2018 NFL Draft Sleeper Spotlight: OL James Murray

With the Bears hosting a pro day for some of the local pro wanna be NFLers a very interesting name will be on that list of wanna be’s in the form of Wilmette Illinois’ very own James Murray. From watching his youtube hype video he actually looks like he has a very good chance of getting signed on as a UDFA and a developmental project for Harry Heistand. Not just that, he looks like a legitimate prospect who could maybe be their next young starter at either one of the five positions on the offensive line.

The first thing that jumps off the screen is his tenacity and nasty and the fact he does not let off the gas on a block until his man, or the one he’s assigned to help on, is on the turf or the whistle blows. Below I compiled a 5 play video montage that shows exactly what I’m talking about. On the last one, he even knocks the same guy to the turf twice.

 

The second thing I noticed was his athleticism. Especially his ability to get a hat on his target in open space. Once in his sights, they were as good as blocked. His feet are smooth and controlled and his movements fluid and not stiff at all for a 6’5″ 300 plus man. As you can see from the 4 play set I’ve chosen to record and post, he is good at both getting to the second level with plenty of foot speed and quickness, and just as impressive at seeking out and taking out smaller quicker players on the move. A skill not easily acquired by 300-pound linemen.

 

This also shows up in his pass protection. as you can see from the plays I’ve posted while he was playing Left Tackle and even a play at Center. He has a smooth kick slide and gets in position quickly. His elbows are tucked in and tight to his frame which makes it difficult to have his hands dislodged from his opponents frame by hand fighting. His hand placement is very good usually around the opponent’s chest squared and centered and he is not a waste bender which makes him properly balanced with good spine alignment. He also shows the ability to take a defender’s initial punch and reset his feet and anchor. He also absorbs contact well even off spins where he remains on target and is simply able to shift his feet in the direction of the spin and remain in front of his target. Another thing you notice is his hands are almost always on his assignment.

 

The third thing is his positional versatility. As you can see he played perhaps the two most important positions on the Offensive line. Left Tackle because it protects the Quarterback’s blindside and Center which coordinates the line calls and works directly with the Quarterback who handles the ball as much as he does. This tells me he is cerebrally sound as well as showing Tenacity, Technique, and athleticism. His IQ shows up in a lot of spots but you can most see it in the last video where he actually comes off his original assignment to pick up a blitzing linebacker and stonewalled him, and another where he seamlessly handles the switch on a stunt by the Defensive line.

Other things you see on this highlight video (aside from the fact on almost every block he buries his defender to the turf) is the athleticism. He traps, he pulls, he executes reach blocks, comes off reach blocks and executes yet another block off of that, combo blocks and the list goes on. You question whether or not he can look this good against top-flight competition once he leaves the small school competition behind, but it’s blatantly obvious this kid has the tools. You can see he has all the principles down in a zone scheme from the bucket step to the cut blocks on screens. He may need to adjust to the pass protection side from a speed and strength aspect as the level of competition improves dramatically from his opponents in the Patriot League to the NFL, but athletic and technique wise he looks like he’ll be a quick study. I feel he can be a high level run blocker right this very moment. Here’s the entire video link from youtube and I promise you, you will enjoy all eight-plus minutes.

He’ll likely be a free agent signing out of college because of his being a small school prospect but from what I’ve seen I would not be critical of any team taking a chance on him with a late-round pick. However, the fact he grew up in Evanston Illinois and is originally from Wilmette Illinois and grew up a Bears fan and is attending their pro day this Friday, You’d have to believe it gives the Bears the best opportunity to have him locked up the second the draft ends. After reserching him, I would actually be surprised if he wasn’t in camp with the Bears come this May.

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