Our first defensive player we’ll examine is Nebraska defensive end/outside linebacker Randy Gregory. For some, he’s known as the guy that tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine in February. For Gophers fans, Gregory is the guy that couldn’t shed a blocker against the run (more on that later).
There’s a few players like Gregory in this draft that can be projected as a defensive end or an outside linebacker depending on the scheme. The list includes Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., Missouri’s Shane Ray and Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree. But we’ll focus on Gregory for now since he’s been the most talked about prospect among the bunch, for better or for worse.
Gregory spent a season at Arizona Western Community College before transferring to Nebraska. Gregory initially signed with Purdue out of college but didn’t qualify academically.
By the Numbers:
Sophomore (13 games): 66 tackles (40 solo), 17 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, one interception, one forcedfumble
Junior (11 games): 54 tackles (23 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception, one forced fumble
Gregory returned his only interception his junior season for a touchdown and also had a pair of blocked field goals as a senior. On paper, the stats look great for a Big Ten defensive end. Gregory displayed a little bit of everything at 6-5 and 235 pounds. As raw as he is, he has a knack for getting at the quarterback.
Combine/Pro Day results:
40-yard dash: 4.64 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 24 reps
Vertical: 36.5 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 5 inches
Gregory was happy enough with his combine results that he only participated during individual drills at his pro day. He ran a similar 40-yard dash time at the combine as Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, listed at six feet and 228 pounds.
But back to the marijuana issue, however, that has clouded Gregory’s stock since the combine. It appears a few people have docked him for it, and it was a very dumb mistake, but I might be in the minority that won’t drop a prospect off a big board in 2015 for marijuana. Reports that he wasn’t impressive during team interviews would be a bigger concern in my book if I was reviewing Gregory from an off-the-field perspective.
This tweet is also concerning. Can you trust a man that thinks New Orleans is boring?
Idk what the big deal about new Orleans is. Seems pretty boring to me lol wrong time of year maybe??
— Randy Gregory (@RandyGregory_4) April 14, 2015
I will pass on Gregory’s ability as a defensive end, however. He’s not an NFL defensive end. At 235 pounds, he’ll need to gain weight if he wants to become a 4-3 defensive end. The biggest question is how will he move at 250-plus pounds? I’m not sure but Gregory’s range at his current weight is one of his biggest strengths.
As a defensive end with his hand in the dirt, Gregory would give me anxiety as a defensive coordinator against the run. He struggled on run plays because Big Ten offensive linemen could shove Gregory out of the way with ease. Gregory at times would be so focused on pass rushing that he’d run himself of plays, similar to what we used to see from Jared Allen during his final season with the Vikings. He’s still young and raw though, so I’d think that’s correctable at this stage in his career.
The two games that stood out last year watching Gregory against the run were Minnesota and Wisconsin. Here’s a good example of what I mean against Wisconsin. He’s lined up on the left side, couldn’t contain and running back Melvin Gordon escaped for a big gain.
On the flip side, Gregory is a good pass rusher pretty much anywhere you put him. He could use improvement blitzing as a linebacker, but he has a good variety of moves. Gregory’s performance against Miami is a great example of what he’s capable of doing as a pass rusher. Here’s a rep against offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, projected as a first or second round pick, where Gregory bull rushes to the quarterback on the right side. Flowers weighed in at 329 pounds at the combine, almost 100 pounds more than Gregory.
There aren’t too many examples of Gregory dropping back into coverage that I’ve seen, but he has the speed and range to cover tight ends and running backs. It’ll likely become an area of emphasis to improve in coverage wherever he goes because I don’t see him being used more at defensive end than linebacker to start his NFL career. I can see how in certain situations, like Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr on third downs, a team could use him on the defensive line to maximize its pass rush.
Similar to Barr, Gregory should pray that he lands on a team with a defensive-minded head coach or an excellent defensive coordinator that will develop his raw ability. But he’s an outside linebacker. And anyone who tells you otherwise at this stage in his career is wrong.
Verdict: As a defensive end, don’t believe the hype. As a linebacker, he can be the truth if he’s got a solid coach to develop him.