Before I get started, allow me to thank each and every member who participated in the inaugural season of T.A.P. Without your interest, there would have been little reason to continue this series. Each week I did my best to feature prospects who would make sense for the Carolina Panthers' future based on what appeared to be their likely draft position at that particular time. After winning only one of their first four games, it looked as if the Panthers were destined for at least a top ten pick and perhaps even a top five selection. But as we all know by now, they remarkably went on to win eleven of their next twelve games, including eight straight. No offense to likely top ten picks Sammy Watkins and Jake Matthews, but I'll take a playoff run over their services any day.
By the time the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around, it will have been exactly ten years since the Panthers have had such a late first round pick(Can anyone guess without searching who they picked 28 overall?). That very pick in 2004 was earned as a result of their one and only Super Bowl run. We can only hope a second appearance is just around the corner. Until then, the search will continue for a late first rounder who can not only start immediately, but do so efficaciously. This week's prospect could do just that provided the Panthers bid adieu to one of the most beloved players of all time. He is part man, part myth and his name is Greg "The Kraken" Hardy.
If you haven't already prepared yourself for his departure, now would be a good time. No one can read Dave Gettleman's mind, but I personally don't expect him to overpay for "The Kraken's" other worldly services, especially in light of the Panthers' current cap situation. With that being said, let me introduce you to the first and only defensive end to grace the regular season portion of Tuesday Afternoon Prospect(yes, there will be an off-season version of T.A.P. in the weeks leading up to the draft). His name is Trent Murphy and you should get to know him better.
At 6-Foot-6, 261-Pounds, Murphy is a formidable presence. You could say it's in his DNA. In fact, his own dad, who stands 6 -Foot-7, refers to him as the runt of the family. This makes total sense when you consider the fact that the Arizona native has a sixteen year old brother who's already surpassed him in height(6-Foot-7) and two older brothers who stand 6-Foot-9 and 6-Foot-10. Perhaps his size disadvantage at home helped create just the mental edge he needed to become as good as he's become today.
Stature aside, the toughness and physicality that Murphy exudes in spades on the football field can be traced back to his blue collar upbringing. His dad, Jerry, had all six of his children working out with weights as young as four years old. When Trent grew older, he further built his strength by wrestling family owned steer calves to the ground. He also learned the meaning of hard work by completing a long list of farm chores that his dad regularly prepared for him. You could say that nothing came easy for Murphy, and it's a theme that generally exists among many of today's standout NFL players.
So what does Murphy bring when he's on the football field? Toughness. The will to win. The never quit mentality. He plays beyond the whistle and wants to dominate every possession. I say this is just the type of non-stop motor that could go a long way towards easing the short term pain of losing Hardy. Just like the Kraken, Murphy has a nose for the football. He uses his considerable arm length, power, and speed to consistently wreak havoc in the backfield. Although he doesn't possess elite initial explosion right out of the gate, he does have surprising flexibility and agility to dip under tackles when turning the corner. When you watch Murphy rush the quarterback, it is a bit perplexing that he doesn't use his noticeable strength to bull rush more often. To a fault, he is overly dependent on his speed, which makes him too predictable at times.
When it comes to defending the run, he typically does a nice job of keeping runners from getting outside, but almost to a fault. Sometimes he gets pushed too far outside, which opens up the inside lane. Even so, he often uses his long arms to keep the blocker at bay and is usually able to quickly disengage in order to make a tackle as the runner is passing by. Murphy also loses track of the football at times and gets caught out of position as a result. Nonetheless, I'd give him an above average grade as a run stopper.
Murphy gained experience in space when standing up in coverage in Stanford's 3-4 defense, but he isn't going to make a living in that role when he gets to the NFL. I believe he translates best as a 4-3 defensive end and as you know, this would make him an ideal fit here in Carolina. Ultimately, if the Panthers lose Hardy to free agency, Murphy wouldn't be a bad consolation prize. Some analysts have him as a late 1st or an early 2nd rounder, but I believe there's a chance he falls a bit. If he's there in the 2nd round, I'd pounce on him. His film, stats, and work ethic tell me that he could become something special.
What about you CSR? Do you believe Murphy has what it takes to succeed in the NFL?