Randy Gregory initially committed to Purdue, but then de-committed after a coaching change and transferred to Nebraska in 2013, quickly earning playing time as a redshirt sophomore. He had ten starts, and led the conference in tackles for loss (19.0) and sacks (10.5), earning First Team All-Big Ten and team MVP honors. The following season, he battled through injuries (an "old" knee injury cropped up in the season-opener and Gregory missed the next game recovering from a scope), but still started 10 more games and finished with a team-best seven sacks, adding 54 tackles (ten TFLs) and one forced fumble. For his efforts, he again earned First Team All-Big Ten honors. Gregory finished his Husker career ranked ninth on the school's all-time sack list with 17.5 sacks.
Gregory has all the natural tools possessed by impact pass rushers. He boasts superb first step quickness, length, explosiveness and the flexible frame to bend and dip on the edge. Gregory has impressive change of direction skills and good natural instincts. At the same time, Gregory could stand to add more weight to his frame and needs plenty of technique work and a patient coach for his pass-rush skill to match his traits. Gregory's draft stock has been clouded with a positive drug test at the combine to go with failed tests for marijuana while at Nebraska. As many scouts mention, he is a high-ceiling, low-floor prospect.
Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his measurables:
|6' 5"||235||34"||10"||4.64||1.50||24||36½"||125"||6.79||4.16||138.5 (92.2)|
And here they are in the form of a spider graph, courtesy of the folks at Mockdraftable.com:
Judging from Gregory's pSPARQ number, the Cowboys are getting a player with impressive raw athleticism. That established, lets go to the tape. Luckily, they have eight of his games on tape over at Draft Breakdown. Check him out against Miami (FL), where he amassed seven tackles and two sacks; versus Rutgers (five tackles and a sack) and Minnesota (eight tackles, a sack).
Let's see what our esteemed panel of scouts has to say about the Cowboys' new second-rounder:
Nolan Nawrocki (NFL Draft 2015 Preview) top-ranked DE; 8th overall:
Strengths: Very loose-hipped, flexible athlete with a unique combination of length, bend and explosion. Can so deftly cross the face of a lineman without even a hand being placed on him, indicative of his rush instincts and ability to beat blocks. Often commands double- and triple-teams and still is able to weave in and around blockers. Extremely nimble and light on his feet. Uses his terrific length to create leverage and play with strength. Can convert speed to power and create movement and still get an inside arm bar and hold the point. Produced the fastest 10-yard split (1.5 seconds) of any defensive lineman at the Combine. Can even kick inside, line up over a guard and be effective slipping and avoiding blocks because of his bionic hips and rare body control.
Weaknesses: Narrow-hipped and very lean with an underdeveloped frame. Measured the lightest (235 pounds) od any defensive lineman at the Combine and has had difficulty maintaining weight. Measure only 4 percent body fat at the Combine and does not have enough armor on his body to withstand a pounding - could be prone to injury and had numerous injuries in college. Needs to add bulk and get stronger. Won't be able to hold up vs. double teams, wham and mash blocks in the NFL. Underwhelming sack production. Scouts say he appeared to be playing not to get hurt in bowl game vs. USC. Disappears for stretches where he does not impact the game. Will require maintenance and needs to be monitored closely.
Future: A very long, fluid, flexible, gangly edge rusher with a very similar athletic and rush talent as Browns 2013 sixth overall pick Barkevious Mingo, who also recorded underwhelming sack production in college. Also reminds scouts of Dion Jordan, who was selected third overall by Miami in 2013 and has been slow to develop in part because of off-the-field issues. Gregory has a rare combination of burst, bend, balance and body control that allows him to beat any blocker from any side with grace, and a frame to grow into a feared sack artist. However, he will need a very strong support structure to blossom. Has boom-or-bust potential and could require patience. Injury-prone past must be considered.
Draft projection: First-round pick
Scout's take: "Gregory is smooth and dynamic. He looks pretty making moves rushing the passer. Some of the stuff he does cannot be taught. You can put his cut-ups in a coaching clinic for how to set up moves. Its just pure rush instincts and exactly what you are looking for in the way of bend and slide and adjust and motor. Gregory does a lot of things very, very good. He is the most natural pass rusher in the draft."
Dan Shonka (Ourlads) 4th-ranked OLB; 17th overall:
Explosive edge rusher. Smooth athlete with the frame to put on bulk. Easy bender with freakish flexibility and quickness. Changed direction with balance and power. High effort player, works hard on the field. Uses a variety of rush moves to the outside. Can explode off the snap from a three-point stance or standing up starting position. Gets his hands inside with plenty of knee bend. Disciplined and patient pass rusher. Can set his man up and bounce off to accelerate past him. Finishes his tackles. His struggles revolve around a lack of power and strength. He can be ineffective against the run to his inside shoulder and he won't get much of a push. Long list of injuries need to be looked into as well. The upside is huge but there are always players with this kind of situation who don't pan out in the NFL. Buyer beware. By his own admission he has failed three marijuana tests over the past two years, including one at the Combine. Has an ectomorphic build. Lacks a power game. Doesn't play the inside run well, struggles to get himself off the power blockers. Won't drive tackles back as a bull rusher. Needs to be in space to be effective, not a traffic player. Has had a laundry list of injuries in 2014 (knee, toe, foot, concussion) after missing time over the summer with a minor knee injury. There are questions concerning his ability to physically hold up in the NFL.
Lance Zierlein (NFL.com) 3rd-ranked OLB; 9th overall:
Strengths: Tall with long levers and a lean, sinewy build. Batted down four passes in 2014. Stronger than expected at point of attack. Able to lock out and stay square against big offensive tackles and can whip most tight ends. Unhinges and gets tentacles on running backs bursting through gap. Room for more thickness on long frame. Competitive and shows toughness against run. Can chase and limit outside runs with speed. Secondary motor to stay in hunt downfield as tackler. Explosive hips. Gets instant change of direction to hound quarterbacks in play-action. Played standing up and with hand in ground. Rushed occasionally from ILB spot. Stride and second gear for quick close. Has bend and hips to convert speed to power. Showed improved timing and understanding of how to set up inside pass-rush move as season progressed. Hands are a blur. Explosive play traits to overwhelm technically deficient tackles. Can counter and recover from cut blocks. Flashes plus hand-feet coordination. As blitzer from ILB, will coil and explode into guard on contact step. More than tough enough. Willing to take on pulling guards with low pad level and aggressive pop.
Weaknesses: Thin through trunk and will play with a narrow base, causing balance issues. Almost always last player out of his stance at snap. Technique and feel as pass rusher lacking at this point. Thinks rather than plays. Takes occasional false steps as stand-up rusher. Time-waster. Too much time stutter-stepping tackles rather than exploding upfield. Fails to stress the high side of tackles to get them rocking. Makes it too easy for tackles to quick-set him. Plays man in front of him rather than "seeing through" to quarterback. Lacks creativity as rusher. Gets punched with his shoulders still squared rather than on an angle, which robs ability to turn edge. Doesn't process what he sees very quickly. Marginal play strength in pass rush and can be redirected. Was manhandled by Wisconsin blockers on two long touchdown runs by Melvin Gordon. Issues with positive drug tests are a significant concern.
Draft Projection: Round 2 or 3
Sources Tell Us: "He's super raw, but those physical tools are through the roof. That's why you pay coaches." -- NFC scouting director
NFL Comparison: Barkevious Mingo
Dane Brugler (NFL Draft Guide) 3rd-ranked EDGE:
Strengths: Explosive get-off to burst upfield quickly with terrific speed and range...looks natural in space with easy ankle flexion and change of direction skills to easily redirect and close...fluid dip and body control around the edge with lateral quickness to flatten...long strides to effortlessly accelerate in pursuit to chase and catch ballcarriers - often lined up on the field side with his athleticism to play the run in space...unlocks and uses his length to swim and club as a pass rusher...not shy extending and shooting his hands into blockers with violent, aggressive limbs at the point of attack - initiates the action and enjoys talking to get in the head of opponents...uses his length well to work off blocks with improved hand use to hold the edge - dynamic movements to never be out of the play...competitive and scrappy, always seeking out contact and forcing opponents to account for him...reliable motor and fights to the ball, looking to get involved - not a spectator and won't give up on plays...improved ball awareness to read the play with quick reflexes, staying home and not overpursuing...doesn't often lose contain, doing a better job anchoring at the point of attack...experienced at left and right defensive end with his hand on the ground or a two point stance...highly productive during his two seasons in Lincoln (20 starts) with 29.0 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and 34 QB pressures, including two blocked kicks in 2014.
Weaknesses: Lanky frame and trunk with skinny limbs...lean lower body and can be knocked off his feet with below average body girth...questionable growth potential and needs to sustain a consistent weight, allowing for too much fluctuation over his career...can be overmatched by power in the run game, lacking the functional strength to consistently dispose of blockers in his path...struggles to generate pop as a pass rusher without momentum and too easily slowed, even by off-balanced blocks...needs to improve his hand strength to be a consistent finisher once he makes contact...late to recognize zone reads and needs to play smarter...snap anticipation has room for improvement to capitalize on his edge speed...needs to keep his emotions under control and harness his passion...tends to wear down later in games with questionable toughness and threshold for pain, often leaving the field of play for minor injuries...durability needs investigated after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee (Aug. 2014) that caused him to miss one game followed by a concussion (Nov. 2014) that forced him out of another game...history of anti-depressant and marijuana use, including two failed tests during his junior season and a failed drug test at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine - very concerning habit.
Our panelist rank Gregory ridiculously high, from the 8th to the 17th-best player in the draft. Although I found out that he was a Valley Ranch invitee after I had already published all my scouting reports, I did have him in round one on my little board, because its obvious that he's a first-round - nay, a blue-chip - talent. Nawrocki writes, Gregory has "boom-or-bust potential" Yes, he could be out of the league in two years time due to substance problems, but he's also the most athletic defensive lineman the Cowboys have had since DeMarcus Ware was released after the 2013 season.
The bust potential is high, but the boom potential is equally high - so much so that to get him with the 60th pick feels like tremendous value.