TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Byron Murphy heard the names called off, expecting his to be next.
The Washington defensive back was projected to be a first-round pick, so there was no reason to think his name wouldn’t get called on the first day of the NFL draft.
But when New England took Arizona State receiver N’Keal Harry with the final pick of the opening round, Murphy’s heart dropped.
“It was an emotional day for me,” Murphy said Friday.
It also couldn’t have worked out much better.
Murphy may not have gone in the first round, but he’s headed home. Some of his friends are already here, too.
The Arizona Cardinals drafted Murphy with the first pick of the second round Friday, addressing a big need while reuniting him with two high school teammates and two former Washington players.
“Today, when I got the call, it kind of surprised me, but I was excited because I get to come home,” said Murphy, who went to nearby Scottsdale Saguaro High School. “I’m so emotional.”
Arizona used its first pick, No. 1 overall, to take Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray despite moving up in last year’s draft to take quarterback Josh Rosen at No. 10.
That was the best-player route.
For their next three picks, the Cardinals addressed some of their most pressing needs.
Arizona traded Rosen to Miami for the 62nd overall pick and a fifth-rounder in 2020. The Cardinals drafted speedy Massachusetts receiver Andy Isabela with the 62nd pick, then took Boston College defensive end Zach Allen at No. 65.
Murphy was projected as a first-rounder, so when he lasted until the second, Arizona quickly grabbed him to help fill a glaring, long-time hole.
Arizona has been searching for a cornerback to play opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson almost since the day they drafted him eight years ago.
The Cardinals signed Robert Alford during the offseason in hopes he could fill the slot and now have two viable options with the addition of Murphy.
Quick and hard-hitting, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Murphy had seven interceptions in 20 games with Washington and is an eager run defender.
“A guy we had rated extremely high,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. “Has everything you look for in a corner in our opinion, feet, movement skills, tremendous ball skills, a guy who gets his hands on a lot of balls.”
Murphy will have plenty of friends when he arrives in the desert.
Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk and running back D.J. Foster both played at Saguaro. Defensive back Budda Baker and linebacker Zeke Jones both went to Washington.
Murphy will not only be home, he should feel right at home in the NFL.
“I feel more comfortable because I’ve got guys I know and look up to who will be there when I get there,” said Murphy, who was the Cardinals high school player of the year in 2015. “It’s a blessing.”
Isabella should give Arizona a solid third option with Larry Fitzgerald and Kirk.
He’s small at 5-8, 188 pounds, but fast — he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds — and was a consensus All-American after catching 102 passes for 1,698 yards and 12 TDs. He could be a good fit as a slot receiver in Arizona, particularly with Murray now in the mix.
“I was almost star struck walking around with him at the combine,” Isabella said. “I never got to talk to him, but I can’t wait to play with him.”
The 6-5, 285-pound Allen is a versatile defensive lineman who’s good against the run and a solid pass rusher. He’s a relentless pursuer of the ball who had 100 tackles as a junior in 2017.
“It’s his motor,” Cardinals first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Every snap, he’s chasing the football, plays his tail off every snap.”
The Cardinals could put Allen in the mix with Chandler Jones and recently signed Terrell Suggs, or move him to the interior of the D-line.
“In college, I played a lot of positions,” Allen said. “Whatever they need to play, gain weight, lose weight, special teams, sell popcorn, I’m willing to do it.”