2015 NFL Draft: Can Georgia DE Ray Drew Break Through in the NFL?


Ray Drew ended his Georgia career in a blaze of glory and, but for several cruel twists of the knife by dame fate, his name would be etched in the book of Bulldog Lore.

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How does a Bulldog not love Ray Drew?

At Thomas County Central, he was a USA Today All-USA first-team defense – Parade All-American – Sporting News National number five – Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 11 recruit. He was the number 2 player in Georgia and, forsaking all others, he pledged his all to the University of Georgia.

By all rights, Drew is a Georgia hero, registering a career high in tackles and blocking an extra point and a field goal to bring Georgia to the brink of glory against Georgia Tech on an ill-fated senior day.

Yet there is always a “but” when Bulldogs gather together and Ray Drew’s name comes up. A great teammate, a great person and student, exactly the kind of guy every dad wants picking up his girl on Friday night, Ray Drew couldn’t quite seem to break through and meet the perceived potential represented by his high school accomplishments and honors.

First, let’s note the expectations for Drew were utterly ridiculous.

Still, whispers  persist among the fans: he was a tweener – too big at linebacker to small at defensive line, the 3-4 defense he was recruited for wasn’t right for him, he didn’t develop his skills, and – perhaps the coldest – he didn’t really love the game. Plus there was that whole Grantham – Garner thing.

Nov 9, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive end Ray Drew (47) reacts after a sack on Appalachian State Mountaineers quarterback Kameron Bryant (not shown) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Appalachian State 45-6. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Who knows?

Who cares?

Ray Drew is Ray Drew and that is plenty darn good. (Plenty good enough on any other day to beat Tech, for sure.) Still, as the NFL waits, the question becomes, can Drew breakthrough in the NFL to meet the potential of the Thomasville kid who destroyed South Georgia offenses on Friday nights?

At 6’5” 285 and with an explosive first step, Drew has the measurables for a serious shot in the NFL. Recognized consistently for his up field quickness and block attacking ability, he is also recognized for being small for a block-eating lineman. And this is key to revealing the real Ray Drew – though not his strength, Drew was consistently asked to challenge and break down blocking schemes. As an up field rushing end in a four-man front, Drew was most comfortable.

CBSSports.com in fact finds Drew’s initial quickness off the ball and the ability to bull-rush a flexibility that will be attractive to teams as the draft runs deep. And Drew does have great instincts and natural ability, locating the football quickly and using long strong arms to grab ball carriers.

Most analysis, unfortunately, includes a harsh critique of Drew’s hand skills and pad level. NFL.com is cruelly blunt, “Pass rush game is all effort with no go-to move or counter to fall back on. Rarely uses hands as true weapons of engagement and allows blockers to get into his legs too often.”

As a pass rusher in Athens, Drew penetrated and threatened (13 quarterback pressures in 2014), but with one sack in 2014, Drew did not finish at the quarterback. (Drew did have six sacks his junior year and eight solo tackles for loss.)

While Drew demonstrated potential as a Bulldog, the scouting reports can be summarized in a word: undeveloped.

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Drew won a lot of games wearing the red and black. He represented Georgia with courage, grace and class. The Bulldog Nation will follow Drew’s NFL journey closely and hope desperately for him. He is an all-time favorite and a testimony to the Bulldog Nation’s love for all young men that embrace “The Georgia Way.” We would take a hundred of him and, yea, it hurts to say, but his name should be etched in stone alongside the few elect whose Bulldog careers ended in a glorious flame against the ancient rival.

Drew can make it in the NFL and make it big. Ron Clements of the  SportingNews.com quoted NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks during Belk Bowl preparations, “[Drew is] big and athletic and Georgia always has guys like that. [He has a] bright future.”

Opportunity will have a lot to do with Drew’s future, but a lot will have to do with his desire to learn the skills he must have and to purchase, with blood and sweat, the tools of the trade.

Dawn of the Dawg bets with Brooks –  Ray Drew will make it.

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