Michigan NFL Draft Spotlight: Rashan Gary

This is the second of a series of stories on Michigan football players and how their play could translate in the NFL

Last week: Michigan NFL Draft Spotlight: Shea Patterson

ProFootballFocus.com's Josh Liskiewitz sits down with me and gives his thoughts and draft grades for the Michigan players.

Gary is the former No. 1 recruit in the nation from the class of 2016 and his play at Michigan has warranted the hype so far.

Rashan Gary: 1st Round (Top Five)

What we have seen from Gary so far has been impressive, Liskiewitz said.

“He has played really really well. As far as the number of pressures he is generating, it has been way up there.”

Quarterback pressures is incredibly important to look at when grading a defensive lineman and is one of the main reasons Gary will be ranked so high on draft boards for this upcoming draft.

“The reality is this, you can create a fumble on a sack and get a loss of yards and all of that but hurries and hits, those are huge plays too because they can lead to interceptions and incompletions, which are obviously a big deal too, so they are every bit as important as sacks.”

“When we calculate productivity, yes we weigh for sacks but we really value everything else too. Pressures provide so much more context because it is one thing to look and see that [Chicago Bears' defensive end] Khalil Mack had somewhere between 12 and 15 sacks, and there are 20 other guys that had the same amount of sacks, but when you see he had 90-plus total pressures and no one else is above 70, well then you get an idea of how much better he is than everyone else. So all of the pressures really matter.”

Liskiewitz said that Gary does needs to improve on his finishing, but the nature of the Michigan defense may be part of the reason that Gary only having seven sacks for his career despite his dominant play.

“He needs to be a consistent performer, obviously you want to see him finish more.”

“He tends to freelance a little bit there and that has gotten him in trouble in the past. I do think part of that is coaching, I think they’re just so aggressive, they’re overly aggressive and truthfully the rare times that we saw Maurice Hurst get into trouble in 2016, it was that he would overrun plays and wouldn’t finish. Then he corrected that in 2017 and had that monster year.”

Does the NFL think they can improve Gary’s finishing?

“The NFL thinks they can coach everything up.”

Gary has the benefit of playing opposite of Chase Winovich, who himself is looking like he’s going to be a high draft choice following this season. However, Liskiewitz said having Winovich on the line with Gary doesn’t hurt or help Gary's NFL draft stock much.

“That’s not something that we really take into account. I think that it might help a little bit.”

Gary is very well positioned to be taken at the top of the next upcoming Draft and could potentially be the first non-quarterback taken off the board if he decides to forgo his senior season.

“It (the draft order) always depends on quarterbacks. Obviously he is at a premium position, the NFL is always going to value those edge rushers and they should.”

“I don’t know that his production so far puts him at that billing of a top five pick, but again his combination of size and athleticism, it’s Clowney-esque (Jadeveon Clowney, No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.) It really is. And to be fair, Clowney wasn’t a consistent, highly productive player at South Carolina.”