The Washington Redskins picked OLB Trent Murphy with the team’s first pick, 47th overall, in this year’s draft. Murphy is a high-motor player who had an extremely productive career at Stanford, which has quickly become one of the best football programs in the country. He was a consensus 1st team All-American selection as a senior and led the NCAA in sacks with 15. Not only was he a great player in College, but his skill set as a pass rusher is perfectly suited to play OLB in Jim Haslett‘s 3-4 scheme.
Murphy has also reportedly been the last guy to leave the field during OTAs, obviously a good indicator in a lot of ways. He would almost certainly be set to make an immediate impact on defense, if it wasn’t for the fact that perhaps the Redskins’ two best defensive players, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, also play outside linebacker. Not only that, but Orakpo, Kerrigan and Murphy have pretty much the same skill set — they are all comfortable rushing the passer, but none are quick or agile enough to effectively stick with TEs or RBs in coverage.
Murphy was likely drafted as a replacement for Orakpo, who is currently playing under the one-year franchise tag, but this year his playing time on defense will likely be limited to obvious passing downs, where Haslett will undoubtedly relish the opportunity to have all three of these guys pinning their ears back at the same time. He will also add depth at the position in case of injury to one of the two incumbents, and play right away on special teams, an area where the Redskins can use the help, as the unit was at or near the bottom of the league in virtually every special teams category in 2013.
Murphy will make the Redskins better in 2014, but his real value will come if he can show the team that he is good enough to make Brian Orakpo expendable.