I'm going to go out on a limb and say if you're reading this blog, you're aware of whats transpired within the past 24 hours regarding former Mizzou standout Shane Ray.
The 21 year old pass rusher was cited (NOT arrested) for possession of marijuana early Monday morning. When I first heard the news my immediate reaction was 'who cares?', but I quickly remembered what industry Shane Ray is about to be entering.
The 2014 NFL season was a sobering realization to the entire league that it's time to wake up in terms of the company they keep. Teams will no longer be issued a free pass for players that aren't doing the right things off the field. The league has long used the 'protecting the shield' mantra, but thats ultimately proved to be lip service. With everything we've been exposed to recently, I can understand teams doing whatever they can to find out as much as they can before investing millions on a kid (cause, you know, that's what they are).
The only aspect of this that is a bit puzzling to me is the timing of it all. Being out at 5:30 in the morning four days before presumably the biggest day of your life wasn't a wise decision and ultimately could result in a fall in the draft and contract that he's going to have to work for every day...music to the ears of one William Stephen Belichick.
Peter King released his latest and final mock draft last night. King's mock draft was admittedly revised after hearing of the Shane Ray news. What may interest Patriots fans is that King has slotted Ray to be available when the Patriots make their selection at the end of the first round. King goes on to say that several different league sources he's spoken with now have Ray going in several different rounds.
Mark Dominic, former Bucs GM, has even been on ESPN saying that he's been told by league officials Ray could fall as far as the 4th round.
“This changes Shane Ray dramatically because it’s, to me, such a poor decision this close to the draft. It’s the decision making. What is this guy going to do on Friday or Saturday night before a big game? Is he going to make another poor choice like this? The timing is so bad, and the foot issue, tells me that this guy isn’t just dropping out of the first round, he’s dropping to the third or fourth round now,” Dominik said on Mike & Mike. “I know he’s dropping out of the first round. I don’t see any way he’s going in the first round.”
So if Shane Ray is available whenever the Patriots are on the clock, should they take the chance?
Yes. Absolutely. No question.
The type of player you take in the first round of the NFL draft obviously depends on where you're slotted. If you have a top ten selection, you're taking the sure bet guy (unless it's the Raiders or Redskins). The guys taken outside the top 10 aren't typically being counted on to show up and immediately be the savior of the franchise. Time, a much valued commodity in pro football, is often on both the player's and coaching staff's side.
We've heard both Bill Belichick and Nick Casserio describe a lot of past selections as the highest rated guy on the Patriots board at the time of the pick (still trying to figure out the '07 draft...trading up to get Brandon Meriweather, really?). If Shane Ray is there at 32, presuming that's where they select from, he's by all accounts going to be the best player available for the Patriots at that time.
I know that many Patriot fans are expecting the team to draft a corner in the first round, totally understandable. There's no doubt in my mind that the corner position will be addressed in some way this coming weekend. A lot has been made about UConn's Byron Jones and how he fits the Patriots mold. Keep in mind that Jones is rated anywhere from 3rd to 5th best available corner in this years draft, at times Shane Ray has been slotted at the 5th pick overall. That shouldn't be an indictment on Jones, but rather further proof that if Shane Ray falls, the Patriots should go grab him.
This is going to be painful for Pats fans but reason with me for a second...tell me who were the starting corners for the 2007 & 2011 Giants as well as the 2009 & 2012 Ravens? Without looking it up, you most likely can't. I know some will be quick to mention Ed Reed, but that's more name recognition than anything at that point in his career (not to mention the Patriots re-signed safety Devin McCourty who can play a little bit too).
The point I'm trying to make is those teams that beat the Patriots in big games did it with pressure up front, getting to the QB. In case you haven't noticed, the Patriots are building something pretty special in their linebacking core and on the edge. Shane Ray has drawn comparisons to Elvis Dumerville and Robert Mathis. Add him into a mix that already includes Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, and eventually Dominique Easley (prediction). Does that collection of talent fire you up? Yeah, me too. (See below)
What really makes the possibility of Ray so intriguing is the versatility he brings to the table.
“Throughout my career, my coaches moved me all around the defense. I’ve played over three techniques and beat guards, I’ve stood up and rushed from the middle, I’ve dropped into coverage and came back and covered guys coming out of the backfield. And I’ve just displayed my speed consistently, and what I can do as a 4-3 defensive end and outside linebacker.”
While Ray played in a 4-3 defense for Gary Pinkle at Mizzou, he noted meeting with several teams in Indy that play 3-4 at the next level. We've seen both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes from the Patriots throughout the years, but part of what makes the Patriots so successful (especially last season) and interesting to watch is they don't harp on being married to one specific defensive look, situational football is what's preached and practiced. Adding a guy that last season got to the QB 14.5 times along with 22.5 TFL in the talent rich SEC would make the life of Matt Patricia a lot easier.
So there it is, my take on Shane Ray. I think the kid can flat out play and what better system to come into than the one in Foxborough.
Ultimately do I think he's going to be there when the Patriots pick? Not counting on it.
Contrary to popular belief around these parts, there are some other teams that have smart people running the show. Like I said before, I'm back on the 'In Bill We Trust' bandwagon. We need to keep in mind that Bill Belichick and the brain trust know what the team needs and who can help them fill it.
So when you're screaming at your TV this weekend...keep in mind that during the 2010 NFL Draft we all wanted Sergio Kindle, Bill gave us some tight end out of Arizona instead.
Follow me on Twitter at @Lifeof_schneids
For more of my articles, click here.