Analyst: Rashan Gary ‘more athlete than football player’ but has huge upside

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Rashan Gary

A half-dozen former Michigan players will go through auditions this week for NFL teams during the combine, but two of them — Rashan Gary and Devin Bush — are targeted as first-round selections.

Gary, a defensive end, and Bush, a linebacker, will go through the combine workouts and interviews in Indianapolis this week along with former Wolverines Chase Winovich (defensive end), Karan Higdon (running back), Zach Gentry (tight end) and David Long (cornerback). The running backs go through combine workouts Friday, the tight ends on Saturday with quarterbacks and receivers, the defensive linemen and linebackers will go through drills Sunday and the defensive backs on Monday.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, during a conference call Monday, said Gary could go very early in the draft. The draft is April 25-27.

Jeremiah ranked his top 50 prospects, and has Ohio State’s Nick Bosa going No. 1 overall, followed by three defensive linemen. Gary, however, dropped from fourth on a previous list to eighth mainly because of his lack of production. Gary, who left Michigan with a year of eligibility remaining, missed three regular-season games last season because of a shoulder injury and he decided not to play in the Peach Bowl.

“Rashan Gary to me is a little bit more athlete than football player at this point in time,” Jeremiah said Monday. “You’ll see the rare, rare, rare combination of size and speed. Very explosive. The production doesn’t necessarily match the skill set. That to me going back through, watching more tape on all these guys, as you go through the process, I still view him as a top-10 player.

“Wouldn’t shock me if he was the second pick in the draft because there’s tremendous upside with him. 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.”

Bush was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season as a junior, and Winovich was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player. Both earned high marks from Jeremiah. Bush is No. 19 on Jeremiah’s list, having dropped two spots in the last month since his first list.

Jeremiah said he is a “big fan” of Bush’s and said he makes up for his size (5-11, 233) with his athleticism, speed and ability to inflict big hits.

More: Kiper: Ex-Michigan standout Rashan Gary must be 'freak' to warrant high pick in NFL Draft

Winovich continues to impress draft analysts because of his never-quit, all-out approach. Last week, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said Winovich could be a second-round selection. Jeremiah said he has thoroughly enjoyed scouting him during the pre-combine/draft process.

“I don’t know you’re going to find anybody that plays harder than him,” Jeremiah said. “He could be an extra in the ‘Point Break’ movie. He looks like Patrick Swayze’s brother in that movie with his hair flying around. That was the first thing I thought of, don’t ask why.

“(Winovich) goes 100 miles an hour. He’s the Energizer Bunny. Fun to watch play. He’s got, scouts call it that push-pull — he’s able to push you back and then pull you down to the ground. He did that several times. He’s just a really, really solid player that, for me, was one of the more fun guys to watch through the process.”

Jeremiah said he hasn’t evaluated the cornerbacks yet, so could not offer an opinion on Long, who left Michigan with a year of eligibility remaining. But he has studied Higdon and Gentry.

Higdon was the Wolverines’ leading rusher the last two seasons. He is projecting as a potential third-day pick.

“It’s such a crowded running back group, I have him a little lower on my list.,” Jeremiah said. “He gets a chance to run through some big holes when you study him. I want to see how much juice, how much top speed has.

He’s a no-frills runner. His feet will die a little bit on contact. He’s got some body catches out of the backfield. So you’ve got a smaller back, you’ve got to be special in other areas, and I didn’t really see that, so I’ll be anxious to see him in person and see what kind of juice he has.”

The 6-foot-8 Gentry arrived at Michigan as a quarterback but was moved to tight end. He decided to leave the Wolverines with a year of eligibility left.

Jeremiah thinks Gentry should have returned for his final year and views him as a “project” for an NFL team.

“I don't think he should have come out,” Jeremiah said. “With the draft class at that position as good as it is, I thought he could have been better served to go back.

“A former quarterback, he's got a big body, big catch radius, but more kind of just a wall-you-off and pluck, not a lot of separation, not a lot of run after the catch. Obviously, he's enormous, so you’ve got something to work with there, but that's more of a project to me. That’s more of a fifth- or sixth-round type project."

Twitter: @chengelis