NFL scouts and executives finally got to see Shane Ray in action during drills last week at Missouri’s pro day.
His performance, while falling shy of the career-best marks Ray produced before a toe injury at the Citrus Bowl in his final game with the Tigers, won’t damage his draft stock, according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper projects Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. as the first edge rusher off the board at No. 3 overall to Jacksonville.
Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate and the 2014 SEC defensive player of the year, falls into the second tier with Clemson’s Vic Beasley and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, Kiper said.
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“His time wasn’t awful (at MU’s pro day), but certainly the way he played is more important,” Kiper said. “A lot of guys test well and don’t perform well with the pads on. Ray shows quickness, explosiveness and a ton of ability. I think you look at that and factor that all into the equation. I don’t think it’s going to push him down past inside 10 to 12, somewhere in that grouping.”
Ray, who left MU with one year of eligibility remaining, wasn’t able to match his 4.44-second 40-yard dash from last summer. He’s added weight and his training was slowed by a hyperextended big toe on his right foot.
Still, Ray ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds, which was on par with Fowler and Gregory. Beasley ran the best 40 among defensive linemen and linebackers at the NFL Combine last month in 4.53 seconds.
Ray’s 33-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump were better than Fowler’s Combine marks, but trailed Gregory and Beasley. He also had slower times in the three-cone test and 20-yard shuttle.
None of the might matter as much as Ray’s school-record 14 1/2 sacks in the 2014 season.
Ray’s stock also might rise on team boards that had Gregory rated higher because of the former Nebraska defensive end’s failed drug test at the Combine. He projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end at the next level.
“There’s a range where (Ray) could end up going,” Kiper said. “Of course, with the Randy Gregory news, that could be the difference between taking one or the other if they’re equal or close to equal in grade. An off-the-field issue could swing it to Ray a little.”
Kiper also heaped praise on former Missouri left tackle Mitch Morse, who turned heads with his Combine performance and probably projects as a guard in the NFL.
Kiper lauded Morse’s size — 6 feet 5, 305 pounds — and athleticism, which showed with his 36 bench-press reps, 9-foot-4 broad jump and 4.50-second 20-yard shuttle.
“We saw Justin Britt go in the second round, a little higher than was anticipated,” Kiper said, referring to the former Missouri left tackle who was drafted by Seattle last year. “Maybe Morse gets a little bit of a bump up, maybe the third- or fourth-round area, for a guy that has that dual versatility and I think can project to guard and be a pretty nice player.”
The outlook isn’t as rosy for former Tigers left defensive end Markus Golden, Kiper said.
“Markus Golden, his stock has dropped a little bit since the end of the season,” Kiper said. “I think he’s probably a day-three pick. Really good college player, not quite as highly regarded as you would maybe think considering his productivity. But on day three, you get a guy who could be a rotational guy, play on special teams, he could maybe intrigue some people at that point.”
Golden totaled 16 1/2 sacks and 33 tackles for a loss with four forced fumbles, five fumbles recoveries and 20 quarterback hurries the last two seasons.