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View from the O-Zone: Gregory a versatile, special talent


LINCOLN, Neb. – Randy Gregory did what he wanted Thursday.

He did what he needed to do, and showed what he wanted to show, and if it's difficult to know how much Gregory really, truly helped himself at the University of Nebraska's Pro Day … well, that's pretty much the nature of the whole pre-draft experience.

Where will Gregory be drafted? What is his stock?

That, of course, is the question around Gregory – just as it's the question around most of the high-profile draftable players who started holding Pro Days this month and who will hold many more on college campuses near and remote from now until early April.

Is it a little more of a question for Gregory than most?

Probably, because in recent weeks the player once considered a likely Top 3 selection in the 2015 NFL Draft has done some darting and shifting on draft boards – the ones consumed publicly, anyway.

But that wasn't what he was discussing Thursday afternoon. One reason is he really doesn't know his stock and he sure can't control it.

Another reason was he had another subject on his mind.

He wants to show the NFL world he is versatile.

He wants to show that world he can do more than rush the passer, something he does as well as any player in the draft. He wants to show he can play linebacker, which means playing the run, dropping into coverage and just being an all-around good defensive player. He wants to show he can play strong-side backer in a 4-3 if necessary – and yeah, if he needs to put his hand on the ground and play 4-3 end …

Well, he can do whatever's needed. That's his pre-draft message.

"I want to get to the point where any team, be it a (team with a) 3-4 or a 4-3 (defense), feels comfortable enough to take me," Gregory said.

So, instead of running a 40-yard dash at the Pro Day – and instead of doing bench-press repetitions – he focused on linebacker-oriented drills, work that showed his ability to drop in coverage, his agility, foot quickness.

And make no mistake:

Gregory looked good in this drills. Really good.

He was quick, agile – and yes, physically impressive. Gregory on Thursday ran and worked shirtless. Considering the nine-degree low and frigid winds Thursday morning in Lincoln, this would have been insane outside the insanely first-class Hawks Championship Indoor Center. Inside, it was perfectly normal. Still, had he worn an overcoat you would have seen the difference in him and anyone else working Thursday.

He's special, with special ability.

A scout watching him Thursday from a team selecting far too late in the first round to select him called Gregory the best pass rusher in the draft. He also said the questions about Gregory – his 238-pound frame, his ability to play the run – would prove unfounded.

"He's just going to get better," the scout said.

That tells you a couple of things. One is Gregory is pretty much locked in as a Top 10 selection, something he has been considered pretty much since scouts and analysts started considering the NFL Draft.

Another is that all the talk of Gregory slipping after the NFL Scouting Combine?

Well, it may have been just that. Talk.

You heard there were questions about his size, that he had trouble keeping weight on while at Nebraska, that the 235 pounds he weighed at the combine was a concern. There was also speculation that he had been disappointed with his 4.68 40 time, and that he wanted to run faster at the Pro Day.

There was also an odd question about his strength, with ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., noting after the combine that although Gregory repped the 225-bench press 24 times he played like he benched 15 repetitions.

Gregory opted against running and lifting Thursday, and afterward, there was the obligatory refuting and respinning of such pre-draft talk, with Gregory's agent – Deryk Gilmore – saying, "I think you have to put all this underwear stuff away and go back and watch the film."

At this point with Gregory that seems the best idea. At this point, too, it's taking on the feel of much ado about nothing – or at least a lot less ado than maybe we thought in the wake of the combine.

Is he a riser? Is he a faller?

He was the first during the season and he has been at least a smidge of the second since the combine – but only a smidge. He was projected by many as the No. 3 overall selection to the Jaguars before the combine. Now, Dante Fowler, Jr., of Florida is the consensus selection for the Jaguars. Gregory? There seems little thought now that he will slip too far, certainly not out of the Top 10, maybe not out of the Top 5.

That's the nature of the pre-draft process in the Twitter age. Gregory said Thursday it doesn't bother him, and that it's pretty much what someone in his position can expect.

So, what did Thursday mean for Gregory? More than anything Pro Days allow scouts to verify what they know, and the ones watching Thursday saw a player with special ability. Gregory absolutely showed that much, and got to show the versatility, too.

What that really, truly means for his stock we'll learn in seven weeks.

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