The Dallas Cowboys continued to check off needs with a high-value pick on Friday by taking a chance on troubled defensive end Randy Gregory.
In the third round, the Cowboys added Florida offensive tackle Chaz Green.
But the story of Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft was Gregory, selected with the 60th overall pick in the second round, despite being rated in the top 15 on the Cowboys’ draft board.
The former Nebraska star saw his stock drop in the draft after failing a drug test at the NFL Combine in February.
“We had him very high on the board,” owner Jerry Jones said. “It is definitely at a position of need. He’s an outstanding pressure player. All of that is very attractive.”
According to reports, Gregory also has mental health issues.
The Jerry Jones-led Cowboys have a history of taking chances on troubled defensive linemen, including Charles Haley, Alonzo Spellman, Dimitrius Underwood, Tank Johnson and current player Greg Hardy. Hardy has been suspended for the first 10 games of the 2015 season for violating the personal conduct policy.
The Cowboys believe they have a support system in place to help Gregory.
“We got very comfortable with our discussions with him. He communicated well with the coaches. We are comfortable with that pick,” Jones said. “If things work out, we have a support system in place for a player of his character that goes to the top of the organization. We invest a lot into that. It gives us confidence we can work through the issues that caused him to drop and help him contribute to us winning.”
Gregory, who is 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, fills a huge need on the field as a talented edge rusher. He gives the Cowboys insurance for Hardy during his absence and a long-term presence for the future.
The move certainly lifted a weight off Gregory, who agonized over his drop from the first round to a late second-round pick.
“I’m happy, I can’t put it into words how I feel right now,” Gregory said. “I’m honored to be a part of this organization.
“I accepted the fact that I might drop after what happened and whatever was going to happen was going to happen. The main thing was getting with a team that I could work with and have a great support situation. I felt this was a great spot for me and I’m glad Dallas felt the same way.”
Gregory, who had 17.5 sacks in two years at Nebraska and was named All-Big Ten in 2013 and 2014, believes the Cowboys can help him with their player support programs that have been instrumental in the maturity of receiver Dez Bryant.
He said he plans to work with Jerry Jones to put himself in the best situation to succeed. He even asked the Cowboys during his visit in April about having some type of accountability partner to help his transition to the NFL.
“I have had some bumps in the road along the way,” Gregory said. “What better guys to help me out with that than Jerry Jones, coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. They are great mentors and great leaders. It was something I mentioned. It was something I felt like I needed. It worked out because they felt the same way. It’s a great spot for me.”
Gregory said his mental health issues are no different than any other person his age and maintains he doesn’t have a problem with drugs, but rather one of decision-making. He vowed to do everything he could to stay out of trouble in Dallas.
“I’m going to have to to sit down and promise myself and not get into trouble,” Gregory said. “It’s about bad decision-making and a lot of maturing. I know I made a mistake. I can only say it so much. I really want to show these guys what I can do. I’m serious about what say. I want to show them.
“It’s been humbling. I’m going to turn this thing around. I’m going to do it big. I promise.”
Gregory was the second pick in as many rounds to address the Cowboys’ maligned defense. They picked cornerback Byron Jones with the 27th pick in the first round on Thursday.
Green fills a need for a backup swing tackle behind starters Tyron Smith and Doug Free after the departure of Jermey Parnell to Jacksonville in free agency.
Green missed his junior year at Florida with a torn labrum, but returned to start 11 games as a senior. He will serve as a backup in 2015 but will be groomed as the team’s right tackle of the future in place of Free.
“We’ve taken the best guys on our board,” Garrett said. “I think we’ve done a good job of that up to this point.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760