A Deep Dive Into Promising New Edge Rusher Gabriel Murphy

Oct 7, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Gabriel Murphy (11) celebrates after sacking Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings made a big-time signing in the undrafted free agent singing period after the conclusion of the 2024 NFL Draft.

A year after they landed the top undrafted prospect in Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace Jr., Vikings fans are excited they may have done it again as Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and company landed UCLA edge rusher Gabriel Murphy.

NFL: Combine
Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Gabriel Murphy played high-school ball at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, Texas, where he would become a 3-star recruit and begin his collegiate career just 45 miles away at the University of North Texas. He would play in 21 total games spanning 3 seasons for the Mean Green, racking up 12 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, and 4 forced fumbles.

Murphy would transfer to UCLA for the beginning of the 2022 season, a program where he could make much more of name for himself as a legitimate NFL prospect. In 2022, Murphy wouldn’t make too big of an impact for the Bruins, only producing 2 QB sacks and 6 QB hits, though he would post his career-best PFF run defense grade of 81.2.

2023 would be Gabriel Murphy’s best campaign of his college career, where he would put up 61 total pressures, including 8 sacks, 13 QB hits, and 40 QB hurries, all career highs. This production earned him an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention.

Gabriel Murphy
Oct 7, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Gabriel Murphy (11) moves in against Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings did end up hosting Gabriel Murphy on a top 30 visit to Minnesota during the draft process, the first signifier that they were interested in turning in a draft card with his name on it. This was a key reason that mock draft experts and enthusiasts alike had Murphy mocked to Minnesota in the fourth and fifth round throughout the entire process, and if it wasn’t to Minnesota, Gabriel Murphy was an almost consensus mid-round prospect. So why did he fall out of the draft completely?

Though Gabriel Murphy possesses numerous traits that NFL teams covet like his fantastic athleticism, agility, and high motor, the main knock on him throughout the process was his size. There is no doubt that he is a smaller edge rusher, coming in at 6’2 and measuring in below 250lbs at times. Not only is he undersized in the traditional manner of height and weight, his arms are where most the concern comes in.

Murphy’s arms measure in at 30.5 inches, some of the smallest immediately as he enters the NFL. This can and will causes problems for him trying to extend his arms when performing rush moves, as he potentially will be facing some offensive linemen with much longer arms that could be used to subdue him with ease. This could in-turn make Murphy a one-dimensional NFL rusher, having to rely on a smaller bag of rush moves to get into the backfield.

His lack of speed-to-power at the point of contact also hinders him, as well as his inconsistency in maintaining his outside leverage when sealing the edges. Both of these can be attributed to his arm size, as well as his lack of physicality in the run game since offensive linemen can come to him in protection as opposed to pass protection where he is coming to them.

Feb 29, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; UCLA linebacker Gabriel Murphy (LB22) works out during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

These are not obstacles that can’t be overcome, however. Murphy has plenty of positives that can translate to the NFL, as well.

Along with his aforementioned athleticism and agility, he possesses the central flexibility to gain leverage with his body against pass protectors at a high rate. His high motor and relentlessness leads to more production where some edge rushers might give up on the play, but Murphy isn’t that type of player. He has never been one to give up on the play and pushes through no matter the situation.

Though true expectations should be low for Gabriel Murphy since he is an undrafted free agent, Vikings fans are completely justified in being excited about him. It’s a house money maneuver, and if he doesn’t work out, Minnesota doesn’t really lose anything. If he does work out, Minnesota could gain a key role player on a Brian Flores defense that looks to put the pedal to the medal over the next couple of seasons.


Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Focus.

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