Vikings continually linked to ferocious defensive prospect in 2024 NFL Draft

Former Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II
Former Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II / Ricardo B. Brazziell-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are still looking for their franchise quarterback. But when it comes to their top target in the draft, they could be looking at Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II.

The Vikings have been connected to Murphy – not to be confused with current cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. –  throughout the draft process. While it could be a smokescreen, it could also lead to Minnesota bolstering its defense with a dominant presence in the middle.

During his time with the Longhorns, Murphy was a force, racking up 70 total tackles, eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss in three seasons. Murphy also saved his best for last, recording 29 tackles including 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks during his junior season at Texas.

Could the Minnesota Vikings select Byron Murphy II in the 2024 NFL Draft?

A menace rushing the passer, Murphy also ranked fifth in the nation with 45 pressures last season and had the highest pass-rush win rate at 19.6 percent, according to Pro Football Focus.

That track record would be a welcome addition to a defense that had trouble rushing the passer under Brian Flores. While Danielle Hunter registered a career-high 16.5 sacks, the Vikings had trouble generating pressure anywhere else, ranking 15th in the league in pressure rate (21.9 percent) despite the league’s highest blitz rate at 51.5 percent per Pro Football Reference.

The Vikings have made upgrading the pass rush a priority in free agency despite Hunter’s departure to the Houston Texans, signing Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman, but they still need some help on the defensive line. Vikings interior defenders combined for a 4.5 percent pressure last season and according to KSTP-TV’s Darren Wolfson, the Vikings made a strong push to sign Christian Wilkins before he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders. 

The series of events has led some to speculate the Vikings could make Murphy a target in the draft. Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline reported that the Vikings were “very interested” in Murphy after the Senior Bowl last February, and Minnesota set up a top-30 visit with Murphy last week.

The Athletic’s Alec Lewis also mocked Murphy to the Vikings in his latest mock draft on Tuesday.

“He isn’t massive, but he is a pass-rushing force inside,” Lewis wrote. “Add him alongside a proven run stuffer in Harrison Phillips and pair his penetration ability with edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, and Minnesota’s defensive front will have undergone a serious makeover.”

The Vikings haven’t had a dominant defensive tackle since Linval Joseph was released after the 2019 season, and while they need a quarterback, the defensive line could be just as big of a need heading into the draft. If the Vikings can’t move up, Murphy seems to be a top target and could wind up in Minnesota on the first night of the draft.

More Vikings News and Analysis