(PHOTO CREDIT: GaryPinkel.com)
Six Missouri Tigers were taken in this years NFL draft, the most in the Gary Pinkel era since 2009. Myself along with Tyler Murry examine what each players strengths and weaknesses are ahead of the 2015-16 NFL regular season.
(OLB) Shane Ray – First Round 23rd Overall (Denver Broncos)
Strengths: Ray is the definition of explosive as he brings elite first-step quickness off the line. He played most of his career at Missouri with his hand to the ground in a system, but fit nicely into the Broncos’ 3-4 system. Ray had was All-SEC First Team with a team-leading 14.5 sacks in his junior year at Missouri. His 22.5 tackles for loss also ranked third in the country helping him finish as a finalist for Hendricks Award (Nation’s best defensive end).
Ray is a tireless worker, and is known by his coaches to be a relentless worker in practice and the weight room. His 4.64 40-yard dash time is fast, but does not do justice to the quickness he brings with his first step. In addition, Ray has a bit of a NFL pedigree as his father, Wendell, was a fifth round selection in the 1981 draft at defensive end.
Ray loves to use his speed to his advantage, but his ability to use his hands and strength developed quickly in his final year at Missouri. He is a player that demands respect and is impossible to keep your eye off while watching Missouri play. The entire defense ran through him, and defenses knew that but could not stop it.
Weaknesses: Just three days before his selection, police cited Ray for marijuana possession in Missouri as he was stopped for speeding. Unlike other players with substance concerns in this class, this incident was isolated, and Ray has not been cited for marijuana in his time with Missouri before this event.
In addition to off-the-field concerns, Ray has been battling a turf toe injury that plagued him in the offseason. Ray was not allowed to participate in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine due to the injury and likely will miss the majority of off-season workouts while he recovers from the injury.
On the field, Ray is a bit undersized at 6’3” 245 pounds, and he sometimes gets caught up among blockers. When forced to face a double team while at Missouri, Ray’s lack of size was occasionally exposed while going against bigger offensive tackles. In addition, the jury is still out as to how Ray is in space when forced to match against bigger, faster tight ends. His cover skills may be tested as he will have to take on the likes of Travis Kelce twice a year and Antonio Gates twice a year. Ray needs to focus on beating offensive tackles with more than just speed as the competition will now be much faster and bigger than it was in the SEC
Bottomline: As long as the toe does not plague his production, and the off-the-field concerns are an isolated mistake like we think, Ray provides top-five value at this pick. We think Ray has the potential to be a star and match up nicely with one of his idols, Von Miller. The AFC West will remember the name Shane Ray for years to come.
(WR) Dorial Green-Beckham – Second Round 40th overall (Tennessee Titans)
Strengths: Green-Beckham has the size and speed of an NFL wide receiver. At 6’5” 237 pounds he’s a nightmare for cornerbacks to cover. Green-Beckham has the ability unlike many NFL prospects to make a play on balls even if they aren’t thrown directly on target. Luckily for Green-Beckham he’ll be playing alongside former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who himself is a pretty darn accurate passer.
Tennessee received a steal with Green-Beckham’s off the field mishaps causing him to fall into their laps in the second round. Without a true number one wide out on their roster the Titans will have to rely on Green-Beckham to carry a big workload in his rookie campaign. However with the a deep wide receiver class Tennessee may be getting the best wide receiver of the draft depending on how he does in camp against NFL cornerbacks.
Weaknesses: His off the field issues have to be the most glaring aspect of his game when teams were evaluating where they might draft him. Three run ins with the law at Missouri sent the top high school prospect in the nation packing with a meager one season of full playing time under his belt. Without seeing a single down of regular season football over the past year since transferring to Oklahoma there’s a concern of his productivity level. Is he going to be rusty? I would doubt it, but you never know.
Secondly he’s always had some trouble getting separation from more physical defensive backs. Heading into a league with the likes of Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman it’s not cakewalk like some of the teams in the SEC. He will certainly have to step up his erratic route running and fine tune his initial moves off the line to make a strong impact.
Bottom Line: He’s been a freak since coming out of highschool and was a top recruit for a reason. The guy is built to play in the NFL and has the ability to become a dominant wide receiver. The question is can he stay out of trouble off the field especially with the leagues new drug policy and can he learn to be more aggressive against tough corners? I believe he’s learned his lesson and will make the necessary adjustments.
(OG) Mitch Morse – Second Round 49th Overall (Kansas City Chiefs)
Strengths: The best way to describe Morse is nasty. He is difficult to move at a good size of 6’5” 305 pounds and has a mean streak in the run game. He is a good run-blocker and the ability to help the Chiefs out right away in run blocking situations. Morse is intelligent and takes good angles in the few occasions he was asked to pull and block in second-level blocking situations. Morse also benched a whopping 36 times at the bench press at the combine showing off his NFL-level strength.
Morse is also versatile as he moved around a beat up Missouri line. Morse will play guard in the NFL, but can play tackle in case of injuries. Morse is also a quality character guy unlike many other players in this class and coaches can rest easy that he won’t be a problem off the field. Morse also does a good job not overextending himself by keeping a good center of gravity. This allows him to use the power of his frame without being impatient and lunging out against the oncoming rush.
Weaknesses: Morse needs to develop his ability as a pass rusher. He often times looked stiff in the pass rush and struggled to keep his leverage when forced to move. In pulling situations, he blocked well, but appeared a bit uncomfortable when forced to move outside. This could be a concern against bigger and faster pass rushers in the NFL.
Although Morse does a good job keep leverage in run blocking, he could use a bit more of his power in some situations. The hip and leg tightness could be improved to help add more strength in blocking situations.
Bottomline: Morse is an intelligent lineman that is versatile enough to play right away. The ceiling might not be as high as some of the other players in the draft, and he may have been selected a bit high for our liking, but he can come in right away and help a Chiefs line that struggled last year.
(DE) Markus Golden – Second Round 58th Overall (Arizona Cardinals)
Strengths: Golden may have been one of the more underrated defensive ends in the draft purely because when everyone looks at Missouri they see Ray. The Cardinals receive a guy with great hands and the ability to get to the quarterback. His aggressive play style stands out among those on the field because Golden is always continuing every play until the whistle blows. He’s giving it his all 100 percent of the time.
Arizona runs a 3-4, which is different than the 4-3 he played in at Missouri, but Golden should be able to convert to the linebacker position with ease. He possesses the ability to recognize the play a get to the ball quickly. What he lacks in speed he is able to make up for it tackling ability.
Weaknesses: At 6’2” 260 he fits the build of a linebacker, but his initial moves could use some work. He doesn’t have the range of some NFL linebackers and lacks the ability to switch directions quickly, which could be cause for concern. Golden is not a guy that you’re going to see making tackle after tackle, which could mean he starts out on special teams and could eventually make his way into a backup role as a linebacker.
Bottomline: Golden shows he has the ability to make plays on the ball and get to the point of attack, but his initial moves have to be improved to make a difference. Playing against the NFL times is much different than college and right now Golden lacks that ability to shed blockers quick and make the plays in open space.
(WR) Bud Sasser – Sixth Round 201st Overall (St. Louis Rams)
Strengths: Sasser is a big receiver that does a terrific job in jump-ball situations. Sasser set personal bests at Missouri last year with 77 receptions, 1,003 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. He has good, not great size at 6’2” 210 pounds and ran a 4.51 40-yard dash with a 34.5 inch vertical at the combine, which helped his stock.
He plays bigger than his height when asked to make the jump-ball catch and developed his route running more in his senior year. Sasser does a good job catching the ball with his hands and not his body, unlike former Missouri wide receiver L’Damien Washington. These factors make him a quality red zone target as he does a good job of body awareness when making catches along the sidelines or in the end zone.
Weaknesses: Despite a good 40 time and good size, Sasser often failed to get the type of separation one would expect. Although he improved as a route runner, his route tree was limited, and he needs to do a better job with running crossing routes by improving in and out of his cuts.
Sasser often times gets caught at the line, which doesn’t help his lack of ability to gain separation. He needs to improve his variety of rip, swim and speed moves to get off the line quickly and gain separation in the first 3-5 yards of his route off the line. Sasser lacks long distance speed and won’t blow away any defensive backs after the catch.
Bottomline: Sasser is a project as a receiver, and his lack of elite speed may make it difficult for him to make the roster despite a lack of depth at the receiver position in St. Louis. He has the ability to become a NFL receiver if he can improve his ability to gain separation, but don’t expect anything from him in his first year in the league.
(RB) Marcus Murphy – Seventh Round 230th Overall (New Orleans Saints)
Strengths: Murphy fits in great with the Sean Payton system in New Orleans and really reminds me of a Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush type back. He’s definitley not the productive guy like Bush or Sproles, but he possess the ability to both make plays on the ground and bust out wide to make plays with his hands. He was very versatile at Missouri and I think the Saints have a real shot at using him in a number of ways if they can develop his game a little more.
Weaknesses: At Missouri Murphy was never the guy to dominate the field like some backs do. He lacks the speed to erupt and solidify himself as a number go to back. He can’t run routes all that well despite having soft hands and needs to improve his run game up the middle. He tends to bounce around to the outside too much rather than attacking the defense head on.
Bottomline: Murphy is a versatile back that can be used in both offensive schemes and special teams plays as well. He can’t create plays, but he provides options for Drew Brees and the Saints to do with him as they please.
Undrafted free agents Jimmie Hunt (WR) and Lucas Vincent (DT) also signed contracts with the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans respectively.
For more Missouri Tigers updates follow @NickYahl and @TylerMurry_ on Twitter.