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Going into the 2019 NFL Draft, many analysts expected CB Byron Murphy to be a first-round pick. The prospect out of Washington University had recorded four interceptions and thirteen pass deflections in his final year. Many experts had mocked Murphy going around 20 to the Raiders or Steelers, as the first cornerback taken in the draft.

While the experts got the latter part of that true, Murphy ended up falling to the second round, and was taken with the first pick by the Arizona Cardinals.

Murphy was expected to learn under veteran cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Robert Alford, and Tremaine Brock. But with Peterson suspended for the first six games of the season, Alford tearing his ACL before the start of the season, and Brock being a continual disappointment for the Cardinals up until his release in December, Murphy was forced to be the starter early in the season.

This is where Murphy proved that he has the potential to be one of the greater cornerbacks in the league; totaling 35 tackles and 5 passes defended, while mainly in coverage against WRs like Julio Jones, Tyler Boyd, and Tyler Lockett. Not that Murphy was without his faults, but that is to be expected from a rookie cornerback playing against some of the best receivers in the league.

Once Peterson returned from his suspension, taking over the CB1 role, Murphy continued to thrive as a CB2. Murphy ended the season only allowing 656 total yards in coverage,  which is 15th in the league, ahead of fellow NFC West corners Jalen Ramsey and Richard Sherman.

He only allowed 32 more yards than DPOY Stephan Gilmore. Those stats alone should put Murphy on everyone’s radar, but when you consider he did all of this as a rookie (and being the only rookie in the top 15), Murphy should be on the radar as one of the biggest players to watch heading into 2020.

Photo: Arizona Cardinals