Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Shane Ray (Missouri) poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number twenty-three overall pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
OLB Shane Ray, Denver Broncos
The final rookie on our list is new Broncos outside linebacker and pass-rushing extraordinaire Shane Ray.
During his junior season at Missouri, Ray wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Ray piled up 65 tackles, 22.5 were for a loss, and 14.5 sacks. His relentless pass rushing prowess kept opposing quarterbacks off balance forcing them to always account for his presence. He’s a natural disruptor who garnered a comparison to Robert Mathis by Bill Polian.
"“When I see him I see Robert Mathis. Near a Hall of Fame player. People who don’t like him are going to say he’s narrow of build and therefore can’t stand on the line of scrimmage, and that’s fine. I don’t want him to stand on the line of scrimmage, I want him to go chase the quarterback, and he’s about the best in this draft at doing that.”"
The problem for the Bengals will be the combination of Ray along with veterans Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. This passing-rushing triumvirate will present a significant challenge for any offensive line. Miller is amongst the league’s best defensive players; he may be the best outside of J.J. Watt. He accounted for 14 sacks in 2014 while future Hall of Famer Ware accounted for another 10. The Bengals’ offensive line will have their hands full while playing in the Mile High city.
Cincinnati does have one thing going for itself; they performed extremely well against the Ravens last year. Baltimore’s 2014 passing rushing group of Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Pernell McPhee presents a similar challenge, yet the Bengals held this outside linebacker group to one sack and two quarterback hits in two games last year. The combination of Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith is a formidable force against such a pass rush. Cincinnati will need their dynamic tackle duo to continue their dominance in 2015’s Week 16 if they hope to topple the Broncos yet again this year.