The Dallas Cowboys had a long wait on Thursday night. As 26 other teams harvested the top collegiate football players in the country in front of them during the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Cowboys patiently awaited their turn hoping a prospect they coveted dropped to them.
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When Dallas’ number was finally called, at 27th overall, one of the highest-rated pass rushers in the entire draft was still available for the taking. Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was once considered a lock to be chosen in the top ten. But a failed drug test during the NFL’s Scouting Combine in February revealed a history of marijuana use and poor decision-making that sent the young prospect tumbling down draft boards.
America’s Team certainly has a need for a player like Gregory as their defense’s biggest issue was pressuring opposing quarterbacks last season. The Cowboys even signed controversial defensive end Greg Hardy in the offseason to help address the problem.
But in the end, the Cowboys opted to draft Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones instead. When asked about Gregory during Thursday night’s press conference, owner and general manager Jerry Jones explained his team’s thought process and what they were actually looking for in the first round of the draft.
"“We had (Gregory) rated high on our board. But we also, from the get-go, have pinpointed if we could not reach for a player, but if we could find a player with having brought in Hardy. But if we could find a player that could potentially be a corner that, if we get (Morris) Claiborne back like we are anticipating and hopeful that could also be a free safety, and an excellent free safety, then that was the ideal fit as far as the position to draft for us. There was no question, and so we were never tempted to do anything moving around to do anything about any other player up there. Especially the player your talking about there. And then when we were able to get the player that we really wanted at the position that we wanted then that made that a non-consideration to get her done. In other words, we waited on a chance to see if we were going to be able to get this corner/safety.”"
The Cowboys apparently liked the versatility of Byron Jones, who can play either cornerback or safety, over the potential pass rush a player like Gregory to bring to the team. So much so that the highly-rated, but troubled edge rusher was never even a temptation.
Gregory fell entirely out of the first round and figures to be one of the top selections in Friday’s second round. The 6-5, 235 pound 22-year old recorded 120 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in two seasons at Nebraska.
The Cowboys recorded a total of 28.0 sacks last season, which was the fifth worst in the NFL. And despite the fact Gregory is apparently high on their draft board, Dallas may have simply decided the risk wasn’t worth the potential reward in the first round. But would they consider trading up in the second round for one of the top edge rushers in the draft? We’ll have to wait and see if they eventually get tempted.