Tracing Louis Murphy's Path from Top Target to Possible Cut

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystJuly 3, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 11: Louis Murphy #18 of the Oakland Raiders advances the ball against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 11, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Raiders 46-16.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Three years ago Louis Murphy out-shined fellow draft selection Darrius Heyward-Bey. Murphy had been selected in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft and Heyward-Bey was the over-drafted first-round pick.

Fast-forward to today and Murphy is on the roster bubble and fighting for his roster spot and Heyward-Bey is an unquestioned starter.

A lot had to go wrong for Murphy and he lost his job because other players made the most of their opportunity with him out. The Raiders also drafted several receivers and that added a lot of competition.


2009 Rookie Season

In his rookie season of 2009, Murphy hauled in 34 passes for 521 yards and four touchdowns and started nine games. He started the first eight games of his rookie year for the injured Chaz Schilens.

Murphy was the most productive wide receiver, leading the team in both yards and touchdowns. Only tight end Zach Miller had more yards.

While the stat line was hardly impressive, you must consider JaMarcus Russell was still the quarterback and the Raiders had trouble mustering much offense at all. It was an impressive rookie year considering the circumstances.


2010 Sophomore Season

Schilens was hurt again in 2010 and the Raiders were comfortable going with Murphy as the starter. The Raiders were finally done with JaMarcus Russell and brought in Jason Campbell to be the starting quarterback.

Hopes were high that the Raiders, with a a legitimate quarterback, could make a push for the playoffs.

Murphy started fast and produced early, before his production dipped. Murphy was injured and missed two games with a lung contusion which opened the door for 2010 fourth-round pick Jacoby Ford.

Ford wouldn't relinquish the job after his six-catch, 148-yards performance against Kansas City that included a 47-yard catch in overtime and a 94-yard kickoff return touchdown. Ford's overtime catch setup the game-winning field goal by Sebastian Janikowski and he also caught a pass to setup the game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Murphy wouldn't regain his starting job after Ford's performance, but he did start for the injured Heyward-Bey for two games.

Murphy still managed 88 more yards in two less games during his sophomore year. After starting 18 games over his first two seasons, Murphy was solidly a reserve by the end of 2010.

Murphy still lead the receivers in yardage in 2010, but Ford was rapidly approaching.


2011 Junior Season

The Raiders continued to draft wide receivers and found Tennessee-product Denarius Moore in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Moore would wow everyone in training camp and vaulted quickly over an injured Murphy on the depth chart.

Much like Murphy, Ford would lose his starting spot when he was injured in Week 1. Moore became the start and never looked back.

Despite a rash of receiver injuries, Murphy would manage to start only one game in 2011, the last and most important one of the season. Much of that had to do with Murphy's health as the Raiders were on their fourth and fifth options at one point.

When given the opportunity Murphy produced, and although he caught only 15 passes all season, he averaged 16.1 yards per reception.

Receivers are largely expected to breakout somewhere between their second and fourth seasons, but through his first three Murphy's overall production had just decreased.


2012 Offseason

Leave it to the Raiders to draft another mid-round receiver that is making noise. This time it's Juron Criner out of Arizona.

Although lacking a true number-one receiver, the Raiders have a lot of depth at the position in 2012 and Murphy, once a starter, must now compete for his job.