NFP Prospect Focus: Shane Ray and Dante Fowler
It’s been said that the 2015 NFL Draft is loaded with edge pass rushers and that statement is somewhat true, but it must also be pointed out that many of these top pass rushers are also undersized. When I say undersized, I mean that only a few of them could hold up as every down defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme. Most are more suited to play as an OLB in a 3-4 on base downs and then play down in pass rush situations.
Shane Ray of Missouri fits that mold, while Dante Fowler from Florida, depending upon how he measures at the Combine, may be able to be a full time 4-3 DE.
Shane Ray – Missouri
Ray is a fourth-year junior entering the draft as an underclassman. Coming out of high school, he was a three-star recruit who had numerous offers from top programs. Shane’s dad played at Mizzou and Shane followed in his footsteps. Ray red-shirted as a freshman and played as a reserve in 2012 and 2013. If you follow Missouri football closely, you would see that in the defensive line, they play a six-to-eight-man rotation with the reserves getting almost as much play time as the starters. In 2012 and 2013, Ray saw plenty of action. Shane became the starter in 2014 and put up excellent numbers, finishing with 65 total tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. He has 19 sacks over the last two seasons.
Ray is best as an outside pass rusher. He has excellent snap reaction and is explosive off the ball. While he lacks great size (6020 – 240 est), he is powerful. He stays low with his charge and is explosive. He has a strong bull rush and can also use moves. He has quick hands and keeps blockers off his body. He shows a nice spin move as well as a counter move back to the inside. He also shows an excellent closing burst off of blocks.
On the downside, Ray’s lack of size can hurt him in the run game. He can be a bit slow to shed run blocks and will get over powered at times. Still, he is so competitive, he makes plays especially in pursuit.
Shane’s best position in the NFL will be as a 3-4 OLB. That’s where he has his best chance of playing every down. He will need to drop into coverage and play in zone, but he easily has the athleticism to do that.
Going into the Combine, I see him as an “A” level player who could get drafted late in the first or early in the second round. His pass rushing skills take precedence.
Dante Fowler – Florida
Fowler is a fun guy to watch. With his high level of competitiveness, he makes plays all over the field. He lines up as both a linebacker and defensive end and is put into situations where he can make plays. Fowler is a third-year junior and a two-year starter. Florida lists him as being 6030 – 275, but I don’t think he is that big. He looks a little shorter and lighter. He is an exceptional athlete who has speed, flexibility, and overall body control.
He is very quick off the ball, and when you see him make contact, he is very explosive through his hips, he can flat out play with power. One thing you see on tape is that it’s obvious that he enjoys the game. He plays with a high level of intensity and looks to be having fun. Fowler is best at rushing the passer. He has both power and moves and can use his hands. He gets rid of blockers quickly and can close. He is equally proficient as a pass rusher playing from both an up or down position. While he is a very good pass rusher, Fowler is also a top run defender. He shows strength at the point, finds the ball, sheds quickly, and makes plays. He is also an excellent pursuit player.
Overall, Fowler's verified size will have a lot to say about where he plays. He has the talent to play in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 and be productive. I see him as a high first round pick in either case and a player who will come in and play right away.
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