Editor's note: This is the ninth of 10 prospect profiles on players who could be on the Falcons' radar in the first round.
Under coach Dan Quinn, the Atlanta Falcons have always wanted to have a defense that is fast and physical. There's one player in this draft who have both of those qualities in excess and could be an ideal fit in Atlanta. Former Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray – the No. 18 player on Dave Archer's Big Board – could be an option if the Falcons seek to replace De'Vondre Campbell in the first round.
Murray developed into one of the top linebacker's in the country during his career at Oklahoma, but he wasn't a blue-chip prospect coming out of Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas. Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Murray was just the 23rd-ranked linebacker prospect in his class.
Despite his lower ranking as a prospect, Murray became a full-time starter right away as a freshman. Murray recorded 68 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and one sack as a freshman; he was named co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and earned some freshman All-American honors. Murray took a big step forward during his sophomore season, recording 155 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks.
As a junior in 2019, Murray had 102 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and four sacks, earning a first-team All-Big 12 selection for his efforts. Murray started all 42 games during his three-year career at Oklahoma and became one of the most respected leaders on the team.
How Murray fits in with the Falcons
Murray has all of the physical tools the Falcons covet for their defense. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound linebacker ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, and his 129-inch broad jump at the combine puts him in the 97th percentile of all NFL linebackers. That speed and explosiveness is apparent on film, as Murray looks like he's shot out of a cannon when chasing the ball carrier.
His length also helps Murray have a large tackle radius, and he is adept at wrap-and-roll tackling. Murray has pure sideline-to-sideline range as a defender, which would make him a big asset to Atlanta's run defense. By pairing Murray with Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun, the Falcons would have one of the most athletic linebacker corps in the NFL.
In passing situations, Murray appears more comfortable rushing the passer than dropping into coverage. Although he has the length to be a disruptive player while in coverage, his feel for zone coverage is a little underdeveloped. But his speed and skills as a pass rusher would benefit the Falcons on passing downs until he improves in coverage.
The other major positive with Murray is his leadership and overall character. Murray helped his parents raise three adopted siblings with special needs and reportedly wowed teams at the combine with his knowledge of the game. NFL Network's Peter Schrager said on "Good Morning Football" after the combine that one AFC coach told him, "This was the single greatest combine interview I ever had."
"Sleek, playmaking linebacker with chiseled frame and long arms. Murray's game is predicated on speed with an ability to fly around from sideline to sideline rolling up tackles. While his twitchy burst allows him to make more plays than the average linebacker, he will overflow to ball-carriers at times. Recognition of play development and ability to take on blocks are both underdeveloped currently, but a move to weak-side linebacker would put him in position to minimize those concerns and maximize his playmaking talent. Murray has hit-or-miss qualities and is more splashy than consistent, but he's immensely talented with the ability to imprint on games on all three downs." – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com