After selecting Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, defensive end now becomes the Raiders biggest need. Luckily for the Silver and Black, a plethora of pass rushers fell to the second round including Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Preston Smith, and Eli Harold. But one name stands above the rest, Randy Gregory.
Randy Gregory is my number four overall prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft and is ranked ahead of both Dante Fowler Jr. and Vic Beasley. Gregory is a monster on the field with physical tools that are through the roof. He had impressive production at Nebraska totaling 17.5 sacks in just two seasons. Gregory is explosive, disruptive, athletic, all the terms you want to hear in a pass rusher. He has great technique and uses his hands as well as any defensive lineman in the entire draft.
On the field, the two biggest question marks scouts have with Gregory is his size and his slow get-off. One of those concerns is a myth; the other should not even be a concern at all.
Randy Gregory has one of the quickest get-offs in the 2015 NFL Draft. The reason his get-off looks so slow on film is because at Nebraska, Gregory was asked to read and react to the offensive tackle. This is much more conservative than the traditional reaction to the ball that pass rushers such as Vic Beasley thrive off of. But in the defensive system at Nebraska, Gregory was rarely asked to react to the ball. But when he did, he was absolute lighting.
The second "concern" with Gregory is his size. While he has ideal height at 6'5", he only weighed 235-pounds at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. This has led many to believe that Gregory is too small to play defensive end in the NFL and would have to switch to outside linebacker.
But don't be fooled by his weight, because Randy Gregory is much stronger than a 235-pound man should be. He played against top offensive lineman in the Big-Ten and never had a problem with strength, in fact he was the one manhandling 300-pound offensive tackles. At the combine, he recorded 24 reps on the bench press which is impressive for his weight.
The only problem with Randy Gregory that kept him from being a top-five pick is his character concerns. Five weeks away from the draft, Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine. This was then followed with multiple reports that Gregory smoked before Nebraska football games to calm his nerves.
Gregory issued a statement in February after announcing the failed drug test. "I blame myself," Gregory said. "And I know it sounds cliché, but there's really no one else I can blame."
"I don't wake up every day saying, I'd really love to go smoke," he said. "It's not a struggle for me every day (now), it really isn't. In the past, hell yeah, it's been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I'm focused on my dream."
"I was worse at Nebraska than I've ever been at any other time of my life," Gregory said. "But I know how I am now. I think if teams really look at how I am now more so than the past, they'll see I'm making strides to get better, as a person and as a player."
While the Marijuana usage is concerning, it seems that may not be the reason Gregory's stock has plummeted to the second round. Teams have concerns that Gregory will not be able to mentally handle pro football's mental rigors according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer.
But at a certain point, Gregory's talent on the field has to trump the risk. NFL Network's Mike Mayock loves the idea of selecting Randy Gregory in the second round stating, "An opportunity to get an unreal talent later in the draft for less money. He's going to be motivated with something to prove."
The key to this statement is the "something to prove". Randy Gregory is angry, he is disappointed, and he feels he let down his family. Whichever team picks him, he is going to have motivation to prove the rest of the league wrong.
"Honestly, I'm extremely disappointed," said Randy Gregory after not being selected in the first round. "I didn't sleep last night because I feel like I let my family and the people who believe in me down, and I'm sorry for that. But I'm going to use this as fuel. The franchise that drafts me won't have to be sorry about me off the field, but the teams that didn't select me will have to worry about me on the field."
With leaders like Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck, Charles Woodson, and now Amari Cooper that preach a strong work ethic, Oakland could be an environment that Gregory could thrive in. Combine that with the chip on his shoulder and Gregory could succeed with the Raiders.
Owamagbe Odighuzuwa and Preston Smith are both quality players and would be solid picks, but Randy Gregory is a special talent. If the Raiders draft Randy Gregory in the second round, they will be getting two top-five talents with their first two picks. The fact that both players address the Raiders two biggest needs would make the selections that much sweeter.
This is a great breakdown of Randy Gregory given by Battle Red Blog's Brett Kollmamann: