Jeremiah: Randy Gregory suspension puts spotlight on Spence

The biggest loser of the Randy Gregory suspension might be a player who's not yet in the NFL.

The ban for Gregory, a second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys last year, reinforces the team's need for pass-rush help, but NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah says it could have even bigger implications for a top 2016 NFL Draft prospect who will have to answer for drug issues, like Gregory did when he was a prospect a year ago.

Those drug problems have followed Gregory, who failed a drug test at last year's NFL Scouting Combine, into the NFL. He has been suspended for the first four games of next season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The suspension marked his fourth failed drug test, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

Gregory, a rare edge-rushing talent, fell to the second round of the draft because of off-field concerns. With another highly talented edge rusher, Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence, hoping to avoid a fall related to similar issues this year, the discipline for Gregory doesn't help Spence's case as he prepares to present it to NFL teams next week at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"(Gregory's suspension) puts more of a spotlight on (Spence's) situation than anyone else," Jeremiah said. "... In terms of Noah Spence selling himself to teams, now he has to go above and beyond because this is a recent example of someone who had an issue with drugs that couldn't overcome it."

Spence has been candid about his addiction to the drug Ecstasy. His failed drug tests led to a permanent ban from the Big Ten in 2014, when Spence was starring at Ohio State. He was treated for the addiction and transferred to Eastern Kentucky. He was in trouble again after the move, though, as he was arrested for alcohol intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in May. His coach at EKU has said Spence passed multiple drug tests after joining the program, but he'll still face questions -- potentially intensified on the heels of Gregory's suspension -- from NFL teams about the issues.

He had a chance to begin to address his past with NFL clubs last month at the Reese's Senior Bowl, where he had a very good week of practice. Spence is rated the No. 2 edge rusher in the draft, behind only Ohio State's Joey Bosa (Spence's former teammate), by NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock. He was the No. 31 overall prospect in Jeremiah's initial rankings of this year's draft prospects.

If not for the drug issues, it's hard to say how high Spence's stock would be. As it is now, Jeremiah doesn't see the Cowboys passing on Bosa, a former teammate of Spence's, if Bosa is available when they make their first pick (No. 4 overall).

If Bosa is indeed the first edge rusher off the board, the next team to pick that wants pass-rush help will have a decision to make on Spence. That decision wasn't made any easier on Friday.

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