The top five picks in any draft typically consist of at least one player -- and often more than one player -- at quarterback, defensive end, and offensive tackle. Covering the most important position in the game, the man sent to destroy him, and the man tasked with protecting him. This draft looks at this point to be without at least two of those positions at the top. As for the defensive ends, it is marijuana that could keep teams away from them.
After last season, the top two draft eligible defensive ends were Nebraska's Randy Gregory and Missouri's Shane Ray. Gregory had 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss over the past two seasons for the Cornhuskers. Ray had 19.0 sacks and 36 tackles for loss the past two seasons for the Tigers.
Early on, the two of them were widely seen as favorites to both land in the top ten with Gregory shooting for the top five. And with Jacksonville at 3 and Oakland at 4 both in need of a defensive end, Gregory seemed like a very good option for either spot. Ray wasn't expected to last much longer.
Now both are poised to watch teams pass on them over and over, perhaps all 32 of them, before they come off the board because of their dealings with marijuana.
Gregory admitted to popping positive for marijuana at the scouting combine. It's the most obvious drug test any of these guys has ever or probably WILL ever encounter so it screams of a serious addiction and/or blinding stupidity. When teams pick near the top of the draft, let alone the top three or four picks, there are far less risky options available to them. Taking on a player who from the outset looks destined to be a repeat offender of the league's substance abuse policy overshadows any potential game-changing abilities. At least for those few games his new team would actually have him available.
Ray was not quite as highly regarded as Gregory early on, and his stock has dipped some as the offseason has gone on, though he was still regarded as a top-half-of-the-first-round level talent. That may no longer be a possibility either after he was cited for marijuana possession Monday during a traffic stop -- the week of the biggest day of his football life.
The former Missouri Tiger was pulled over for speeding and and the officer discovered a small personal amount of marijuana in his car. It is a misdemeanor citation, but with all draftable players under an intense microscope from NFL clubs, it's all a team needs to decide to go with that other guy they were also high on (so to speak).
The Raiders really could have used a player on the field the caliber of Gregory, but they can't (and won't) take on that risk with their fourth overall pick. As for Ray, if he tumbles far enough, it's possible he could still be on the board when the Raiders pick in the second round.
Unfortunately for Ray, all team visits concluded last week. Gregory made the rounds of team visits in his 'I'm alright, you're alright' tour. No telling how well it really worked, but most projections have a team somewhere in the mid to late first round taking the chance that he can provide the pass rush sans hash puff.
Ray won't be able to look any of these GM's and coaches in the eye and convince them he is not a major risk to them. He will just have to be written off by some teams and taken on faith by one. But what team? When?
It could be day 2 before it happens.
The Raiders have the 35th pick. Could they take that leap of faith should Ray be on the board at that time? It's an interesting prospect for a team with a great need at defensive end and a great talent like Ray who stands to possibly be on the board when they pick.