Randy Gregory and Shane Ray both fell in the 2015 NFL Draft thanks to off-field concerns, although Gregory dropped all the way to pick No. 60 in Round 2, while Ray's slide stopped at pick No. 23 in Round 1.
Both players ended up slipping to Super Bowl contenders, with the Dallas Cowboys taking Gregory and Denver Broncos selecting Ray. So, which player will have a better rookie year? NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah says it's Ray.
"Randy Gregory will have some initial success, and then I think you'll see him get all the attention of opponents and I think you'll see his numbers decrease after that initial success," Jeremiah said on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" Wednesday. "Shane Ray, he's going to a defense that already has a couple of pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. He's going to be singled up and will get a lot of opportunities for production.
"... Just on the sheer opportunities, and the fact that he's never going to see a double-team with that group, I think Shane Ray is going to be outstanding. I think he has a chance to be a double-digit sack guy."
The Broncos parted with their first-round pick (No. 28 overall) two fifth-round picks (one each in 2015 and 2016) and guard Manny Ramirezto move up five spots in a trade with the Detroit Lions to be in position to land Ray. The former Missouri star flashed plenty of talent during his final collegiate season and was ranked as Jeremiah's No. 6 overall player in this year's draft. However, there were numerous concerns about him both on the field (his overall length, a toe injury) and off after he was cited for marijuana possession a few days before the draft.
Ray has vowed to stay out of trouble off the field and certainly does land in a good situation, given that he won't be thrust into the starting lineup as he learns from a pair of Pro Bowl edge rushers in Ware and Miller.
"You say, 'How can he do that, he's not even a full-time player?'" Jeremiah said, regarding Ray's role as a rookie. "Well, Terrell Suggs, in his first year in Baltimore was Rookie of the Year and had double-digit sacks but wasn't even a full-time player."
NFL Media analyst Charles Davis came down on the side of Gregory, who failed an NFL Scouting Combine drug test, over Ray in the debate, although he acknowledged that Ray is headed for "a terrific situation in Denver."
"(Cowboys defensive coordinator) Rod Marinelli is going to get the best out of Randy Gregory. It's going to be an absolute steal getting him at No. 60 in the draft," Davis said.
With Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy suspended 10 games for conduct detrimental to the league, Davis foresees Dallas giving Gregory plenty of opportunities and having a plan to ensure Gregory maximizes his potential as a pass rusher.
So, while Davis envisions Hardy's absence potentially being a positive for Gregory, Jeremiah indicated it could eventually become a hindrance, allowing defenses to focus on Gregory.
Which analyst has it right? Only time will tell, but it's one of the most interesting rookie storylines heading into the 2015 season.