Could Shane Ray Drop to the Bengals?

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Oct 18, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) rushes against the Florida Gators during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Missouri Tigers defeated the Florida Gators 42-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The past couple of weeks have been troublesome for a few prospects in this year’s draft.  One of those prospects is Missouri’s Shane Ray.  It was recently reported that Ray has a previously unknown toe injury.

As can be seen via Rapoport’s tweet, the toe may not need surgery, which is a good sign, but only to a point.  Teams are bound to have conflicting opinions regarding Ray’s status going forward.  The Bengals should know better than most what an injury like “turf toe” can do to a player; last year, A.J. Green suffered from such an injury and it severely impacted his 2015 campaign.  With teams near the top of the draft expecting a lot from their first round selections, is it possible this injury causes teams to pass on Ray? And if so, could Ray drop to the 21st selection?

Although I don’t think it’s a likely outcome, one NFL draft pundit clearly thinks this could be possible.  In his most recent mock draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has Ray dropping to the Bengals at 21.  Zierlein has this to say about the selection:

"“Concerns over the health of Ray’s foot could cause him to slide a little bit in this draft. A chance to nab him would be hard for the Bengals, who need pass-rush help, to pass up.”"

Zierlein is right; the opportunity to draft Ray, a potential top 5-10 selection, may in fact be to good to pass up.

Throughout the draft process, I’ve been against the idea of draft a defensive end due to the Bengals depth at the position (unless that player is Alvin Dupree, believing he could transition to play the SAM position).  The Bengals have since also squashed my faith that they would draft a defensive tackle since they added Pat Sims and seem against parting ways with declining veteran Domata Peko.

Even I must admit though, if the Bengals have the opportunity to selection Shane Ray at 21, I would be enticed.  I would want to find a place for that kind of talent or make room by parting ways with another player currently on the roster.

Shane Ray is adept at playing the 4-3 defensive end position.  He was a dominant pass rusher from the spot over the past two seasons earning All-SEC and All-American honors last season as well as being voted the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

And for those of you who are concerned with the track record of players such as Ray out of Missouri, one NFC outside linebackers coach had this to say:

"“He’s not like other guys from Missouri that we’ve seen. He’s got serious speed to get over the top of tackles and those other ends didn’t have it. You just wish he was a little longer.”"

I’m not entirely sure of the Bengals interest in Shane Ray, but we do know that if a talent like Ray does in fact drop in the draft, the Bengals take notice, hence last year’s selection of Darqueze Dennard who the team didn’t think would be available when it was their turn to step up to the podium.

If Shane Ray’s injury causes enough concern amongst NFL front office’s, I expect the Bengals would likely end up drafting him at 21.

Next: Bengals Who Could Be Training Camp Casualties

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