Now that the season is over, we’ll be looking at the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at edge defender Wyatt Ray.
The 23-year old is listed at 6’3” and 250 pounds and was undrafted out of Boston College last year. He played for the Browns in preseason and also spent time on the practice squads for the Texans, Bills and Jets but has yet to make his NFL debut.
Ray was a back-up for most of his college career as he found himself behind Harold Landry on the depth chart. He made just four starts in his first three seasons, although he did show some good flashes with 7.5 sacks, including 4.5 in his sophomore year.
As a senior, Ray became a full-time starter and racked up nine sacks, along with career highs in tackles (44), tackles for loss (11.5) and passes defensed (2). He was voted onto the all-ACC third-team and widely projected as a possible late-round pick.
After appearing at the scouting combine, Ray went unselected in last year’s draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Browns. In four preseason games with them, he had seven tackles and a sack.
Despite making a good early impression, Ray was unable to make the Browns roster at one of their deepest positions and was released in final cuts. He spent time on the Texans and Bills practice squads before the Jets signed him to their practice squad in November and then inked him to a futures deal after the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Ray brings to the table, divided into categories.
Ray has an mediocre athletic profile with below average size and average athletic numbers. At the combine, he posted below average numbers for the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill, but above average numbers for the jumps, short shuttle and bench press.
According to MockDraftable.com, his three closest comparables based on his combine numbers are Jachai Polite, Jeremiah Attaochu and Yannick Ngakoue.
Despite being listed at 250, Ray was slightly bigger - 257 - when he weighed in at the combine.
Ray has mostly played on the edge with his hand in the dirt, but has sometimes played as a stand-up linebacker with limited off-ball reps and coverage match-ups in the slot.
With the Browns in preseason he played more reps on the right side and with his hand in the dirt.
Ray seems to give a good effort in the trenches, but scouting reports note that he can get stuck on blocks and sometimes lacks effort when pursuing downhill.
In terms of his ability to handle a starter’s workload, Ray played over 750 snaps in his senior year. However, the most snaps in a game he played in his preseason action with the Browns was 34.
Ray’s strength in the running game is his ability to set the edge and hold up at the point of attack. While he doesn’t have long arms, he does a good job of extending them to earn a leverage advantage in the trenches.
On this play Ray (#61) penetrates upfield against a zone blocking scheme to help bottle up a run for a loss.
He makes less of an impact in terms of shooting gaps and doesn’t really flash major range in pursuit.
When a blocker gets control of him at the point of attack, he can find himself being driven out of plays.
Ray’s pass rushing production has always been solid but unspectacular, although he was more productive on a per-snap basis as a starter in his senior year than he had been in a reserve role. Then again, his numbers were skewed because he had four sacks against Wake Forest and another three against Louisville and he did disappear at times.
Scouting reports indicate Ray’s flexibility to enable him to bend the edge is somewhat lacking and that his average athleticism limits him. He also has been criticized for lacking a plan and being unable to counter when initially repelled. His get-off can also be inconsistent.
Ray created some pressure in preseason action, though, including this impressive sack that saw him get around the outside.
Ray’s hand placement can sometimes be inconsistent when fighting off blocks in the running game and while rushing the passer, so he needs to keep working at that.
As a pass rusher, he shows some good moves. He’s also effective as a bull rusher and can have success with a spin move but his best move is a potentially deadly swim move.
Ray isn’t a particularly productive tackler but shows some good range in terms of tackling outside his frame.
He missed several tackles in each of his last two years with the Eagles, but only had one missed tackle in preseason.
At Boston College, Ray would drop back a few times each game but did give up a few plays in coverage. He intercepted one pass and batted two down at the line in his career.
He only dropped into coverage a handful of times with the Browns but contributed to this incompletion by dropping into a passing lane.
Ray does a good job of extending his arms and being patient so he can react to a play and made a few good plays in preseason where he stayed at home and showed good gap discipline.
On this play he quickly reads the key so he can anticipate and spin off the tight end’s attempt to block down on him.
Ray probably needs to display some prowess on special teams to improve his chances of making an NFL roster. However, he hasn’t had much experience or production.
In college, he was able to block one field goal, but he also had one special teams penalty.
Ray is the grandson of Nat King Cole and talks with reverence about how inspired he is to succeed in life after everything his grandfather went through. He seems to have a determined attitude and a willingness to work hard.
His on-field discipline has generally been good but he had an unnecessary roughness penalty on this play which, although a soft call, was probably reckless on his part.
Injuries haven’t been an issue for Ray so far. He played in 50 out of 50 possible games while at Boston College.
Ray’s best chance to forge a role with the Jets might be as a situational or rotational edge rusher.
He hadn’t played with any of the Jets when he first joined the organization in November, but was a teammate of Jeff Smith in college.
Ray made a bit of a splash with the Browns in preseason last year and looked like he had a chance to make the team. However, he’s been released three times since then.
With a few technical improvements, Ray could build on some of the positive flashes he displayed in preseason action last year.
At the moment, the chances of a long-shot making the Jets’ roster at the edge defender positions look good. However, the downside for a player like Ray is that the Jets may prioritize the position in free agency and the draft. That will make it more difficult for him to make an impression.