Almost universally, analysts predict that Shane Ray is going to be one of the top 10 players selected during the 2015 NFL Draft.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is no different. He lists Ray as the No. 3 edge rusher in a deep draft class at the position.
Mayock hasn’t released his first mock draft yet, but he praised Ray’s burst Monday during a conference call ahead of the NFL Combine, which begins Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“I think Shane Ray’s got the best first step I’ve seen…” Mayock said. “The most impressive thing about him is that first step. His get-off is just immediate. He’s really gifted that way. They even kick him inside on occasion like they used to do with Aldon Smith. He’s so quick.”
Still, Mayock believes Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate who set the Tigers’ single-season record with 14 1/2 sacks last season, needs to get bigger and stronger to reach his full potential at the next level.
Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. is Mayock’s top-ranked edge rusher. He checks in at 6 feet 3 and 260 pounds, which is 15 pounds heavier than Ray’s weight (6-3, 245), according to Missouri’s roster.
Gregory (6-6, 240) and Beasley (6-3, 235) are also significantly lighter than Fowler.
“Fowler is going to be 15 or 20 pounds heavier than any of them and, I think, just as explosive,” Mayock said.
That weight makes a difference in the ability to set the edge in the run game in the NFL, which Mayock believes is the second-most important quality at the position behind getting to the quarterback.
“I’m not trying to say (Ray’s) not a tough guy, but at 235 or whatever he weighs, he has trouble disengaging from big bodies,” Mayock said. “That’s typical for an undersized edge rusher, so you’ve got a 320-pound tackle pushing on you in the run game, how do you disengage if you’re not more powerful? That’s what he has to learn — hand placement. He’s got to get stronger; he’s got to find some weapons to deal with those big bodies that are pushing him around in the run game.”
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein says Ray has “elite power for his size,” but that he “lacks ideal length as an outside rusher” in his draft bio. He compares his to Jacksonville’s Chris Clemons, an 11-year NFL veteran with 66 career sacks in 262 games.
Mayock sees similar issues against the run for fellow Missouri defensive end Markus Golden at the next level.
“His run-game issues are even more extreme, because he’s so short,” Mayock said. “He’s got short arms; he’s not as long as Shane Ray. When he gets stuck on a block, he really does get stuck.”
That said, much like Ray, Golden’s motor and playmaking ability make him a rock-solid NFL prospect.
“I like Markus Golden, like him a lot,” Mayock said. “He’s got a great motor. He’s just one of those guys that’s going to make some hustle sacks and some hustle plays.”
Two other Missouri graduates, return specialist/running back/wide receiver Marcus Murphy and offensive tackle Mitch Morse, also were invited to the NFL Combine.
For Murphy, who broke Jeremy Maclin’s record for career return touchdowns with the Tigers, it’s a chance to show his niche value.
“He’s kind of a specialty player,” Mayock said. “He’s going to make a living as a return guy and he needs to be very good at that. He needs to be a gunner on special teams and all those other kind of things.”