There's no doubt that Missouri Defensive End Shane Ray has an amazing story. Raised with an absent father, Ray and his mother were left to navigate one of the toughest parts of Kansas City on their own.
Despite his bleak circumstances, Ray found the motivation to turn himself into an excellent high school football player, earning a 3-star rating from Rivals. After three years at Missouri, however, Ray proved that he was far better than his recruiting score indicated, finishing his career at Missouri by breaking the single-season sack record (14.5).
Rated in the top 10 by many draft experts, the question we posed to our writers was simple: pick or pass on Shane Ray?
As the defensive player of the year in what is believed to be the best defensive conference in football (SEC), it's hard to argue with much of what Shane Ray has done up until this point in his life. At 6'3" and 245 pounds, Ray has good enough size (he's the same height and 6 pounds lighter than Khalil Mack was coming out of college last year) to translate his game into the NFL right away.
The good news for Ray is that Oakland needs some pass rush help — badly. The bad news, however, is that there are plenty of other options out there for Oakland at No. 4. Ray would be a perfect target should Oakland move back in the draft, but at No. 4 I think Ray is just a bit over-priced.
This is the type of guy the Raiders need, but I think he has a few ticks against his game that drop him below the fourth pick overall.
Ray reminds me a lot of former first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul, who coming out of South Florida, was regarded as an athletic freak who could jump out of the building but was hurt by a limited history of production. Ray played behind Kony Ealy and Michael Sam at Mizzou last year, and burst onto the scene this year by destroying most offensive linemen to line up across from him (see: SEC leading 14.5 sacks).
Like Pierre-Paul, his game is all about athleticism and he is extremely aggressive. He is the sort of ruthless headhunter the Raiders would have happily employed back in the 80s, as Ray has a mean streak a mile wide and isn't afraid to take people down with prejudice.
Unfortunately for Ray, however, there are some concerns. For starters, he has a smaller frame than most teams like to see at 4-3 end, and a thin lower body. He doesn't have the giant butt and thighs you typically want in that spot, with some fearing he can get pushed around by more skilled offensive tackles. Ray also doesn't have great strength in his hands and struggles to get off blocks.
While he is an explosive pass-rusher, I think there is some team in the middle of the first round that will be happy to take him and stick him at OLB where he projects as a solid starter. His instinctive play and solid tackling will be a good fit for someone, but not Oakland. The Giants, Texans, Redskins and Falcons would do well to take long looks at Shane Ray.
Ray was named the 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. While he is explosive on film, his numbers at Missouri's Pro Day did not match up to that of the other top edge rushers in the draft.
Ray would fill a huge need for the Raiders as he played 4-3 defensive end at Missouri, but if the Raiders decide to address defensive end at number four overall, Dante Fowler would be the better pick. The only way I see the Raiders taking Ray is if they trade down.
This is one of the tougher choices in the draft for me. He could be the pass rusher the Raiders need. Or he could disappoint. Overall, there's just something about Shane Ray I don't trust. It could be that he is yet another standout pass rusher from Missouri. Last year they produced Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Ealy was regarded as a high pick in the draft early on and ended up falling to the second round. Then had a decent rookie season as a situational pass rusher. Sam hasn't been able to catch on in the NFL despite being named the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year. Ray made it two straight DPOY winners for Missouri with his SEC leading 14.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
It could be his game which doesn't feature a wide variety of moves. Most times, he's just using speed on the edge, though he can occasionally shuck the lineman aside and get into the backfield. Due to his risk factor, it looks like number 4 overall is too high to consider Ray.