The Pittsburgh Steelers brought cornerback Byron Murphy in for a pre-draft visit a few weeks ago and since then he seems to be consensus favorite of the masses to be the team’s first-round selection this year. While that ultimately might wind up being the case, the Steelers selection of Murphy in the first-round certainly would buck quite a few trends the team has had since Kevin Colbert joined the organization in 2000.
The most obvious trend that the selection of Murphy in the first-round by the Steelers would buck includes Colbert not attending his pro day this year. After all, you have to go all the way back to 2009 and the selection of defensive lineman Ziggy Hood out of Missouri to find the last time that Colbert failed to attend the pro day of a player selected by the team in the first-round.
Several have gone on to conclude that Colbert probably didn’t go to the Washington pro day because Murphy wasn’t going to do much, but reports from that day, however, indicate that the young cornerback did do a few things that afternoon and that includes running the shuttle and 3-cone drills, which he didn’t do at this year’s combine. The fact that the Steelers ultimately brought Murphy to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit has a lot of people satisfied that such an act trumps Colbert not making it to the Washington pro day. That very well might be the case.
The missed pro day aside, the fact that Murphy didn’t garner a lot of college game experience in his two years at Washington could wind up being the biggest red flag when it comes to him potentially being the Steelers first-round selection this year. While the Steelers don’t have any issues selecting underclassmen in the first round of a draft, generally they like those players to have played in a fairly significant amount of college games just the same.
As you can see in the aggregated college data below of Steelers first-round draft picks dating back to 2005, the lowest amount of college games played in is 26 and that was outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who only played two seasons at Georgia after transferring from USC. While other former Steelers first-round picks such as T.J. Watt, Rashard Mendenhall and Lawrence Timmons all started less than 15 games in total during their college careers, all played in at least 27 total games.
Murphy, who measured in at this year’s combine at 5106, 190-pounds with 30 1/8-inch arms and 8 7/8-inch hands, played in and started 20 total games during his college career at Washington. He only played in and started 6 games during the 2017 season due to him suffering a broken foot. Of those 20 total college games that Murphy played in at Washington, only 3 were against ranked teams. Two of those games were bowl games against Penn State in 2017 and Ohio State this past season.
Make no mistake, Murphy is definitely one of the top cornerbacks in this year’s draft class. However, him not registering super SPARQy numbers in the underwear Olympic events this offseason, combined with him being under 6’0″ will more than likely result in him still being on the board come time for the Steelers to pick in the first-round. Good college tape aside, Murphy really didn’t play against a lot of top competition in the 20 games he suited up for. In fact, his 2018 match-up against Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry, a longtime friend of his, was likely his toughest challenge during his college career.
Sure, there are no hard rules that say the Steelers can’t ultimately draft Murphy in the first-round this year but if he does wind up being their selection, there will be quite a few trends broken by Colbert in the process. Personally, I will see the lack of experience trend being broken by Colbert as the most surprising one and especially being as revolves around the cornerback position, a position the Steelers have had problems developing since Colbert arrived in Pittsburgh.
Steelers First-Round Selections Games Played/Started 2005-2018
2018 – Terrell Edmunds – 37/31
2017 – T.J. Watt – 27/14/
2016 – Artie Burns – 36/23
2015 – Bud Dupree – 35/26
2014 – Ryan Shazier – 39/29
2013 – Jarvis Jones 26/26
2012 – David DeCastro 39/39
2011 – Cameron Heyward – 52/45
2010 – Maurkice Pouncey – 41/39
2009 – Ziggy Hood – 48/32
2008 – Rashard Mendenhall – 35/14
2007 – Lawrence Timmons – 36/13
2006 – Santonio Holmes – 36/28
2005 – Heath Miller – 39/39