ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has mocked rushing outside linebacker Randy Gregory to the New York Jets in his latest mock draft. Gregory has made recent headlines for failing a drug test at the NFL combine, a move that many believed would cause Gregory’s top-five talent to fall out of the top ten. Despite this character concern, Gregory could be a solid addition with the sixth pick in the draft.
The Jets really have two options with the sixth pick in this year’s draft. Draft quarterback Marcus Mariota, if he’s available, to kickstart a new era of Jets football, or take the best player available to continue building a stronger team. Depending on who is selected with the first five picks, this could be a number of different players. But if Nebraska’s Gregory slides to number six, he has the most talent available.
The main concern with Gregory isn’t that he was caught with marijuana in his system, it’s that he allowed that to happen well knowing he would be tested multiple times leading up to his eventual NFL career. Gregory has already demonstrated a failure to comply with the rules, and will begin his professional career in stage one of the league’s substance abuse program, with his next offense carrying a suspension.
Gregory will need to convince the Jets, or any team for that matter, that this kind of offense won’t happen again and he’s ready to begin a substance-free, rule-complying football career. If Gregory can do this through public statements as well as personal interviews, there’s a sense around the league that Gregory can still be a top pick. In fact, more teams have shown reported interest since his failed drug test, a result of his possible availability to later teams.
If Gregory can alleviate these concerns, he has an immense amount of talent and would fit the bill of best player available with the sixth pick in this year’s draft.
Todd Bowles is a defensive-minded coach, and after being gifted an insane secondary and inheriting a strong defensive line, Gregory would be the icing on the cake.
Standing at 6’6″ and 235 pounds, Gregory is a pass-rushing monster and under the right coach and scheme, looks to continue that streak in the NFL. In a Nebraska career that included All-American and All-Big Ten honors, Gregory compiled 17.5 sacks, 29 tackles for a loss, and 34 quarterback hurries. Gregory also ran a solid 4.64 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
The linebacking core was led in sacks last year by David Harris, with 6.0 sacks, and Calvin Pace, with 5.0, but each are on the wrong side of 30. Gregory could complement fellow pass-rushing linebacker Quinton Coples to create a quarterback nightmare. Coples and Gregory on the outsides, along with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson down on the line could make for a scary pass-rush for Gang Green.
Gregory can also give Bowles some options, as he’s showcased the ability to play the rushing OLB, as well as shift down to defensive end as well as drop into pass coverage. While he’s not completely well-rounded in each position, he still has the ability to shift around and Bowles could do some very interesting things with Gregory on defense.
With a usually high motor and good break off the snap, Gregory is a threat to get to the quarterback on any play. For proof, look no further than this red-zone play against Miami last year. (Courtesy of Draft Breakdown)
If Gregory gives some half-hearted responses and doesn’t give a sense that he knows he made a mistake, Gregory may not be suitable for such a high pick for the Jets. But if he can admit not just that he made a mistake but that he has learned from it, Gregory may very well be worth the gamble with the sixth pick in the draft.
The addition of Gregory to an already stellar defense could push the Jets over the top as one of the best defenses in the NFL. While there’s still questions as to whether Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick can lead this team to success, there’s no question the defense will be stout this season. And we all know how the old homage goes.
Defense wins championships.