Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
I feel good about this one.
The Saints are, much like our Eagles, in the middle of a massive roster overhaul. Similarly to Chip and Co., Sean Payton and the N.O. Front Office are making an active and concentrated effort to reinvest the resources from their offense into the defensive side of the ball. Letting a generational athletic talent like Jimmy Graham go for a Center, albeit a very good one, and a first round pick has ignited a lot of change in the roster makeup, and this pick seems to mesh with it all very well... at least in theory.
As I looked through the depth chart waiting until it was my time on the clock, I started looking for their weaknesses. Rob Ryan, one of the more overrated DCs in the NFL (mainly just because of his last name), has brought his 3-4 defense to the Saints. They have already stocked up on the secondary, with two good safeties in Vaccaro and Byrd, and two solid outside starters in Browner and Keenan Lewis. Our good friend Brodrick Bunkley anchors a line with Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks on either side. When I looked at their LB corps, I believed immediately that their biggest need right now is an impact pass rusher opposite of Junior Galette.
When I saw that both Shane Ray and Randy Gregory fell to me at 13, I had a tough decision to make. Gregory definitely seemed like the safer pick, but something about Shane Ray's raw explosiveness off the line (and his upbrining in the "Murder Factory" in Kansas) had me very intrigued.
Granted, his spider graph is less than ideal. He played a 4-3 DE in college so projecting him out as a 3-4 OLB isn't exactly easy. He seems to have all the skills necessary to be a successful pass rusher in the NFL, but it's always a gamble taking a chance on a guy like this hoping he lives up to the expectations of what he could be with proper growth and development. That being said, this seems like a risk worth taking to me.
As you can see from some of these clips, Ray has a lot of different ways to get to the QB. Very quick hands and good instincts, exactly the kind of player that can change games by keeping the opposing QB throwing off his back foot.
The main problem with this pick, however, is that his usage would be situationally limited for now.
Let me show you what I mean:
He gets washed down the line far too easily, even by college Offensive Linemen. Schematically speaking, this will be marginally less of a problem as a 3-4 OLB than it was for him as a 4-3 DE merely because he will be playing off the line and will have a slightly better opportunity to avoid his blocker on running plays, but it will be a problem all the same. If the DE fails to set the edge on an outside run in his direction, it could be gone for 6 no problem. Until he builds up some strength and can plug up holes in the run game, this limits his playing time, and therefore his in-game development, to obvious passing downs.
A lot of teams are hesitant to take a chance on a situational guy like this in the first round because.... well, Marcus Smith. Not that we can definitively declare Smith a bust by any means just yet, the Eagles knew he was a project when they drafted him, but people naturally want to see a lot out of their favorite team's first round pick right away. Investing a resource like the #13 pick in a guy like Shane Ray and then asking the fans to be patient as he plays 25% of snaps or less in his rookie year can be tough to balance. Maybe a little less tough if he gets a decent number of sacks and/or turnovers, but tough nonetheless. Not every GM is afforded by the team's ownership the privilege of being as patient as Sam Hinkie. But laying out a path, much like the Saints have done this offseason, and following it to contention through calculated risks is really the only way to get where everyone is trying to go in this league.
If the Saints think Shane Ray can be their Von Miller and trust in their ability to develop his talent, then this pick is exactly what they're hoping for come draft day.
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (slickpablovick) - Jameis Winston, QB, FSU - [Explanation]
2) Tennessee Titans (mchiodo) - Leonard Williams, DE, USC - [Explanation]
3) Jacksonville Jaguars ("Snax") - Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, UF - [Explanation]
4) Oakland Raiders (kylebruneault) - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama - [Explanation]
5) Washington Redskins (BigTimeTMZ) - Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon - [Explanation]
6) New York Jets (4thand26) - Kevin White, WR, WVU - [Explanation]
7) Chicago Bears (rohan915) - Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson - [Explanation]
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9) New York Giants (Grandpapa Joe) - Landon Collins, S, Alabama - [Explanation]
10) St. Louis Rams (deg0ey) - Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa - [Explanation]
11) Minnesota Vikings (ablesser88) - Trae Waynes, CB, MSU - [Explanation]
12) Cleveland Browns (djcunningham) - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville - [Explanation]
13) New Orleans Saints (del.champion) - Shane Ray, DE, Mizzou - [Explanation]
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