As the NFL playoffs draw closer to the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Arizona, prospective draft prospects have their eyes set on a date two weeks later with the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Once the combine concludes, it will be a quick seven weeks before the NFL draft at the end of April in Kansas City, Missouri. As a result, many draft experts have started to release their mock drafts, including one many closely from longtime ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper released his first mock draft this week, and one local player — former Hillgrove High School and Clemson standout Myles Murphy — may be headed for a homecoming. Kiper has Murphy being selected with the eighth pick of the first round by the Atlanta Falcons.
Murphy finished the 2022 season as a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection for Clemson, totaling 45 tackles, including 11 for loss and a team-high 6.5 sacks.
Kiper wrote on ESPN.com that the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end would be a good compliment to Grady Jarrett on the Falcons’ defensive line.
“The Falcons had just 21 sacks this season, which ranked 31st in the league, and they were led by Grady Jarrett’s six,” Kiper wrote. “Veteran edge rusher Lorenzo Carter added four, while rookie second-round pick Arnold Ebiketie had 2.5. No other player had more than two. They have to get better along the front seven. That could start here with Murphy, a complete defender who had 17.5 sacks in three seasons at Clemson. He could even kick inside to tackle on passing downs.”
Kiper also said that the Falcons could take an offensive route with their first selection.
“Atlanta is another team with questions at quarterback, as rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder flashed at times at the end of the season,” Kiper wrote. “He’s not a lock to be the Week 1 starter, though I expect the organization to do deep evaluations on this draft class and bring in another player to compete with him. For now, however, Murphy is too good to pass up.”
One player not included in Kiper’s initial first-round projection is LSU linebacker BJ Ojulari. The former Marietta High School star is currently ranked as the No. 7 outside linebacker on Kiper’s big board, though other mock drafts have placed Ojulari in the bottom of the first round.
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