There’s no shortage of players each year at the NFL Scouting Combine who are convinced they’re the best at the event at what they do. However, when a player announces confidently that he’s the no-doubt No. 1 player overall, that still sends an eyebrow or two up.
“I’m the best player in this draft,” Gary said. “Offensively and defensively. Period. I’m working every day to be the best player I can. I know what I’m capable of. The team that gets me is going to see it. My best years of football are still to come. I’m still learning the game and I can’t wait.”
The thing is, the 6-foot-4, 277-pound Gary, who had 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2018, backed that big talk up — at least where the defensive lineman workouts were concerned. While Montez Sweat’s ridiculous 4.41-40 time (we’ll get to him … don’t worry) was the talk of the position group, Gary ran a 4.58 that was every bit as impressive. Gary also led all defensive linemen with a 38-inch vertical and posted the second-best broad jump at 10 feet even.
That’s what you call athleticism, kids.
It’s not necessarily like Gary’s performance was a revelation — as James Siebers wrote for Drafttek, his quickness and ability to collapse the pocket already had him solidly inside the first round — if not the Top 10.”
“Gary’s most appealing trait will be his ability to get after the (quarterback),” he said. “Gary has excellent first-step quickness with the ability to convert speed-to-power and counter inside. Gary’s strong hands, length and impressive short-area quickness allow him to disengage from blockers in a hurry. At times Gary can struggle to finish consistently, but his exceptional closing burst leads many to believe that he can be an even more productive pass rusher at the next level.”
But as Siebers went on to say, Gary also disappeared at times, as evidenced by his relatively pedestrian stats in 2018.
“Gary may not have lived up to the hype as the nation’s top recruit, but he racked up 119 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and 23 (tackles for loss) over his three-year career as a Wolverine,” Siebers added. “Gary is able to show flashes of pure dominance when his motor is running hot, but inconsistent effort can allow him to disappear for stretches. Gary’s production in college will likely land him in (Round 1), but his untapped potential as a freakish athlete may be what shoots him toward the top of draft boards come April.”
It was much the same from Joe Marino of Draft Network.
“Rashan Gary offers an intriguing tool box and his ceiling is high should he develop,” Marino wrote. “His power, short area quickness and heavy hands lay a solid foundation to work with. That said, his hand technique, processing skills and inconsistent motor must improve. His lack of flexibility limits his upside as an every-down EDGE so moving him up and down the defensive front is wise to maximize his ability to make an impact. By year three, Gary has the upside to be a productive starter in a multi-front defense. His pass rushing upside is considerably high from interior.”
However, while some may question Gary’s motor and consistency (my better half just gave me a look — that’s messed up), there’s very little (as in no) question that he isn’t getting out of the Top 10 after what happened in Indianapolis.
Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News projects Gary to Tampa Bay, who are undergoing a defensive overhaul under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
“Gary, a versatile defender, can produce even better in Bowles’ scheme than he did with the Wolverines,” Iyer said. “He uses his hands, power and big frame (6-foot-4, 277 pounds) to occupy run-blockers. He also has some intriguing inside pass-rush ability.”
Matt Maiocco and Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area agree that Gary to Tampa Bay at No. 5 makes sense.
“The former Wolverine is a freak athlete without much production to show for it, a knock that is sticking to him throughout this pre-draft process,” they wrote. “He has unreal physical tools make him attractive, especially after he ran a 4.58 in the 40, and had his position’s best broad jump and 3-cone drill. (Tampa Bay) can’t pass up that athletic ability, betting he can be properly motivated and coached into something great.”
Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports went them one pick better, slotting Gary at No. 4 to an Oakland team that was dead last in the NFL with just 13 sacks as a team in 2018.
“Gary had a great combine,” Fornelli said, “and it will only help his stock as he showed the athleticism to line up outside as an edge rusher as well.”
Not Oakland. That’s just mean — even for a Wolverine.
Kidding aside, Gary’s Individual Defensive Player (IDP) value is as enigmatic as the player himself. The good news is that Gary isn’t a guy we have to worry about getting slapped with positional eligibility as a linebacker. Whether he lands with a 3-4 team like Tampa Bay or a 4-3 base like Oakland, Gary’s future will likely be as a run-down end who kicks inside often in the nickel — which is for all intents the league’s de facto default defense now.
That’s where the certainties end with Gary, though. His IDP ceiling is sky-high if he comes close to realizing his potential — the sort of double-edged run prowess/explosiveness upfield that makes fantasy owners drool.
But to this point in his football career at least, that potential hasn’t equated production. So while landing spot will still (of course) have a significant impact on Gary’s IDP value, he’s still going to be a pick for those who aren’t risk-averse — whether it’s as an upside DL3 in redraft IDP leagues or one of the contenders to be the first rookie defensive lineman not named Joey Bosa to come off the board in IDP dynasties.