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2019 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers finally solve their cornerback problems

A bye week mock draft has arrived as we take a break from Steelers football to look at the draft.

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers, by this point in this season, are indeed already sure of some of their needs. There is a clear hole at ILB, EDGE, and CB which need to be addressed in the draft or free agency. With this draft being absolutely loaded with defensive talent, it makes sense to address the defensive side of the ball wherever you can. Thus, in my first mock draft, I had the Steelers addressing ILB and going after Alabama linebacker, Mack Wilson. However, the Steelers have since then ripped off two straight wins and climbed up to 19th overall in the selection process, but I am going to push the Steelers back to about 22nd for now, just as a median for where they might be picking. This will likely be even further back if history tells us anything. Thus, with the CB2 situation seemingly terminal, and not with an end in sight, I have decided to address the position this time around with one of my favorite prospects in the draft.

Steelers fans, welcome to your heads, and hopefully black-and-gold hearts, Byron Murphy III.

Round 1: Byron Murphy III, Cornerback, Washington

Murphy is not a typical Steelers draft pick at CB. He comes in only at 6’ and 175 lbs, on a good day, and his length is certainly below average. However, the Steelers will know better than anyone that their current style of drafting CBs that are lengthy, but are projects, have not worked out for them. It is time to change it up a bit. Instead, the team should be following the Mike Hilton and Joe Haden model. Both are CBs who are smaller in their frame and lack elite length, but make up for it with aggressiveness and high football IQ. I think no other play describes this other than this. I’ll just let the tape speak for itself.

This play right here is one of my favorite plays from the 2018 College Football season which I have scouted so far. With the zone blitz clearly coming on the other side, the cover 3 is disguised and Murphy can play as aggressive as he wants to, which fits his style perfectly. I love how he is aggressive with the push at the line to force the outside receiver to the sideline, and then he rushes downhill. His change of direction is good and he comes down to lay an absolutely ferocious hit on the slot receiver. This not only a smart play, but it illustrates Murphy’s aggressive style.

However, Murphy takes his aggressive style and combines it with a high football IQ. Not only does he read things far before the snap, but he uses that same aggressive play style as soon as the ball is snapped, and I love it.

This is a fantastic play by Murphy to recognize the screen and then attack downhill immediately. He weaves through the blockers effortless and breaks up the pass easily. A great play, no doubt, but another high football IQ play in a different vein can be illustrated here.

Another superb play which demonstrates just how smart Murphy is as a football player. He understands this is going to the out as he blankets his man in box coverage. And he attacks downhill well, yet again, and makes another good tackle. One thing I have noticed is Murphy, despite his thin frame, is an impressive tackler. He wraps up better than you would think.

However, lets get to where it really counts — coverage.

Murphy is an aggressive coverage player with some of the most fluid hips in the draft. He is more acclimated to zone schemes, but that does not mean he cannot play man. His great change of direction and fluidity allow him to be a competent man coverage corner. For example, this play:

I love this view because it shows how easily Murphy mirrors literally every move the WR makes. Then, as he stops for the hitch, his fluid hips allow him to come and aggressively attack the catch point, in which he rips it out of the receivers’ hands. This is an amazing off-ball man coverage play. My favorite aspect is how he keeps his hips square and then sinks them so effortlessly.

When working from the slot in man, Murphy has been shown to be a good cornerback from the slot as well. In particular, he is able to defend the middle of the field due to how well he can change directions with his hips.

Take it from this play where the slot man runs an inside zig, which gets Murphy biting towards the outside, and he gives up inside leverage. This is great route running, so it is not necessarily a fault of Murphy’s, but his hips are so fluid and he is so explosive out of his break he can recover, despite his length, and stop the receiver short of the sticks.

Murphy may not be ideal in size, but he is makes up for it with swagger and aggressiveness. He has ball skills and his aggressive play style flows with the rest of the secondary outside of the CB2 spot. Murphy would shore up the Pittsburgh secondary and give the team a potential CB1 long after Joe Haden is gone.