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Why Denver Broncos move up to take Shane Ray was deft for defense

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May 1, 2015


For the fifth consecutive year, the John Elway-led Denver Broncos drafted a defender with their first pick. Without a doubt, it was a deft draft selection.

Denver traded up from No. 28 to No. 23 and took defensive end Shane Ray from the Missouri Tigers, a move that bolsters defensive end depth on a unit which will relentlessly rush the passer.

Sure, Ray had that run-in with the law, on I-70 nonetheless, being busted for marijuana possession on Monday. But the Broncos thought highly enough of the young man to believe getting high wasn’t going to be a recurring problem.

Instead, they were likely impressed with his high motor, his “quickest first step in football” according to Draft expert Mike Mayock and that Ray was a consensus All-American. Simply, they believe he was one of the top defensive ends in this year’s Draft, the move proved that.

At Missouri, Ray earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2014. By playing with bad intentions on every snap, he recorded 14.5 sacks, a single-season school record, as well as 22.5 tackles for a loss with two forced fumbles. His explosiveness usually overwhelms offensive tackles, but when it doesn’t, Ray utilizes his hands and can power-rush opponents into the quarterback. And on stunts, his change of direction is sensational, looking more like a linebacker than a defensive end.

That’s where a question mark arises; will the Broncos put him at end or linebacker? Currently, he’s 6’2” and 245 pounds, meaning he’ll have to really put on some pounds to play on the line. Know what would help with that? Never mind.

According to the Draft experts, Denver had their eyes on Ray the entire week and moved up because they believed the Baltimore Ravens would take Ray at No. 26. And the reason it was such a smart move is simple; Denver needs depth at defensive end.

DeMarcus Ware enjoyed a renaissance year with the Broncos in 2014, but he’s still 33 years old. And Von Miller is a sack-dancing monster when he’s healthy and not in trouble for marijuana himself, but seeing him go down with the ACL tear in 2013 proved he’s not invincible.

Add in the release of backup end Quanterus Smith this week and the lack of depth became even more apparent.

Defensive end is the quarterback menace needed to disrupt the offense by upsetting time and rhythm. Elite defenses have multiple men who are feared by every opposing quarterback; Denver’s defense now has those men.

And it can’t be missed that Wade Phillips’ defense will more actively rush the quarterback than previous Broncos defenses.

It all adds up to what should be a fun season in the Mile High City, where quarterbacks’ bodies may be piled higher than those disgusting brown and yellow original jerseys in 1961 before they were burned at the 50 yard line.

When the Broncos traded to move up to No. 23, it meant sending center/guard Manny Ramirez to the Detroit Lions as well as a fifth-round pick this year and next year.

That leaves a certain void at center in Denver, who already had right tackle as a major need. As of now, the starters would be Ryan Clady at left tackle, Shelley Smith at left guard, Gino Gradkowski at center, Louis Vasquez at the other guard and Michael Schofield at right tackle. It would be a line leaving much to be desired and points to the Broncos likely taking multiple offensive linemen later in this Draft.

For more draft coverage check out the BSN Denver Draft Center!

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