Concern exists on Gregory handling pro football's mental rigors

  • By Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer
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The failed drug test at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine won't help Randy Gregory, nor will his struggle to maintain the weight needed to play on the line of scrimmage in the NFL.


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But the reason the Nebraska star is likely to drop on Thursday -- maybe out of the first round -- is much deeper than that.

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.

Agent Deryk Gilmore declined comment on Wednesday when asked about Gregory's issues.

The situation for the Cornhusker All-American is like this: The natural ability is there; whether he can realize his considerable potential is another matter entirely. Those considerations, however, do not make Gregory unique in the draft nor in the league as a whole.

"It all depends on the organization, and what they have in place for him," said one NFC personnel exec. "There are quite a few players that have issues. It's where you place football character over the things he can't control. That's the big thing to me."

One opinion that's common among the evaluators who've delved deep into Gregory's past -- he's not a bad kid. He comes from a solid background. He's well-meaning.

But there's more to sort through.

"At some point, the risk meets the reward, especially at the bottom of the (first) round -- those are good teams," said an area scout for one team, assigned to Nebraska. "They miss, it's not a big deal. But the top 20 picks of each round, it's tough. He's either gonna be a good player or he's not gonna be in the NFL. He comes from a good home, he's a smart kid.

"How do you wanna deal with it?" the scout continued. "Do you wanna work with him? Can you do the off-the-field stuff to manage it?"

The concern is that, through no fault of his own, Gregory's problems might be manageable, but not fixable, which makes his landing in the right environment (as the scout alluded to) vital.

One NFC general manager said, "There are more negatives than positives."

And that's remarkable, given that many scouts and execs spoken with during the past two months believe Gregory is the best natural pass-rusher in this year's draft class.

But his rocky road through the process has thrown up one more caution flag for teams as the draft draws near, and validated prior concerns about his ability to handle the transition to the pro ranks smoothly. The failed combine test (which lands him in the league's substance-abuse program to start his career) and his fluctuating weight only add to the worry that he might not have the makeup to make it big at the next level.

"He's a good football player, his only on-field issue is his weight and body mass," said an AFC personnel exec. "When you draft a player, it's easy to see the skills they have to transfer and perform at the next level. But with pro football, there's so much more that goes into it because you face a great athlete every week, so your character gets tested."



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