Bengals add to pass rush with first-round pick

Credit: Jacob Kupferman

Credit: Jacob Kupferman

CINCINNATI — The Bengals had Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy rated high on their draft board and started zeroing in on him as their first-round draft pick well before they went on the clock Thursday on the opening night of the NFL Draft.

Once their turn came at No. 28 overall, they didn’t hesitate, and their selection was announced after only one of the 10 minutes they were allotted to make the pick.

Cincinnati had several good options available with players projected to go in the top 20 falling, but Murphy was deemed by the organization as the best fit and best available. A three-year starter at Clemson and first-team all-ACC defender in 2022, he adds depth at a premium position that will be needed in both the short and long term.

“You’re getting (a guy) that come in right away and help your team win,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We’re built for the short term and long term obviously, and anytime you can add D-linemen to the room that can come in and play, that’s a good thing. ... It’s always good to add to the rush, and we’ve got a lot of young guys there behind Sam (Hubbard) and Trey (Hendrickson), but you can never have too many of them. (We) let those guys come in and compete for reps and time. And with Joseph (Ossai) and Cam (Sample) and all those guys, it’s a really exciting room for us right now, adding him into the mix.”

Taylor said the staff didn’t expect him to be available at No. 28, but around the 20th pick, the conversations about Murphy picked up, and a run on wide receivers helped them get a player they really liked. The Bengals were among the bottom five in the league in sack total last season with 30.0 sacks, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said that was an area they saw they could improve.

Murphy finished his junior season at Clemson last fall with 40 tackles, 11 for loss, 6.5 sacks and two pass breakups in 13 games and 11 starts, but after tweaking his hamstring in warmups at the combine, he ended up having to delay his Pro Day in March.

Eventually holding a private workout at Clemson, he checked all the boxes with his testing results. His 4.51-second 40-yard dash time would have been good for sixth among defensive ends at the Combine, his 7.22 in the 3-cone drill would have been good for fifth and he checked in at 6-foot-5, 268 pounds – an ideal protype for Bengals edge rushers.

Taylor and Anarumo said they were already impressed by what they saw on tape before those stats might have piqued interest. His motor, maturity, playmaking ability in big moments and pure love of football all stood out to the coaches.

“This wasn’t a scenario we thought would play out, to be quite honest with you,” Taylor said. “I didn’t think Myles Murphy would be there.”

Murphy, in a conference call with local media shortly after he was drafted, said he was just “blessed to be taken” by any team at any spot because he just wants to play football, but he was excited for the chance to go to a winning team.

The 21-year-old had rented out an entire club for his draft party and had about 175-180 people there to celebrate with him. As it got deeper into the first round, he admitted he had some concerns he might disappoint all those guests, but he was grateful to get the call from Cincinnati.

Representatives of the team had met with Murphy a couple times, including during a pre-draft visit to Cincinnati, and he left thinking there was a chance the Bengals would take him. He’s the first defensive lineman the Bengals have selected in the first round since Justin Smith in 2001, but he is one of many in the organization with Clemson connections, including former Tigers wide receiver Tee Higgins and offensive lineman Jackson Carman.

Murphy said he already knew defensive line coach Marion Hobby, who was a defensive coordinator at Clemson from 2011 to 2016, and his defensive line coach with the Tigers, Nick Eason, is a former Bengals assistant.

“I mean, I had a good feeling that they liked me, and when I was there, I really loved the city, loved the coaches,” Murphy said. “... I felt comfortable when I was there the whole time.”

Murphy described himself as an “all-around dominant player” who plays with energy and makes plays he’s not expected to make, going sideline to sideline. He hopes to be another asset to a Bengals pass rush he is excited to join because of how they “really get after it” and play with freedom.

Anarumo said Murphy will immediately join the defensive end rotation behind Hubbard and Hendrickson, and there is flexibility in how the Bengals can use him in third-down rush packages and whatever Anarumo cooks up to try to affect the talented quarterbacks they will face.

“(We) get a guy that brings position flex — he’s played both outside and inside (and) can rush from different spots,” Anarumo said. “(With) the teams we have to play and when we have to play them, the more rushers we have on the field at one time, the better we’ll be. He’s the guy who will fit right in with that in that moment.”

The Bengals also could be looking to develop him as a future replacement for Hendrickson, depending on what happens with his contract set to expire after this season.

Murphy is confident he can make an immediate impact. The Bengals have been to two straight AFC Championships and just came up short of a Super Bowl title in 2021, and he hopes to be a part of more success in the future.

“I would say they have all the pieces to be a consistent Super Bowl contender, AFC championship contender, but I just want to be that finishing piece, that piece that pushes them over and past that ledge of being a competing Super Bowl contender and a consistent Super Bowl winner every year,” Murphy said.

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