Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, considered one of the top prospects in the nation, has decided to enter the draft.
Gregory released a statement, obtained by NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, Tuesday morning announcing his intention. Gregory is considered a first-round lock, with the only question being how early he is selected.
"As I declare for this year's NFL draft, I'm ready for the next challenge in my life," Gregory said in the statement. "I look forward to the coaching I will receive and the chance to push myself alongside the best players in the world."
Gregory also thanked Bo Pelini, who was fired as the Huskers' coach after the season, for helping him "understand what it takes to play at the next level." Pelini spent nine seasons as an NFL assistant early in his coaching career.
Gregory (6-foot-6, 248 pounds) could stand to add more bulk and strength, and needs to hold the point of attack better against the run. But he has a quick first step and is speedy off the edge (he has been clocked as fast as 4.67 seconds in the 40), and his upside as a pass rusher is tremendous -- and NFL teams have shown a willingness to overlook a lack of size when they draft pass rushers. Consider recent first-round selections Bruce Irvin (2012, by the Seattle Seahawks), Dion Jordan (2013, by the Miami Dolphins), Barkevious Mingo (2013, by the Cleveland Browns) and Dee Ford (2014, by the Kansas City Chiefs) as proof.
Gregory was used as a stand-up outside linebacker and a hand-down defensive end this season, and an NFC North scout told NFL Media analysts that while there were "plenty of good pass rushers in the country ... I think he's the best this year." Earlier in the season, an NFC scout compared Gregory to San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith and talked about how Gregory has all of the physical tools needed to be a standout as a pro.
Gregory missed two games this season, sitting out a win over FCS team McNeese State with a knee injury and missing a victory in the regular-season finale against Iowa with an ankle injury. He finished with seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 54 tackles, 16 quarterback hurries and two blocked kicks. Gregory had 17.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and 34 quarterback hurries in his two seasons with the Huskers.
Gregory had nine sacks in 2011 as a true freshman at Arizona Western Community College but missed the 2012 season with a broken leg. Gregory is from the Indianapolis area -- he signed with Purdue as a 210-pound defensive end out of high school but was an academic non-qualifier.