We'll take a daily look at some of the most talked about prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft and tell you whether they're worth the hype or not.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm intrigued by some of the top edge rushers in this draft. We've already looked at Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Clemson's Vic Beasley and now we'll reviewMissouri's Shane Ray.
He's featured on ESPN's Draft Academy, which follows a few prospects around before the NFL Draft. It's a really good show and touches Ray's rough background. His father, Wendell, was a star defensive end at Missouri but left Ray and his mother at an early age. I can't find a link but make sure you have a tissue in hand when if you watch it.
Ray went on to play the same position as his father at the same school. He's listed at 6-3 and 245 pounds.
By The Numbers:
Freshman (12 games): 16 tackles (eight solo), 2.5 tackles for loss
Sophomore (14 games): 39 tackles (27 solo), 4.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss, one touchdown, two forced fumbles
Junior (14 games): 65 tackles (47 solo), 14.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles
Ray set Missouri's single season sack record last year while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He also received consensus first-team All-America honors, ranking third in the country in sacks and tackles for loss. Similar to the other edge rushers we've reviewed that are expected to go in the first round, Ray was a really good pass rusher in college last year.
NFL Combine/Pro Day results:
40-yard dash: 4.64 and 4.65 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 21 reps
Vertical: 33.5 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet
Ray only participated in the bench press at the NFL Combine due to a foot injury he suffered against the Gophers in the Citrus Bowl. He ran the 40-yard dash at Missouri's pro day and his times would've slotted him with the third fastest time for a defensive end. Stacked up against the linebackers however, and Ray's 40-time would be outside the top 10.
Maybe it's due to his background, but Ray plays with a lot of anger and rage once that ball is snapped. It's all controlled, but you can tell that football was his outlet in life express his emotions. He wants to destroy the quarterback, and I love that.
Compared to Gregory and Beasley, Ray is the better pass rusher. As a 4-3 defensive end, he was very unpredictable as a pass rusher. The example above shows his ability to counter inside, but he could also bull rush and speed rush from the outside. He's more powerful and more advanced with his hands than Gregory or Beasley. Ray could also rush as a three-technique defensive tackle on third downs.
He threw around a lot of offensive linemen in college surprisingly despite only weighing 245 pounds. That's the biggest concern with Ray is where exactly will he play in the NFL. He appears to be too light as a defensive end, but I think that's where Ray will succeed in the NFL. The issue with just assuming someone can just throw on weight is you're not exactly sure how a prospect's body will respond to playing a new weight, but I wouldn't be too concerned with Ray. The biggest concern might be losing some of his quickness, but he’s such a good pass rusher that a lot of his skills can translate to the next level.
I don't think he's an outside linebacker, however. He moves a lot better with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end than he does dropping back into coverage. It just doesn't appear to be a fluid movement and comes off looking stiff on tape. Outside of his size, there aren't too many flaws on tape. He is what he is — a good pass rusher and a disruptive defensive lineman.
If the Vikings had their choice between Ray, Gregory or Beasley at No. 11 though, I think I'd pick Beasley. He's the only one versatile enough to play both defensive end and linebacker. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer loves that kind of flexibility from his defensive players.
Ray should be selected within the first half of the first round, though. It would make a lot of sense for the Falcons to pick Ray with the eighth pick because their defensive line couldn't produce a pass rush last year. Ray would be an instant upgrade.
Verdict: Truth as a 4-3 defensive end. Hype as a linebacker in any scheme.