ESPN college football and NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay has been on Shane Ray’s bandwagon for longer than most national observers.
McShay isn’t about to hop off now with Ray, a Missouri junior defensive end, expected to formally announced Wednesday that he will enter the 2015 NFL Draft.
“I remember actually watching last year, getting ready for the draft and watching Michael Sam and the rest of the defensive prospects in that group, and Ray really jumped out to me,” McShay said.
McShay pulled aside former Colts president and vice chairman Bill Polian and also talked to fellow ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. about Ray last spring.
“I thought he was the player that really had a chance to be special,” McShay said. “And he took his game to another level this year, which was good to see.”
Echoing comments made by Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel, who called Ray one of the five most competitive players he’s ever coached, McShay lauded Ray’s motor.
Combined with his explosive first step and surprising strength, Ray, McShay believes, has star potential at the next level. McShay has Ray slotted fifth overall to Washington in his latest mock draft.
Ray, of course, isn’t the only Missouri player with draft potential.
His partner in crime off the left edge, senior defensive end Markus Golden, projects as a midround pick, according to McShay.
“Golden, I thought played even better this year,” McShay said. “He’s not quite as talented and maybe as explosive as Ray, but he’s a good all-around player. I think I gave him, in the preseason, a third-round grade. … Golden probably fits somewhere in that late day two, early day three range. I think he’s strong versus the run, a very consistent player. Again, not the most athletic guy, but he certainly can play at the next level.”
McShay said versatility, which is something NFL teams covet in players, is a strength for Golden and Ray.
“(Golden) brings some versatility,” McShay said. “I think with both those guys, Ray probably fits a little better as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I think both of those guys can (play) in multiple fronts and provide a lot of versatility.”
McShay gave Missouri left tackle Mitch Morse a late-round grade in the preseason, he said, but hasn’t studied this season’s tape enough to adjust that projection yet.
“Anyone beyond that, I haven’t written up and done a full evaluation on,” McShay said.
Running back/slot receiver/return specialist Marcus Murphy, who was given a sixth-round grade by draft analysts at CBS, and strong safety Braylon Webb also could be in the mix as potential draft picks along with wide receiver Bud Sasser.
Missouri has had 27 players drafted since Gary Pinkel took charge in 2001. Six Tigers have been selected in the first round since 2009.