INDIANAPOLIS – Rashan Gary believes he’s the best player available in this NFL draft, regardless of position. The former Michigan defensive lineman made that clear speaking to reporters a few weeks back, while training for this week’s NFL Scouting Combine.
While Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is widely considered the cream of this year’s crop, many draft analysts put Gary right up near the top.
He’s consistently listed in the top 5 among rankings at his position – defensive lineman dominate the overall draft boards – and on mock drafts, with most slotting him to go No. 4 overall to the Raiders.
That isn’t always met with positive reactions. His stat line is the largest sticking point, with just nine sacks his last two seasons at Michigan and 3.5 in 2018 while dealing with injury issues.
Fans want more of a proven track record. The combine, however, could sway them and possibly some NFL teams. Odds are great Gary puts on a show in all these individual drills. The former No. 1 prep recruit has all the physical tools, with ideal size at 6-foot-5, 283 pounds, with strength and agility to play the run and rush the passer.
His athleticism, after all, is sky high. At this point, that’s his greatest asset.
“Rashan Gary to me is -- he's a little bit more athlete than football player at this point in time,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Monday in a conference call. “You'll see a rare, rare, rare combination of size and speed. Very explosive. The production doesn't necessarily match the skill set. So that to me kind of going back through, watching more tape on all these guys, as you go through the process, I view him as a top-10 player. Wouldn't shock me if he was the second pick in the draft because there's tremendous upside with him from a skill set standpoint.”
That’s why he should thrive in the combine environment, where all his physical tools will be on display. Coaches will take a look at that a see lump of clay easily molded into an excellent pass rusher and complete player off the edge.
Do the Raiders agree with that sentiment, and would GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden take him at No. 4 if Bosa and Kentucky’s Josh Allen are off the board? That information will remain close to the vest, though there are pros and cons to be weighed with such a selection.
At No. 4, you need a slam dunk. It would be if Gary lives up to Jeremiah’s NFL comparison.
“I think the ceiling for him is like a Cam Jordan, who seemed to be one of the better defensive ends in the NFL,” Jeremiah said. “He was a big heavy end. I know some people say he should kick inside. I like him better on the edge. That's where he fits for me. But kind of the -- a lot of disruption, not a lot of production.”
Gary will spend the pre-draft process trying to eliminate doubts in interviews and official visits. A strong showing could put him in in the running for a top 5 pick, where each team with one needs defensive line help.
Gary believes he should be taken up there.
“I feel like I’m the best player in the draft, defensively and offensively,” Gary said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m the best player in the draft. “The team [that drafts me] is going to get Rashan Gary. I’m a blue collar worker. Every day, head down, learn the ways of the team, be the best now and be the best for that team and be the best for that state and bring back a Super Bowl wherever I go.”
The Raiders have three first-round picks this season thanks to the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades, so there are opportunities to take an edge rusher at No. 24 or 27 if one doesn’t get selected or if Gruden/Mayock decide they need another one.
Jeremiah has some edge rushing suggestions for the Raiders if they want one later in the first round.
“One name I'll throw out to you is L.J. Collier from TCU, who I think you're going to continue to see get more notoriety and attention as we go through the process,” Jeremiah said. “…He's got a nasty little shake bowl move, he's got quick hands, he can convert speed to power. He can play a little bit inside, he can play outside. He's got some versatility that way. So he would be one I think kind of in the bottom of one.
“Jaylon Ferguson is another one with real heavy hands, who's kind of to me a little bit of a poor man's Chandler Jones. He's got unbelievable production when you look at it. I think he led the nation in sacks. He's another one I think you can kind of keep an eye on there at the end there in the end of the first round where they've got some options. So they can go a lot of different ways.”