The New Orleans Saints have had a solid offseason in free agency. The team has signed and re-signed important players that will play major roles in contending for a Super Bowl 55 ring. Now the team's attention has turned to the 2020 NFL Draft. The debate is raging at the linebacker position. Should they select LSU's Patrick Queen or Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray at #24? Or, neither?
The Saints have signed and re-signed free-agent of veterans and leaders in QB Drew Brees, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and S Malcolm Jenkins. GM Mickey Loomis and his staff have maneuvered deals for key role players like QB Taysom Hill (1st round tender), G Andrus Peat, DT David Onyemata, LB Kiko Alonso, CB Janoris Jenkins, and LS Zach Wood. Also, creatively re-signed defensive depth with CB Patrick Robinson, DB P.J. Williams, DE Noah Spence, S D.J. Swearinger, and DB Justin Hardee. The Saints have most of their important pieces ready and locked in place for 2020. With that being said, mysteriously the void left by starting LB A.J. Klein has not been addressed by New Orleans.
The Saints have 2019 All-Pro LB Demario Davis and LB Craig Robertson remaining on the roster as defensive veterans. However, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Kaden Elliss, and LB Kiko Alonso are all returning from season-ending injuries in 2019. New Orleans may still address the linebacker position with a veteran free-agent, but most likely the Saints may have their eyes focused on outstanding two linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft. Those NFL Draft prospects are LB Patrick Queen (LSU) and LB Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma). They split experts' opinions ahead of the draft. Some have favored Queen's instincts, yet others have lobbied for Murray's speed and talent. We will review both players from notable draft experts and let the debate rage between Queen or Murray.
PATRICK QUEEN - LSU
Patrick Queen is a native of Ventress, LA. Queen was an offensive and defensive threat for his high school, Livonia High School. Queen led the defense of the FBS National Champions, LSU Tigers, in 2019. He completed last season with 86 tackles, 12 thrown for losses, 3 sacks, 3 passes defended, one fumble recovery, and one interception. Queen entered the NFL Draft after winning the Defensive MVP in the national championship win over Clemson as a Junior. He is the youngest player of the 2020 NFL Draft.
NFL Scouting Combine Stats (Patrick Queen)
- Height: 6'0"
- Weight: 229 lbs
- 40 yd Dash: 4.5
- Bench Press: 18 reps
- Vertical Jump: 35.0 in
- Broad Jump: 125.0 in
Patrick Queen Analysis
Glen West on LB Patrick Queen - A breakout star down the stretch of the Tigers national championship run, Queen boasted his supreme athleticism and an uncanny ability to make plays in the backfield. In the three postseason wins over Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson, Queen recorded 22 tackles, five tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks, culminating in a Defensive Player of the Game in the championship. His best trait is his ability to cover tight ends and make plays sideline to sideline, whether it's in the backfield or over the middle. GLEN WEST, LSU Country on Sports Illustrated
- Sports Illustrated - #18 on the SI Top 100 Big Board
- NFL - Lance Zierlein wrote that Queen can be compared to former Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis. "His ability to diagnose and flow are both very rapid, and he operates with excellent body control and balance to gobble up runners as an open-field tackler."
- ESPN - Todd McShay wrote "Queen is a rangy, off-ball linebacker with burst and great tackling ability." Mel Kiper wrote "Queen is a run-and-hit middle linebacker who has some coverage skills, though he can still improve there. He'll be an instant starter as a rookie."
- Pro Football Focus - Michael Renner on Queen, "...A.J. Klein’s departure leaves a hole next to Demario Davis. Queen would be a vast improvement athletically, as the LSU linebacker ran a 4.5 at the Combine."
- CBS Sports - Dan Schnierer has the Browns drafting Queen in the Top-10. "Queen isn't often mocked in the top-10, but he should be. Queen can do it all as a three-down linebacker with blitzing capabilities who is best used as an off-ball LB."
KEITH MURRAY - UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
Murray is a native of Missouri City, TX, a suburb of Houston. He was a star football player for the Elkins High School program before being recruited by the University of Oklahoma. Murray, like Queen, forwent his senior season and entered the NFL Draft. Last season, he accounted for 102 tackles, 17 thrown for loss, 4 sacks, and 4 passes defended. In Oklahoma's 63028 loss to LSU on 12/28/19, Murray had 7 total tackles. The combination of his size and speed is exceptional for a linebacker. Saints News Network's NFL Draft Expert, Mike Detillier, rates Murray slightly ahead of Queen as a better player.
NFL Scouting Combine Stats (Kenneth Murray)
- Height: 6'2"
- Weight: 241 lbs
- 40 yd Dash: 4.52
- Bench Press: 21 reps
- Vertical Jump: 38.0 in
- Broad Jump: 129.0 in
Kenneth Murray Analysis
- Sports Illustrated - Ranks at #20 on the SI Top 100 Big Board
- NFL - Lance Zierlein wrote on Murray "Sleek, playmaking linebacker with chiseled frame and long arms. Murray's game is predicated on speed with an ability to fly around from sideline to sideline rolling up tackles."
- ESPN - Todd McShay wrote, "Murray plays fast and could be the future quarterback of the New Orleans defense. He is one of the best available prospects on the board, and the Saints would jump at a chance to plop the rangy Murray in the middle of the field." Kiper wrote, "Murray is a chiseled specimen with great athleticism for his size. Murray can be a little stiff in coverage, but he has excellent diagnostic ability, and he flies to the football."
- Pro Football Focus - Michael Renner says, "Murray plays as if he were shot out of a cannon, evidenced by his 38-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad jump at 241 pounds."
- CBS Sports - Sideline-to-sideline speed and a tackling machine , one of the best athletes on the field, explosive to the ball."
MIKE DETILLIER ON BOTH QUEEN AND MURRAY
I think a lot of both of them because both are complete LB’s. I don’t have to take either one of them off the field. Many LB’s today can play the run well, but can’t match up in coverage. Some LB’s are terrific rushing the Quarterback, but can’t drop in coverage or haven’t been asked to (in college).
It’s supply and demand.
I don’t have to take Murray or Queen off the field. Both are best being "heat-seeking missiles" on the field to the ball carrier. Both drop back well in coverage and match-up in the coverage part of the game. Both have been effective when asked to blitz off the edge or from the inside and play the run well.
Murray is a little more physical player and he’s been a 3-year starter at OU. Queen is a little quicker, a little faster, but he’s not as big or as physical as Kenneth. And, both are versatile and could play on the outside or inside.
There aren’t many guys who check off all those boxes as a linebacker.
1. 3-down player; 2. Versatile, can cover (passing plays); 3. Play the run well, very instinctive, quick flow to the ball; 4. Can blitz when asked; 5. Both have good leadership skills.
Queen reminds me a lot of Debo Jones (ATL.) when he came out of LSU. Murray reminds me of C.J. Mosley (Jets)when he came out of Alabama.
Mike Detillier for Saints News Network; Purchase Mike's NFL Draft Bible at www.mikedetillier.com.
Either Queen or Murray will be a great addition to complement Demario Davis in the Saints linebacker corps. My theory is that if any of the two players are still on the board at #24, New Orleans will be selecting a playmaking linebacker that will develop into an NFL star. In the 2015 NFL Draft, they failed with first-round selection of Stephone Anthony as their middle linebacker, but this year could be different. Queen is more instinctive and has the pass coverage ability. Murray has the speed, strength, and "prototypical" linebacker size to handle the position for many years. My guess the selection will be Queen if available. Murray will be just as solid of a pick if New England does not snag him ahead of New Orleans.
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