On the morning after, when we are trying to read the minds of NFL decision makers, or in this case, specifically the Dallas Cowboys' minds when they went through the process of selecting their first 3 choices in the 2015 draft, there is room for speculation and flat-out guess work.
Yesterday, when writing about the Cowboys selection of Byron Jones over Randy Gregory at #27 of the 1st round, I tried to explain the situation as best as I could:
Gregory, as I said a few months back, is not an ideal fit on the Cowboys due to his size (235) and you would have been trying to figure out how to play him without being attacked on the ground. This is why I always liked Shane Ray more than Gregory for Dallas and see Gregory as an edge in a 3-4 more than a DE in 4-3. Ray would have been fine at left defensive end and complimented DeMarcus Lawrence well with his stout frame. Gregory was a bit redundant and I wonder if that chased them off the idea."
They took the best corner on their board instead of a real impressive pass rusher, because in my estimation, the fit wasn't right for the pass rusher. They had a chance at a real bargain, but they went for the sure thing. I argued that in this offseason, I was going to err on the side of pass rushers, and whether it was Malcom Brown or Randy Gregory, I wanted the sacks. So, you can imagine my surprise when 24 hours later, they had both players - Jones and Gregory. Teams every year claim they got a 1st rounder in the 2nd round and feel like they stole a pick, but ladies and gentlemen, there is a lot of spots on the internet that show Gregory was in the mix for the #1 pick overall - including this one from a guy I really think knows his stuff, Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com.
I never dreamed that Gregory would have fallen to #60 and honestly, at that point, a team that needs sack help to this extent could almost not afford to not take him there. Yet, about an hour before the pick, I did tweet this:
Let me explain. I have been accused of being a little too aggressive in my pursuit of a RB since losing DeMarco Murray. You will have to forgive me, but the job he did was not something that I believe can be replaced by any ol' guy off the scrap heap. I want quality at RB, and that means running, receiving, and right up at the top, it means protecting Tony Romo from a blindside hit that ends everything. I really value a RB and at Pick #60, the Cowboys could have had my guy, Duke Johnson, Tevin Coleman, or Jay Ajayi to name a few.
But, between that tweet and this one, I had a talk with myself after looking at the players available:
And they did it. They took the best player available (by a mile) and did not panic about a RB because they calculated the risk vs reward values of each option and did what we tell them to do. The right thing. The smart thing. Really. I am not kidding. Taking a player in the NFL drug program before he even gets drafted is the smart thing.
Why? The risk vs reward on Randy Gregory at #60 is about the safest bet a team can ever make. It is a safer bet than Dez Bryant by a mile. It is a safer bet than Greg Hardy by 10 miles. The 60th pick of the NFL draft in 2014 (Kony Ealy) was given a 4-year contract with $1.2m guaranteed and a total value of $3.5m. So, for about 900k a year, you have what many thought would be a Top 5 pick until he failed a drug test at the combine. Would Duke Johnson have been safer and more comfortable for all involved? Yes. But, there comes a price where Gregory cannot be ignored. This is not a man with an arrest record, nor is it a man who is thought of as a bad guy. He has issues and those are worthy of attention for sure.
Here is my write-up on Gregory from back in January when I thought I was breaking down the #1 pick in the draft.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of my favorite football writers on the planet and he writes up draft prospects as well as anyone. He wrote a feature on Randy Gregory that documented the issues and here is a small portion of it:
For decision-makers preparing to hand Gregory several millions in a rookie contract and risk losing their jobs if he flops, the pressure to make the proper evaluation is immense.This month, the Journal Sentinel asked 21 personnel people for their choice as the best pass rusher in the draft regardless of position.Gregory, who had 17½ sacks in two seasons for the Cornhuskers, easily finished first with 10 votes compared to five for Vic Beasley, 2½ for Dante Fowler, two for Leonard Williams and 1½ for Shane Ray."I'd say Von Miller's better than him now," said an NFC personnel director. "Gregory's got more talent than Clay Matthews but isn't as good because of the way Clay plays. Not as big as Ziggy Ansah or (Jason) Pierre-Paul, but he's better."At the same time, 20 of the scouts (one declined the request) were asked to identify which player among the top defensive linemen and rush linebackers would have the best chance to bust.Gregory was the runaway choice, drawing 11½ votes to 2½ for Ray, two for Beasley and one each for Arik Armstead, Carl Davis, Mario Edwards and Jordan Phillips.Seven scouts voted for Gregory both as the No. 1 pass rusher and as the No. 1 most-likely player to bust.
Perhaps you can imagine a scenario under which you could get the best pass rusher in the draft - according to a panel of NFL scouts - at pick #60, but I cannot. If he is not found to be a monster of a human, you take him. And Gregory, however complex his case is, certainly is not thought of as anything more than a young kid with some young mistakes.
I would also invite you to check out this video by Brett Kollman which is an excellent 15 minute breakdown of Gregory's skills. I doubt anyone has issues with whether he is a great prospect (I had him at #21 after the drug tests, but surely he was around the Top 10 without them), but this should further the case that he was too good not to take.
Does he fit the scheme perfectly? No. But, 2 things. 1) One source from the Cowboys told me to expect him to be up to 255 by camp, as they have plans to get him away from that curious sub-240 he has been walking around at and 2) scheme fit is vital, but coaches are able to figure things out where to use talents within a scheme.
And at the very, very worse, on passing downs, putting him on one edge and DeMarcus Lawrence on the other edge with Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey inside looks like a pretty capable 4 man rush to get to the QB. Put another way, I don't think the Cowboys could have had a better top 2 picks than they did.
To get Jones and Gregory from this draft seems like injecting the blue chips into the defense as the plan was. A+.
Now, what about Chaz Green and what about Running Back? The Cowboys will work on the latter today and I will get on writing up Green later this week.
But, for now, I have nothing but the highest compliments for the Cowboys with Picks #27 and #60. I think they hit this one out of the park.