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Seahawks target defensive line by selecting Byron Murphy II from Texas with No. 16 pick in NFL draft

Seattle has lots of versatility on defensive front

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Published: April 25, 2024, 7:54pm

RENTON — The first draft under Mike Macdonald as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks had to start on the defensive side of the ball.

And with the run of offensive players controlling the first half of the first round, the Seahawks ended up landing perhaps the best interior defensive line prospect.

Seattle filled one of its clear needs on the defensive front, selecting Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II with the No. 16 pick of the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.

“To sit here and think that when we started it that we’d be able to acquire him, we’d be lying,” Seattle general manager John Schneider said.

The first selection of Macdonald’s tenure bolstered a clear area where Seattle needed improvement and more depth. The Seahawks had veteran Jarran Reed at the position, and the likes of Leonard Williams and Dre’Mont Jones able to play other spots on the defensive line.

But Murphy adds another impactful option for Macdonald to use in his scheme.

“Why I’m a good fit is my play style is very aggressive. Just a very dominant player. I can also stop the run, rush the passer — I’m an all three downs type of guy,” Murphy said. “That’s why I feel like I fit perfect in their scheme.”

Athletic and powerful, Murphy was a second-team AP All-American and the Big 12 Conference defensive lineman of the year last season for the Longhorns. Murphy had 29 tackles, 8½ tackles for loss and five sacks as Texas reached the College Football Playoff before losing to Washington in the semifinals.

He also adds to the versatility Macdonald can deploy on the defensive front. The combo of Reed, Jones, Williams and now Murphy can play a variety of defensive tackle spots on the line and pair with edge rushers such as Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe and Darrell Taylor.

“Leonard can play all across the line. So can Byron. We have a lot of guys and that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about it is you’re not going to know where guys are going to necessarily going to be all the time. We’ll have some really sweet ways to move guys around,” Macdonald said.

The concern about Murphy was his size after he measured just under 6-foot-1 and 297 pounds. But selecting him should be an immediate help in improving a defense that last season was 31st in the league at stopping the run. Seattle gave up 138.4 yards per game on the ground and an average of 4.6 yards per carry in the final season with Pete Carroll in charge.

Murphy’s raw strength is one of his biggest attributes and he compares favorably with Baltimore’s Justin Madubuike, who had a breakout season last year with Macdonald as his defensive coordinator. Madubuike had 13 sacks and was a second-team All-Pro last season with the Ravens.

Murphy said he grew up a Seahawks fan, drawn to the team by the defense that led Seattle to a Super Bowl title.

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Schneider could have traded down to try and acquire more picks — especially a second-round selection where the Seahawks aren’t scheduled to make a pick. But the chance to nab the top-rated defensive player on Seattle’s board couldn’t be passed.

Selecting Murphy was the first of seven picks Seattle had entering the draft, but won’t pick again until No. 81 overall in the third round, a big gap for draft rich in top-end talent and a roster still with needs, especially on the line of scrimmage.

“I’d be lying to you if I said we didn’t think about it,” Schneider said about trading down to get more picks. “The player was too good. He influences the game, a lot.”

It’s the second straight season that Seattle held firm with its first selection rather than trading to acquire more picks as became the norm with Schneider for many years. Last year, Seattle stayed at No. 5 overall and took cornerback Devon Witherspoon and did the same at No. 20 to select wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.