Summary: Over the past few seasons, the Missouri defense has been a factory for NFL talent. Sheldon Richardson has been phenomenal player for the Jets since starring for the Tigers. Last year, Kony Ealy was a second-round pick while Michael Sam was forced into the seventh round by the league office. Missouri has two more prospects who can play on Sundays this year with Markus Golden and Ray being the headliner. Like Richardson, Ray should be a Thursday night selection.
Ray was a backup to Sam and Ealy in 2013, but Ray flashed his potential with 39 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the year. Even though Ealy and Sam played well, Ray and Golden formed an even better duo in 2014. Golden started the year strong, and then Ray exploded. He went on a tear with multi-sack games against Toledo, Central Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina. He also did well against Florida and offensive tackle D.J. Humphries. In 2014, Ray recorded 14.5 sacks, 65 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles.
Ray was unable to participate at the Combine because of an injury. His pro-day workout was solid, but not overly impressive.
Ray has demonstrated a real burst off the snap with a lightning first-step. He explodes off the snap and is often the first player to move off the ball, beating both the offensive tackles and his teammates. Ray also has the ability to transfer speed to power as he gets upfield and can push tackles the final couple of yards to get to the quarterback. Ray isn't a natural bender, but he has enough agility to turn the corner with a burst to close. As a pass-rusher, he is dangerous when moving to the inside and hunting down the quarterback.
Ray does well in pursuit when facing the run, but he can have problems when teams run straight at him. He needs to get stronger for the ground game, but that could come with NFL coaching and strength training.
If Ray is drafted into a 4-3 defense, he could be used like the Broncos' Von Miller as a linebacker in running situations and a pass-rusher. Ray looks like a great fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker.
There is no doubt that Ray is a dangerous pass-rusher, and he looks like he has the potential to be an impact rusher in the NFL and a double-digit sack producer. Ray is deserving of a top-25 grade and could be a real weapon in the NFL.
Player Comparison: Kamerion Wimbley. Ray is slightly smaller than Wimbley (6-4, 258), but both players are fast off the edge. Wimbley was better as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and Ray could follow that trend. Wimbley was the 13th overall pick by the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft and has had some seasons of good pass-rush production. Ray could go in that same range in the 2015 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, New York Jets, Atlanta, New York Giants, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
There are a number of a lot of teams in the top 25 that could fall in love with Ray. If the Titans decide to trade down and address their defense, Ray would make a lot of sense as an edge rusher for Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme. Ray would be a nice fit in Tennessee and would help the Titans to try to stop Andrew Luck.
In a trade down, Jacksonville could consider Ray as a replacement for Chris Clemons. The Jaguars have needed a long-term answer to their edge-rushing issues for years. Gregory could play end or the LEO linebacker in Gus Bradley's scheme.
The Jets also have to improve their edge rushing. Sheldon Richardson led New York in sacks with eight in 2014 while none of the team's edge rushers totaled seven sacks. Since the Jets look poised to miss out on a quarterback, they could improve their pass rush. Ray could be in play for New York.
The Falcons would be a great landing spot for Ray. The Falcons have to improve their pass rush, and Ray could be perfect for that. Like the Jaguars, Ray could play the LEO linebacker in Dan Quinn's defense. There have been reports that Atlanta really likes Ray.
The Giants could use more talent at linebacker and having Ray would give them another edge rusher.
Cleveland could use a pass-rusher. Ray could be an option for either of the Browns' first-rounders.
Staying in the AFC North, the Bengals have to get another pass-rusher to pair with Carlos Dunlap. Ray could fill the role they envisioned for James Harrison. Speaking of Harrison, he won't play forever and the Steelers are still missing what he brought them five or six years ago. Ray could be a great value for Pittsburgh later in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.