The Denver Broncos selected Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray with the No. 23 overall pick this past April—trading up to snag him. As a first round pick, one thing that comes with the territory? High expectations—from within and without the organization.
For the rookie, who hasn’t been able to contribute as much as he’d like in organized team activities, due to a lingering foot injury, his own expectations might exceed that of the team, the fans and the media, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
"I don't see anything less than Defensive Rookie of the Year. I mean that's my goal," Ray told Around The NFL from the Rookie Symposium on Monday.
"A lot of people might say that sounds cocky for you to say it right now, but I've always set high goals for myself, just like I did in college and that is something that I'm looking to prove, that I'm the best defensive rookie here," he said.
In a rookie class that features the likes of Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, and Trae Waynes, winning the DPoY award might be a tall order, especially considering that Ray will be playing behind Pro Bowl pass-rushing duo Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
But this is the kind of hubris you want from your first round pick, is it not? Setting the bar that high is a sign that Ray is motivated to prove to the teams who passed on him in the first round that they made a mistake. Earning the DRoY is the best way to make them rue the decision.
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He certainly has the talent, but how he performs when the pads go on in training camp will give us a good indication of not only how his foot has recovered, but how he measures up to the players at the pro level. Although the Broncos had him rated as the No. 10 overall player on their big board, many scouts and draftniks saw Ray as a one-hit wonder without a well-rounded skill-set.
However, there’s no doubting that Ray is an explosive athlete, with a track record replete with quarterback take-downs. The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year might be shooting for the stars, but he’ll also be learning from two of the best pass-rushers in NFL history. And he’ll benefit from a defensive scheme that will allow him to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback.
DRoY? It depends entirely on how Wade Phillips envisions the rookie’s playing time. If he’s on the field for more than 50% of the defensive snaps, it’s possible. Otherwise, Ray might be inadvertently out-kicking his coverage here.