Former UM defensive end Rashan Gary thinks he's the best player in the NFL Draft, he told reporters Saturday. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Indianapolis — Former Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary has never been one to shy away from the spotlight.
Gary, the top-rated high school player, arrived at Michigan with plenty of fanfare and three years later, he’s projected among the top picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Although he missed three regular-season games because of a shoulder injury last fall and decided not to play in the bowl game, Gary has been lauded for his “freakish” athleticism and is anticipated to show off big-time numbers during his workout Sunday here at the NFL Combine.
Although former Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa has been projected the No. 1 overall pick in the draft with defensive linemen placing high in the first round, Gary begs to differ.
When asked what he wants NFL teams to know about him when he leaves the combine, Gary answered quickly and definitively.
“That I’m the best player in this draft offensively and defensively,” he said Saturday. “Period.”
Why does he think that?
“Why do I think or why do I know?” Gary said, pausing for effect. “My versatility, and I know what I put into this. Like I said, I’m able to do a lot of things that a lot of defensive linemen in this class can’t do. I pride myself on being able to do that.”
Devin Bush, the former Michigan linebacker and Gary's teammate also here at the combine, said he thinks Gary is capable of being the top player in the draft.
"Just his athleticism," Bush said. "His matchups with tackles is just unreal. His 40 (on Sunday) is going to be unreal. Just a crazy athlete."
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah earlier this week said he views Gary more as an athlete than a football player at this time in large part because of games missed last year. That's a sentiment echoed by several draft analysts. Gary finished his three-year Michigan career with 10 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.
“Wouldn’t shock me if he was the second pick in the draft because there’s tremendous upside with him,” Jeremiah said on a conference call. “ From a skill-set standpoint, I think the ceiling for him is like a Cam Jordan. I think he could be one of the better defensive ends in the NFL. I know some people say he should kick inside. I like him better on the edge. That’s where he fits for me. A lot of disruption, not a lot of production. That’s why he dropped a little bit on my list.”
The knock on Gary has been his numbers. Draft analysts wanted to see more production from him in terms of sack totals, but he often was taking on double teams. Gary was asked if it’s fair for NFL teams to say his athleticism doesn’t quite match his production.
“That’s for you guys to decide,” Gary said. “At the end of the day I’m still working every day to be the best player I can, I know I’m capable of. The team that gets me, they’re going to see it.”
Gary, who measured 6-foot-4, 277 pounds, said he has told every team so far and plans to continue telling teams that he plans to be a great NFL player. He knows he need to improve every aspect of his game, including his run block and pass rush, and has always been a player who studies film in his free time looking for an edge or a new technique to add to his arsenal.
He considers himself a self-starter because he wants to fulfill his potential.
“When it comes to self-motivating, it’s my will to be great,” Gary said. “I know my capabilities, I know what I’m capable of, and I want to be great now. Whatever team drafts me is going to get a person that wants to come into the organization and be great right now. I want to be a Pro Bowler, I want to be a Hall of Famer, I want to be a Super Bowl champion, so they’re going to get that attitude right away.”
Gary said he offers versatility with the ability to play outside or inside, although he enjoys being an edge rusher.
“I love to get after the QB,” Gary said. “That’s a part of my game I’m improving in, and I love doing it. I also like the fact I can do anything. You can put me anywhere and I can be that type of player you need to cause havoc.”
Not playing in the Peach Bowl with the Wolverines was in part because of his shoulder injury — he described himself as “banged up” — but in larger part because he wanted to begin focusing on this NFL future and providing for his mother, Jennifer, sister and two nephews. He said hew wants to give them “a life that they want to live.” That was another reason why he created his own agency as a way to plan for the future .
“That decision not playing in the bowl game was to give my mom, my sister, my two nephews a better life,” he said. “I weighed the pros, I weighed the cons.”
It was difficult, he said, telling Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Don Brown and defensive line coach Greg Mattison his decision.
“I still remember walking in and talking to Coach Harbaugh and Coach Brown and Coach Mattison with tears down my eyes, but they understood it,” Gary said. “They agreed with my decision. They told me to go accomplish my dream.”
Gary said he had not yet formally met with the Lions but has no issues staying in the area.
“I’ve been in Michigan the past three years, it’s a second home to me,” he said. “It’s the same feeling as the Jersey thing, me being from New Jersey. If the Lions ended up drafting me just to make my Michigan fans and the Detroit fans happy, it would be good. It’s my second home, so I’m used to it.”
He insists his best football years are yet to come. Gary, the former No. 1 high school player, said he has deal with the spotlight for years and has no problem with it now that he’s been at Michigan and now a top projected NFL pick.
“I love this game,” Gary said. “When I have an opportunity to play, there’s no pressure from outside sources. It’s my will to be great and my will to be great now. What everybody else thinks don’t really matter to me. It’s about what I know I can do and what I’m capable of doing.”