I’ll own up to it: I was way wrong about where Larrell Murchison would be selected in this year’s NFL Draft. There were times during the 2019 NC State season where I was touting Murchison as a late 1st round pick.
However, I won’t back down on my opinion that Murchison will end up with a career like a late 1st rounder despite being a 5th round selection. He has the size, strength, and motor that will let him stick around the league for a long time, but more importantly: he was drafted into an ideal situation in Tennessee.
Some draft analysts projected that Murchison would fit in best as a 3-technique DT in a 4-3 scheme, which he played as a junior at NC State. While Murchison could definitely fulfill that role at the NFL level, I believe he’s better suited as a 5-technique strong-side DE in a 3-4 scheme. That’s a position that requires a high-motor player who can both defend against the run and provide the push to be a disruption on passing plays.
In his senior year with the Wolfpack, Murchison moved around the defensive line quite a bit depending on the situation. On first downs and run downs, he played the 3-4 DE position. On passing downs, he slid inside to play the 3-4 DT position to allow the defense to drop eight players into coverage without sacrificing much in terms of pass rush.
The Titans run a base 3-4 defense, and Murchison would seemingly fit in very well to what the team likes to do. Moreover, there’s an opportunity for playing time right away - and he already has the experience at the position.
Tennessee traded away it’s best defensive lineman in the off-season as DE Jurrell Casey (44.0 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) is now with the Denver Broncos after five consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Titans. Back-up DT Austin Johnson (23 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 0.0 sacks) was also not re-signed.
Here are the other defensive lineman currently on the Titans’ roster:
- DE Vic Beasley (6’3, 246) - will be the starting weak-side DE
- DT DaQuan Jones (6’4, 322) - starting DT for Titans for the last five years
- DE Jeffery Simmons (6’4, 301) - 2019 1st Round pick started 7 games last year
- DL Jack Crawford (6’5, 274) - veteran free agent signee will be a rotational player
- DT Isiah Mack (6’1, 299) - appeared in 13 games last year, making 8.0 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
- DE Matt Dickerson (6’5, 292) - has appeared in 8 games over two seasons with 5.0 total tackles
- DT Joey Ivie (6’3, 301) - appeared in 8 games last year, recording no stats
- DE Amani Bledsoe (6’4, 280) - 0 snaps played in 2019 as a rookie
Tennessee signed Beasley in the off-season to fill the void of a pass-rushing weak-side DE, which should also allow them to use Derick Roberson (6.0 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) in his more natural position of LB rather than as an edge rusher. They also signed Crawford to a one-year, low money deal to add experienced depth, but he’ll be 32 this year and had a bad 2019 season with Atlanta (as represented by his deal with Tennessee being worth 1⁄3 of what he was making per season with the Falcons).
Jones will again be the anchor in the middle of the D-line, that’s for sure, and they’re not paying Beasley $9.5M to sit on the bench more than he has to, but he can also be a liability on run downs given his lighter frame. Simmons will be the starter at the strong-side DE position to replace Casey. Crawford will serve as an all-around rotational option across the entire line. Both Beasley’s and Crawford’s deals are for 2020 only.
But outside of those four, where is the playing time going to come from? Mack is the best of the group, but he was a free agent signee from the FCS ranks after going undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. He obviously showed enough promise that they were willing to let Johnson walk, but I doubt the team is going to put too much stock in his becoming more than a rotational player. Ivie, Dickerson, and Bledsoe are all practice squad level players, with only Bledsoe being a guy who could be a roster regular in the future.
Murchison won’t be asked to start right away, but he has a very real chance to beat out Crawford to become the third DE in the rotation behind Beasley and Simmons while he adjusts to the NFL game. He’s never going to be the pass-rushing DE that the team needs in Beasley’s spot, but Simmons potentially could be. If Simmons can develop into that level player, Murchison has the opportunity to become a starting DE as early as 2021.
You can’t ask for a much better situation to step into as a 5th round pick.