with only two career interceptions in college. He did prove to be durable as he started all 39 games of his final three years of college. This is a player that needs time to develop and refine his technique instead of relying on his sheer physical skills.
I love how Murray plays with no fear. He’s not afraid to knock any wideout around at the line of scrimmage and he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty in run support. He drives on the ball well when he drops back in off coverage and even if he doesn’t develop into a starting outside corner he would still have roster value as a nickel corner on the inside and as a key special teams contributor. I think Murray would be a good value pick in the fifth round and would be fine with KC taking him at the end of the fourth if they really like his upside.
What others are saying:
"Although he lacks ideal size, Murray is a suffocating man-to-man cover corner with the mentality of a safety, which is his calling card, competing with aggressive confidence. He is feisty vs. the run, but his physical approach leads to penalties downfield in coverage, lacking the savvy or discipline to use his hands without attracting flags."
Next: Who else could the Chiefs target?