Dallas Cowboys: Did the team just land the all-time steal of the draft?


In 1998, the Dallas Cowboys played a significant role creating one of the biggest draft steals in NFL history. And one of the biggest regrets in franchise history. Despite having a significant need at the position and the eighth overall selection, the Cowboys, along with 18 other NFL franchises, passed on Marshall wide recevier Randy Moss due to character concerns. The controversial player was selected by the Minnesota Vikings 21st overall.

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Moss went on to catch a rookie-record 17 touchdown receptions that year, be named to the Pro Bowl and be given the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The rookie wide out, whom believed the Cowboys were going to select him, caught only three passes against America’s Team in their Thanksgiving matchup that season. But all three receptions went for touchdowns. To add insult to literal injury, Cowboys Hall of Fame recevier Michael Irvin would suffer a career-ending neck injury in the fifth game of the following season.

Over 15-years later, it’s the Cowboys who now could have landed the all-time greatest steal in draft history. At least, that’s according to long-time DallasCowboys.com Columnist Mickey Spagnola.

"“Tell you what, though. This Randy Gregory? Just might become the all-time steal of the draft,” Spagnola wrote on a story that appeared on the team’s official website Friday night. “Fitting the kid for that gold jacket just yet might be a tad premature. But here is what you see out here in practice, and increasingly in that first preseason game. His pass-rush skills are unique. He has an ability to contort his body, twist, get real low coming around the corner on the way to the quarterback. He is not as big as he’s going to be nor as strong, but already they talk of his ‘heavy hands,’ meaning them mitts pack a wallop.”"

What Spagnola is saying is being echoed by numerous other sources around Cowboys training camp. Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory appears to be the real deal. A top-ten talent that fell to the 60th overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft over concerns about failed drug tests, appears to be exceeding expectations, both on and off-the-field. Described by Spagnola as a monster on the field, and as intelligent and mentally sharp off of it, Gregory appears to be living up to a promise he made Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones on the second-day of the draft in April.

"“I went back in our draft room, we were on the clock. Randy Gregory had been passed over in the first round. We were at our pick in the second, which was down the line,” Jones says of their 60th pick via Spagnola. “I got him on the phone, I said to Gregory, ‘Randy, it’s our time to pick,’ and he said, ‘Mr. Jones, pick me, please pick me.’ He said, ‘If you’ll pick me, I’ll do everything right. I won’t let you down. There’s nothing you can ask me to do that I won’t do. I want to show you I can be mature, be a credit to the Cowboys.”"

Through the first few weeks of training camp, Gregory is being true to his word. And he’s been getting plenty of help as well. Not only does he play under legendary defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Dallas, but his assistant defensive line coach is former Cowboys great Leon Lett. The rookie has also benefited from the daily lesson that is facing Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith.

Former Cowboy legends like Hall of Famers Charles Haley and Randy White have already visited camp and imparted wisdom on the 22-year old pass rushing phenom. And that effort is starting to pay off as Gregory recorded a sack in his first NFL game last week in the Cowboys preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.

Although he’s a long way from proving he’s a better draft steal than Randy Moss, Gregory appears to be having a great training camp. And the fact that his potential and play have analysts like Mickey Spagnola excited for his future, should make fans excited as well.

Next: Dustin Vaughan: The biggest story of the Dallas Cowboys' preseason