Breakdown: Broncos Select Shane Ray

Everything you need to know about the Denver Broncos’ first-round selection of outside linebacker Shane Ray out of Missouri from Scout's college and pro football experts.

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Shane Ray
Missouri / 6'3 / 245 lbs
  • DE
  • [1] #23


Football 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.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation

Denver made a bold move, moving up five spots to land the troubled defensive end from Missouri, defensive end Shane Ray. Ray has a foot issue and he was also cited for marijuana possession earlier this week. 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. He joins some excellent pass rushers in the Mile High City and will have a learning curve with the new Broncos defense.

The biggest question for the NFL team that selects Shane Ray is where to play him. Teams using a defensive scheme similar to Seattle’s might want to utilize him as a rush end, but others that feature a 3-4 alignment might find Ray a perfect fit to play strong-side outside linebacker.

In his first season as a starter, he broke the school season-record for sacks (14.0) that was previously held by Aldon Smith and Michael Sams, as just two players in college got to the quarterback more often in 2014. He also tied for third nationally with 21.0 stops-for-loss and five of his 13 QB pressures caused interceptions or fumbles.

With more NFL teams utilizing the 3-4 defensive scheme, Ray is a perfect fit as either a rush end or strong-side outside line-backer. Those wondering if he has enough bulk to play in the trenches see a player boasting a 400-plus pound bench press. If teams wonder if he can drop back in pass coverage see a player who runs in the sub 4.5-second range.

His lateral range allows him to flow to the ball with great ease of movement. He stays on his feet working through trash and has the quickness to suddenly close on the ball. Ray has just average size to play on the front wall, but with his outstanding closing burst and good suddenness closing on the ball, he is an ideal fit as a strong-side outside line-backer at the next level, but his raw strength will see him have success in one-on-one battles with offensive tackles and tight ends as a rush end.

Ray shows very good balance and body control to consistently make the turn as an edge rusher, but with his shiftiness and change of direction agility, he has no issues avoiding blockers when shooting the gaps. He has the range to get to the ball suddenly, doing a nice job of opening his hips to change direction and string the plays out. He makes fluid and decisive adjustments on the move and has a good nose for the plays in front of him.

When he sees the plays develop, he has good reactions to misdirection and play action. He has developed a natural feel for the keeping the action in front of him and can track and flow to the ball well. With his “check-&-go” ability coming off the edge, along with his natural quickness, he is a dangerous threat to constantly impact the pocket coming off the edge or blitzing from the weak-side position (might yield considerable bulk to the left offensive tackles, but few have the footwork to retreat and gain advantage when Ray comes out of his stance with suddenness).

When he gets his hands on an opponent, he will usually leverage, shed and attack the ball. Playing him on the weak-side of the defensive line is where he is comfortable, but in the NFL, he might be better suited to line up at strong-side outside linebacker. The reason I feel he can make an easy adjustment to the second level is that when attaching himself to tight ends, slot receivers and the runners in the two-back set, he has become highly proficient in jamming and rerouting opponents away from the thrown ball (has allowed only three catches on 42 balls targeted into his area, rerouting receivers away from eleven of those throws the last two seasons).

His flexibility allows him to plant, stop and redirect suddenly. He has great closing speed and knows how to take proper angles to shorten the field. His change of direction agility allows him to turn and run on the ball. He uses his hands effectively to shed blocks and flow to the play. He has the agility to thread through traffic and the quickness to close. He covers the whole field and is especially effective chasing from the backside with an explosive burst.

Like the Pats’ Jamie Collins, Seattle’s Bruce Irvin and the Steelers’ Jarvis Jones, Ray can play in a downed three-point position or stand-up, but due to size issues, playing constantly on the line at the NFL level might see him get engulfed. He is a quality edge rusher, but is more suited to be move-oriented, as he excels when allowed to freelance. He does a very good job of getting into and maintaining position. He has the power and hand quickness to easily reroute the tight ends through their patterns (eleven reroutes during his last ten games) and delivers a strong jolt to jam his opponent at the line.

Ray makes things happen on the field thanks to his range and arm tackling ability. He knows how to shorten the field by taking proper angles and has the lateral agility to flow to the ball. He stays square and does a good job of wrapping and securing. He plays at a good pad level and has impressive strength for the next level (power is fine for the linebacker position, but size issues might impact his play as a down lineman).

When having to cover the inside rush, he does not have the bulk, but his hand usage and strong anchor prevent the offensive linemen from riding him out, unless they are able to lock on to him. He does have very good strength at the point of attack, but has more success when he utilizes his quickness in order to step up and take on the lead blocks. When he uses his hands effectively, Ray is capable of filling the gaps.

Ray shows explosion in his initial step and the ability to close and push the pocket. He takes good angles in his backside pursuit and runs with that explosive burst and fine timing to get a great jump on the ball. He closes with desire and is very good at shortening the field by taking proper angles. When working inside, he is very active with his hands, but can get hung up in traffic due to his lack of ideal bulk to defeat the offensive linemen. He has the valid speed to surprise a lethargic weak-side tackle when playing off the edge and does a nice job using his shoulder dip to escape when blockers try to engulf him.

Shane Ray NFL Scouting Combine measurables

33 1/8-inch arm length
9-inch hands

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.


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