AnalysisFootball changed everything for Ray. He used the sport to stay out of trouble as a kid and now embarks in a career as a professional. Credit his high school coach, Tim Grunhard. Now Ray’s a coveted rush end or outside linebacker, depending on scheme. He’s got speed and strength off the edge to be an elite pass rusher. Ray can also make plays down the line showing his outstanding agility. At times he’s explosive, showing a great get off and closing speed for a big man. Ray only started 13 games at Missouri yet still posted 19 career sacks, 29 pressures and 36 tackles for a loss.
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo—Last night, the Denver Broncos made waves in the first round of the NFL Draft by trading with the Detroit Lions to move up from the No. 28 pick to the No. 23. In exchange, they shipped off center/guard Manuel Ramirez and two fifth round picks. All of this, because they saw a prospect falling, whom they had rated as a top-10 guy—Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray.
General Manager John Elway and Head Coach Gary Kubiak met with the media last night to discuss the first round intrigue and why they believe in Ray—a player with off-the-field concerns and an injured foot that might require surgery and will definitely require rehab.
“We had him at 10,” Elway said. “He was 10th on our board. We really felt we got the value sitting at 28 and had the opportunity to move to 23.”
That didn’t make it easy to deal a guy like Ramirez, who has been a major contributor for the Broncos for the last three seasons. Elway was conflicted but ultimately, he felt that Ray’s value to the team far outweighed what Ramirez brings.
”I will say this, I talked to Manny,” Elway said. “It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had because of what kind of man Manny Ramirez is and what he’s done for this team the last [four] years that he’s been here. Just a tremendous person, and he has done everything in the community that the team’s ever asked him to do and he’s volunteered. He’s just a tremendous man. He’s been a tremendous football player for us. That was one of the hardest phone calls that I’ve ever had to make. I will say this: He is going to a home [where] they really wanted Manny. It’s where Manny started. We’ve had conversations on and off the last couple weeks, and they centered around Manny. They were very interested in Manny. He’s going to a good home where he is very much wanted.”
Kubiak, on the other hand, was more focused on bringing in what he perceived as a blue-chip talent, too good to miss out on that late in the first round.
“We just want to get better across the board,” Kubiak said. “Obviously I think the conversations with John and I on the draft, sometimes when you think you’re chasing a position or two, sometimes you can make some mistakes. But when you’re just chasing the best possible football player, you’re going to get stronger as a football team. We got better tonight. When we line up to play our nickel package, we’re able to give [OLB] DeMarcus [Ware] a break or give [OLB] Von [Miller] a break and still have the type of player on the football field that we’re going to be able to put out there right now. It’s all about getting better, however you do that. We definitely got better tonight.”
Broncos fans are excited about Shane Ray, but they’re also concerned that he was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana this past Monday, just three days before the biggest day in his football career—a move that calls into question his decision-making and overall maturity. Elway addressed that early on last night.
"We had [Director of Player Development] Ray Jackson talk to him,” Elway said, “so we had several people that talked to him. He was very remorseful. He realized he made a mistake. He told me it wasn’t going to happen again. We feel like we’ve got a great support system for him with Ray Jackson, who is our new director of player engagement, and the people that we have in that locker room. We just felt like he was a football player that we had an opportunity to move up [and draft]. We felt the price was right. Where Shane fell on our board, we just felt like it was something we couldn’t pass up. We have the utmost confidence in Shane that in talking with him that he realized the mistake that he made and guaranteed that it wouldn’t happen again. Having the chance to get to know him and the time that I did spend with him, I felt very comfortable with him. We feel good about him and realized that he made a mistake, but also the type of football player that we got. We got a guy that plays with his hair on fire, rushes the passer, loves the game of football, is competitive and is going to be a great fit for us.”
If Ray has a marijuana issue, the logical conclusion is that he probably shouldn’t come to Colorado, a state where the drug is legal and can be purchased in stores. Elway sees it as a non-issue, because it’s still illegal within the NFL and it’s vast drug policy.
“No, because it’s still illegal in the NFL, No. 1,” Elway said. “When it comes down to it, that does not affect us because we’re the same with everybody else as far as the league is concerned. I just got a good feel with him in the time that I talked to him. I think he’s a 21-year old kid that made a mistake and realized it.”
It’s good to know that Ray is remorseful about his unfortunate incident with the law earlier this week. But wouldn’t any prospect express remorse with interested NFL teams, in order to get drafted? Elway trusted that Ray’s repentance was genuine and that owning up to his mistake and not making excuses, counts for something.
“That’s a lot of it, I think,” he said. “To be able to realize when you make a mistake and to own up to that mistake, to me that’s the first step in realizing that’s not going to happen again. It showed a lot of maturity to me. He didn’t duck out of going to Chicago; he stayed in Chicago, he owned up to that mistake and to me that shows a lot about what he’s all about. I was impressed with that.”
Because of Ray’s off-the-field issues, some in the draftnik community believe that Ray would have continued to fall and that he likely would have been there at No. 28. Elway spoke to what motivated him with a sense of urgency and why the Broncos couldn’t risk waiting.
“We thought it was too good to be true that he was still there,” he said. “Then we looked at our board after he was gone and it was like, ‘OK, where are we going to go if we don’t get Shane?’ I really like the deal that we’re getting with the currency that we had, with the picks that we had. As I said, other than giving up Manny, we gave up a fifth this year and a fifth next year. We really just thought we couldn’t wait for him because he was too high on our board. We took advantage of that.”
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Just about every mock draft had the Broncos taking an offensive lineman in the first round—namely, a tackle. Kubiak talked about why they decided to pass on O-line in the first, even with T.J. Clemmings and D.J. Humphries still on the board.
“It didn’t change anything,” Kubiak said. “Obviously, we just got through with a little mini-camp, and yeah I feel very good about the guys that we have on the field and some of our young players. But, as far as how we went about tonight, our preparation over the course of the last four or five months, nothing changed because of something that took place on the practice fields. John and [Director of Player Personnel] Matt [Russell] stayed true to their board and the work they had done. Other than that, we just need to continue with our process on the field and we’ll be in Phase Two here starting Monday.”
As for Ray’s injured right toe, something he sustained in the Citrus Bowl, Elway talked about why it wasn’t a deal-breaker for the Broncos to not only move up, but expend a first round pick on the pass-rushing specialist.
“That came down to ‘Greek’ (Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos),” Elway said. “‘Greek’ thought he would be fine; he’s played with it up to this point. And I think if there were any issues with it, the key thing is it can be fixed if there were any issues with it going further. So, that was the key thing for us. If it wasn’t something that was going to be career-threatening or anything like that. But he’s played with it for a while. So, Greek gave us the go-ahead on him physically.”
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