Shane Ray arrived at Dove Valley for the first time as a Bronco after being selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. (All photos by Eric Lars Bakke)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — **As far as blessings go, sliding down from perhaps a top-10 pick to 23rd in the first round of the NFL Draft is a costly one. But the positive side of that is the teams get better the further you go down, for the most part.
The Broncos were happy to grab Shane Ray—who was rated as the 10th-best player on their draft board—and he sees coming onto a contending team that finished 12-4 last year as one heck of a blessing in disguise.
"To be able to be drafted by the Denver Broncos and given such a great opportunity, I think it was a minor setback for a great comeback," Ray said at his introductory press conference on Friday. "I take this with so much seriousness and I just really just want to give everything that I can to this team and with it being a Super Bowl-caliber team, I want to help win championships."
The skills that Ray brings will thrust him into the outside linebacker rotation. "We got a guy that plays with his hair on fire," as Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway described Ray's talents.
"You should want to attack people every play," Ray said. "You should want to dominate whoever's across from you. And that's what I want to do. That's what I strive to do and that's what I've showed I can do on Saturdays and that's why they've given us the opportunity to come here as a Bronco and do it on Sundays."
However, by falling to a team that has strong edge rushers already in Pro Bowlers and star edge rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, Ray moves into a situation where he won't be expected to come in and make an impact from the get-go as a starter but can come in as a rotation player. As Head Coach Gary Kubiak said last night, though, "You look at him as a starter, even though we talk about rotations."
That role isn't anything he'd shrug off. In fact, he's thrilled to be able to be taken under their very capable wings as a pupil.
"I'm just excited to be able to come in and learn from [those] two: a current great in Von Miller and a legend in DeMarcus Ware," Ray said. "I'm so excited to be able to be under their tutelage and be able to step my game up and learn from them. [...] I just really try to be relentless and nasty and just bring a consistent level of effort and try to be as athletic as possible, and coming here with guys like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and actually being able to learn from them, I feel like I can attribute my game and just become even better and produce for this team."
As far as how the Broncos will use his skill set, Ray said he expects the team to focus on his pass rushing skills, though he can also drop in coverage if needed. Above all, he's confident the Broncos will put him in the best position for team and individual success.
"80 percent of the time they want me to get the quarterback, but what's great is I can drop into coverage and have no issue with it," Ray said. "I think that's definitely going to help in my versatility in this defense and where you can place me and I feel like they're going to do an excellent job putting me in the best positions to be successful."