IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys took another step toward fortifying their defense in the second round Friday night by selecting embattled Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory with the 60th overall pick of the NFL Draft.
Gregory (6-4, 235) was one of the Cowboys' allotted national visits to Valley Ranch and many linked him to Dallas in the first round at No. 27. Instead, the club took Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones on Thursday and but quickly grabbed Gregory at No. 60 after he fell due to off-the-field concerns.
Considered one of the top edge rushers in this year's class, Gregory was a two-time All-Big Ten selection in two seasons for the Huskers, registering a combined 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss.
"We feel like Randy Gregory has demonstrated enough at the college level to be able to project him to be a guy to play right end for us and really impact the quarterback," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "The transition for any college player in the NFL is a significant one, and there will be growing pains there, but there are certainly the attributes there that he's demonstrated at the college level."
The Cowboys needed help at defensive end due to Greg Hardy's 10-game NFL suspension and their overall pass rush inconsistency last season – they ranked near the bottom of the league with 28 sacks. DeMarcus Lawrence, the club's 2014 second-round pick, and veteran Jeremy Mincey will form a solid pass rush rotation with Gregory and Hardy when he returns from his suspension that is currently being appealed.
Gregory entered the draft following his junior season as a potential high first-round pick, but his stock dropped after he admitted in an NFL.com report that he failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. The Cowboys did extensive research on Gregory's background and were satisfied that he could be a reliable teammate.
"I think anytime you look at somebody who has had a misstep, which he is quick to admit that he had at the Combine, you never know what those ramifications are," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "I don't think it was to anybody's great surprise that he fell out of the first round, but at some point you get your hands around it. That's why we brought him in here (before the draft) – to do significant and thorough due diligence on him and really get our hands around what type of person he is, what type of character he has and what we think we're going to be working with going forward."
On his official visit to Valley Ranch, Gregory said he had a "heart to heart" with Jerry Jones and left believing the Cowboys were the best fit for him. He and team officials discussed his past off-the-field troubles and the support system he would have in Dallas if drafted. He also has formed a strong friendship with Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, who has encouraged him to make better choices.
"I know I made a mistake. I know there is only so much I can say – talk is cheap sometimes," Gregory said. "I really want to show these guys what I can do and I am really serious about what I say. I gave that staff my word plenty of times and I really feel like they believe me. I can't wait to show them."