Dec 6, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game during the second quarter of the 2014 SEC Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Ray is having a tough week. He is dealing with a toe injury that could require surgery, which would keep him out of commission for five months. He also just got cited for marijuana possession, just three days before the start of the draft. A player considered to be a top-10 pick could drop like a sacked quarterback come draft day.
Could this be a blessing in disguise for the Baltimore Ravens? Let’s start by stating a fact: Shane Ray just made a mind-bogglingly idiotic choice that could potentially cost him millions.
John Harbaugh has said that the 2014 Baltimore Ravens rookie class may have had such an immediate impact because of the high intelligence the draftees possessed. Even getting near weed before a life-determining day such as the NFL draft is not intelligent. Emphatically not intelligent.
As a football player, however, Ray has already drawn the attention of Harbaugh and the Wizard of Oz, Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome. At the Ravens pre-draft press conference, Harbaugh said “This guy has an unbelievable motor”, and further declared that both he and Newsome like Shane Ray the player.
Despite the endorsement of one of the best GMs in the NFL, I went to see the tape myself. My immediate takeaway? Shane Ray plays like a Raven. Frankly, he was a blast to watch. There is such tenacity to his game. He is exactly the type of football player that John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome (and Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz and Dean Pees) will all adore right off the bat.
His tape against South Carolina is a great example. Looking at 4:35, Shane Ray is lined up as 4-3 defensive tackle. He fights off the block with his hands and works his way to the sideline to make the defensive stop on 2nd and 1. At the 4: 56 mark, Ray is lined up at his usual position as a 4-3 defensive end. He drops into coverage and manages to just barely swat the ball, saving a touchdown.
The biggest question in today’s pass-heavy NFL is not how he will be against the run or in coverage, but if he can disrupt the quarterback. I’m glad you asked! I direct you to peruse his game against Kentucky at your leisure. At the 1:28 mark, he deflects a ball thrown to a wide open receiver, nearly resulting in an interception. At the 2:55 mark, he explodes on his first step, forcing the opposing quarterback to flee the pocket and resulting in a throw past the line of scrimmage.
Then comes a two play sequence that shows all the best things about Shane Ray. Look at the 4:09 mark. Ray beats the tackle outside, perhaps thinking pass, but quickly recognizes the run. He then beats his man back to the inside, chases down the back, and drops him for a measly two yards on 3rd and 10.
Kentucky lines up for 4th and 8. The ball is snapped, Shane Ray explodes like he was shot out a cannon, and hand fights his way around the edge for the soul-crushing sack. The words that pop into my head? DeMarcus Ware.
Of course, Shane Ray does not possess perfect tape. One of the biggest knocks on him is that he is tweener without a true position in the NFL. He lacks the desired length for an NFL defensive end, but his hips don’t appear fluid enough for him to be an outside linebacker. As such, he has draft bust potential.
This was best seen in the Florida tape. I don’t even need to give you any particular time. During this entire game, Ray looked like an average player at best, constantly swallowed up against the run and generating little pass rush. He spent far too much time being just another guy.
Concerns about Shane Ray’s potential as an NFL player are certainly valid, but there are times when he utterly dominates. At these moments, he is a man among boys, imposing his will with little apparent effort. At his worst, Ray will be a high-effort guy that gets modest production against both the run and the pass. At his best, however, Shane Ray can be an absolute stud.
I still believe that Marcus Peters is the best option for the Ravens first rounder, but there appears to be a strong chance that Peters will be gone before the Ravens get a crack at him. Ray could be a very nice consolation prize indeed. Baltimore has the locker room and coaching to bring out his best.
If his toe checks out and he can get his head on straight, Shane Ray could be the steal of the entire 2015 NFL draft for the Baltimore Ravens.