Sometimes not being picked early in the NFL Draft can be just as much of a headline — if not a bigger one — than going No. 1 overall.
Such was the case for Nebraska's Randy Gregory this weekend.
Within the past few months, the Huskers defensive end went from a potential top-five pick to what he ended up being: a late-second-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys on Day 2 of the draft Friday night in Chicago.
Gregory was the last one left in the green room when the Cowboys took him with the No. 60 pick, the final player to get to pose with commissioner Roger Goodell.
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But Gregory's case wasn't as simple as a guy who teams thought wasn't worthy of their top pick. Gregory was one of several draft prospects who ran into troubles involving marijuana use, including failing a drug test at the Combine.
Gregory owned up to what he called a "real dumb mistake" after finally getting his name called, saying that he knew it would affect his draft stock. He said he's ready to get to work and put this "embarrassing" incident behind him.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit (bitter about getting picked so late). Obviously, everyone wants to be picked high, but at the same time, I understood why I wasn't picked high. I know I put myself in that position," Gregory said. "The main goal is to make plays anyways. So I'm going to carry myself with a chip on my shoulder, and the Dallas Cowboys are going to do the same. That's why they've had that success is that mentality. I think that's why everyone looks at them that way. I think that's why they've had the tradition they've had. That's why us together we can do some big things."
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But for all the honesty Gregory displayed in discussing his mistake and the thankfulness he showed for being selected by any team at any spot in the draft, the case is still a curious one.
As mentioned, other prospects had similar issues. Another defensive end, Shane Ray, was also caught using marijuana. That was also among the lengthy list of troubles of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The Broncos traded up to get Ray in the first round. Green-Beckham went ahead of Gregory in the second round.
So why was Gregory continually passed up?
An NFL.com report last week pointed to a strange concern many coaches and scouts had with Gregory leading up to the draft, though no one definitively stated what that was. One NFL general manager was quoted in that report saying, "There are more negatives than positives."
At least three general managers view him as a top-five talent. But according to more than a dozen coaches, scouts, personnel chiefs and GMs, there is concern about Gregory's ability to handle the mental rigors of professional football. And just how far he drops in this week's draft will likely hinge on the individual psychological profiles (and the results of related testing) put together by each team, according to multiple veteran evaluators. He has been taken off a several team's draft boards, according to multiple sources.
Gregory seemed to allude to whatever this issue is after he was selected Friday, though he, too, refused to go into details, saying only that the Cowboys seemed to be OK with things.
"My situation's a little unique. I can't go into details," Gregory said. "I sat down with Jerry Jones, we had a heart-to-heart, talked for about 40 minutes, and I think we were on the same page. I met with coach (Jason) Garrett and coach (Rod) Marinelli, and I think we've got a good idea of what we need to do. They have a great support system there. Obviously they've had guys in the past that they worked with, and that's one of the big things that we probably looked at. It's probably the best spot for me in this draft, it really is."
We might never find out whether this was just a kid making the same mistake that a ton of kids make or something more. But the Cowboys seemed satisfied enough to make Gregory their second-round draft pick. Now it's up to Gregory to not only make them proud on the field but off it, as well.
"There's a lot of tradition with this organization, and I don't want to be the one to bring bad light on that. And I won't be," Gregory said. "That's one of the things I gave my word to them when they called me when they were about to make the pick. I promised them that I was going to work my ass off to make plays on the field and I was going to work my ass off so they don't have to worry about me off the field.
"(I'm) somebody that's going to prove a lot of people wrong, basically 31 other teams wrong and a lot of other people that are looking at me and doubting me. Us and the Cowboys, we're going to prove those doubters wrong, we really are."