GREEN BAY – The Stanford pipeline to Green Bay grew two players stronger during the final day of the NFL Draft.
A year after taking WR Ty Montgomery in the third round, the Packers used two of their four third-day draft choices on Cardinal linebacker Blake Martinez (fourth round, 163rd overall) and tackle Kyle Murphy (sixth, 200) on Saturday.
Martinez, the Pac-12’s leading tackler in 2015, was taken a few hours before the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Murphy, who made 27 starts at left and right tackle during his final two years at Stanford.
Once Murphy’s selection was announced, Martinez was one of the first to wish his college teammate congratulations.
“I got close to 80 texts in the first five minutes after the pick and he was definitely one of them,” Murphy said. “That’s a great guy to be with from a character standpoint, personal standpoint from an overall everything you could possibly think of.”
Murphy didn’t know where he’d end up once all the chips fell during the draft. He had conversations with Packers offensive line coach James Campen at the scouting combine, but otherwise let his agent juggle prospective teams’ interest.
General Manager Ted Thompson was quick to point out that Campen left his meeting with a positive impression of Murphy, who started at left tackle as a senior and right tackle during his junior campaign.
He estimates that roughly “60-70 percent” of NFL teams viewed him as a tackle in the pre-draft process, while a handful of others looked at him as a possible candidate to move inside to guard.
Thompson said he didn’t want to “pigeonhole him” to one position, but acknowledged that tackle was the only spot he played at Stanford.
The Packers have a long history of drafting college left tackles. Both starting guards, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, and utility linemen JC Tretter and Don Barclay all possess previous left tackle experience.
“Obviously I’ve played only tackle throughout my career, but the NFL is a different game,” Murphy said. “You have to be able to play every single position because of the way the numbers are. If I can play center, I’ll be excited. If I can play guard, I’ll be excited. If I can play tackle, I’ll be excited.”
It was in the Packers’ game plan to seek out large, athletic offensive and defensive linemen during the draft, beginning with UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark (6-3, 314) and Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs (6-6, 301) in the first two rounds.
Along the way, they also picked up a few players from highly regarded academic institutions, including Murphy, Martinez and Northwestern defensive end Dean Lowry (fourth round).
Thompson went so far as to say the football acumen of this year’s seven-man draft class is “extraordinary.”
But do book smarts translate to on-the-field performance?
“I think it just helps us overall in how we see the game,” said Murphy, whose older brother Kevin previously played with the Minnesota Vikings. “They expect if you got into Stanford, you can handle an NFL-caliber playbook. We go into games with anywhere from 250 to 300 different play calls, so there’s obviously a big learning curve when you’re 18, 19 years old to adjust to that style of football.”