Watching game film of Missouri's Shane Ray makes it tough to believe he hasn't always loved the game of football. He quit the game at a young age, sixth through eighth grade, before having the passion to play reignited in high school, returning to the field and receiving scholarship offers by his junior season at Bishop Miege High School in Kansas.
Years later, Ray was thriving for the Missouri Tigers, steadily building an impressive resume that he'll carry into next week's 2015 NFL Draft. Named the 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, leading the SEC in sacks (14.5), a new school record, and tackles for loss (22.5), Ray is ready to bring his versatility to the NFL.
"I think I'm a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I'm a football player," Ray said. "I feel like I can put my hand in the dirt, I can stand up, I'm versatile. My coach has been moving me around my whole career, attacking from different places, so I'm not limited to either one (DE/OLB)."
NFL Media's Lance Zierlein has watched plenty of Ray's game tape and offered the following assessments of his game:
"(Ray's an) explosive athlete in every sense," Zierlein said.
"(He) has elite power for his size and explodes off the line like a coiled spring. (He) rushes (the) passer with extreme passion and purpose (and) has fast, violent hands with advanced understanding of how to use them. (He) played 4-3 defensive right end in base but rushed from three-technique in some sub-packages. Once he gets to blocker's edge, they struggle to recover and redirect. (He) was able to drop into space with no issues when asked."
Areas to Improve
"(Ray) lacks ideal length as an outside rusher," Zierlein said. "At times, (he) was engulfed and glued to the bigger tackles he faced (and) can get too focused on hand fighting if he doesn't win with (his) hands early in (the) pass rush. If rushing from inside, (he) must learn to set up teammates when running "T/E" (tackle first, end under) twists. (He) needs more variety (in his) pass rush."
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock lists Ray as the fifth-best edge rusher in this year's draft class.
- Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
- Randy Gregory, Nebraska
- Vic Beasley, Clemson
- Bud Dupree, Kentucky
5. Shane Ray, Missouri
Regardless of where he's drafted next week, Ray is confident that his drive and motivation to excel in the game of football will translate to success in the NFL.
"I'm an aggressor, and I believe that's how you're supposed to play defense," Ray said. "I'm able to channel that (energy) from past struggles and for the people I'm working for every day. The people who say I can't do things, every time I step on the field, I'm out there with an aggression to show people they're wrong, and I'm going to prove they're wrong; that's just how I like to play."