Willie Gay Jr. turned some heads with his speed at the NFL Combine and what he does on the field is equally impressive. He could be exactly what the Bengals are looking for, but he comes with some baggage.
Willie Gay Jr.
Pros: Gay is a great tackler. He is both reliable and a heavy hitter. Uses his hands to disengage from blocks.
He shows quickness filling gaps downhill and good speed over long distances. He ran an incredible 4.46 40 at the combine.
Gay has the physical skill set to be effective in pass defense and makes great reads on the quarterback. He does a great job of re-routing slot receivers and has demonstrated ball skills as well.
Cons: For of Gay’s athletic gifts, he seems to be hesitant to commit on wide run plays. On the track he has the speed to be a sideline to sideline player, but his film doesn’t show it.
At times I question his effort. He seems to not move full speed if the ball is a good distance away from him. This could be the cause of the first issue.
Red Flags: There are some questions that need to be answered here.
In 2018 Gay was ejected from a game after a bench clearing brawl that resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for everyone on the field (his second of the game).
In a vacuum, that incident is nothing, but Gay had a rough end to his career at Mississippi State.
First, along with some of his teammates, he was suspended for much of the season due to academic dishonesty. After he returned he had an altercation with his own quarterback which resulted in a facial injury to said quarterback which kept him out of the Music City Bowl.
NFL Comp: Roquan Smith
Bengals Fit: The Bengals need to add an athletic linebacker and Gay fits the bill. It’s as simple as that.
Draftability: There have been reports lately that Gay has impressed in interviews. This and an excellent combine performance are leading people to project him as high as the second round. He may be hard for the Bengals to get at a good value.
Summary: Everything in Gay’s evaluation is either extremely impressive or quite worrisome. He is a true boom-or-bust prospect who will either be a long-term starter or a massive headache for the team who drafts him.