Unless it’s a true “blue-chip” or generational talent, drafting a traditional 4-3 linebacker in the first round is a little bit like getting a book for Christmas: more interesting than socks (guards and centers), better than receiving underwear (safeties and tight ends), but not as cool as receiving a new Xbox or PlayStation.
But a good linebacker, much like a good book, can last awhile.
As it currently stands, only three linebackers are considered as potential first-round prospects – two if you count Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons as a safety.
But Queen (6-0, 229) has seen his stock soar in the latter half of the season, especially after the title game in which he earned defensive MVP honors with his 8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and his half-sack against Clemson.
Murray, meanwhile, has put up much better statistics over his three-year career, racking up 325 tackles, 36.5 TFLs and 9.5 career sacks. By comparison, Queen closed out his three-year career with 131 tackles, 17.5 TFLs and 4 sacks.
Name a better linebacker than Kenneth Murray 🥱 pic.twitter.com/Pc6WY1Qdi6
— Blake 🧸 (@HoodieRamey) March 22, 2020
But despite racking up 155 tackles as a sophomore, the 6-foot-2, 241 pound junior still had his detractors going into the 2019 season, with some analysts saying he needed to work on his over-aggressive play style, which sometimes lead to over-pursuit. Pro Football Focus, for example, only listed Murray as an honorable mention player in its preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Now? Analysts use words like “heat-seeking missile” and “tackling machine” when describing the Oklahoma junior. He’s also seen as a team leader.
“Teams rave about Murray off the field and in the locker room with his character and work ethic. They say he loves football and is a valuable team leader.”
Barring any medical concerns, Murray’s character and consistently high production are what makes him a safe pick in the 2020 NFL draft and why he will likely be selected in the first round or early second round.
Jake Rigdon (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.