Randy Gregory Failed Drug Test at Combine; Should Vikings Take Him If He Slides?


Once upon a time a Minnesota Vikings coach named Dennis Green had the opportunity to draft a very talented but very troubled defensive lineman named Warren Sapp, but passed on Sapp and instead drafted a less-troubled but also less-talented defensive lineman named Derrick Alexander.

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I don’t need to tell you how that worked out, do I? While Warren Sapp would go on to a Hall of Fame career mostly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Derrick Alexander would go on to be remembered as one of the biggest draft busts in Vikings history.

How would Vikings history be different if Dennis Green had overlooked Warren Sapp’s red flags, including several alleged failed drug tests, and taken him instead of Derrick Alexander? It’s a question fans still ask to this day.

Many fans will have Green’s decision on their minds as they ponder this year’s version of Warren Sapp, Nebraska OLB/DE Randy Gregory.

Though Gregory’s reported transgressions do not quite rise to the level of Sapp’s (Warren supposedly failed several cocaine and marijuana tests, though there are questions about the validity of the reports, which were suspiciously released just hours before the draft), Gregory does now carry a large red flag after failing a marijuana test at the combine.

Gregory is trying to soften the blow to his draft stock by getting out in front of the controversy and admitting to the failed test, which he learned about a couple weeks ago. Though it looks bad that he put himself in such a position – it’s not like players don’t know they’ll be tested at the combine – Gregory insists he doesn’t have a problem with pot (via NFL.com):

"“I don’t wake up every day saying, I’d really love to go smoke,” he said. “It’s not a struggle for me every day (now), it really isn’t. In the past, hell yeah, it’s been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I’m focused on my dream.”"

Gregory gets points for being open and honest about the failed test, but the fact still remains, he failed a drug test at the combine and will now be re-evaluated by teams. Before the failed test, the freakishly athletic Gregory was seen as a potential top-5 selection. Will the failed test be enough to cause a slide down the draft for the former Nebraska Cornhuskers star and noted mutilator of tackling dummies?

Though it’s true there are many players who partake of marijuana without it affecting their on-field lives, there have also been cases in recent years of players who had their careers derailed because they just couldn’t put down the weed. Josh Gordon is the most glaring example of a player who entered the league with substance-related red flags galore and went on to confirm everyone’s worst fears.

The Gordon situation may make some teams squeamish about spending a high pick on Gregory, despite his obvious talent. If Gregory does somehow manage to slide all the way out of the top 10 because of this, the Vikings at 11 will have to make their own call.

We have no way of knowing where Gregory was on the Vikings’ board before the failed test, but we do know Vikings DC George Edwards was on hand for Nebraska pro day and met “extensively” with the player. As things sat before news of the failed test, it seemed highly unlikely the Vikes would have their chance to grab Gregory without a trade up. But now? And would the Vikes be willing to pull the trigger even if Gregory makes it to 11?

We do know that Mike Zimmer has taken chances on talented but troubled players in the past. At Cincinnati, he took a shot with Vontaze Burfict and turned Burfict into a Pro Bowl linebacker. But of course Burfict was a relatively low-risk proposition once he tumbled out of the draft and could be had as a UDFA. Taking a man with the #11 overall pick is a whole other deal. The risk-reward calculation here is as tricky as it gets.

If you do get Randy Gregory,  you get a player CBSSports.com calls potentially elite.

"Compares To: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers — With the same combination of length and explosiveness to terrorize quarterbacks, Gregory has elite potential. A 4-3 defensive end for the Cornhuskers, he has the agility, speed and awareness to get home out of the two-point stance if a move to outside linebacker is required."

One scout said this about Gregory’s potential to develop into a dominating player (via NFL.com):

"“He’s super raw, but those physical tools are through the roof. That’s why you pay coaches.” — NFC scouting director"

And he destroyed that dummy. Just crushed it.

Just as Dennis Green had to make a call on Warren Sapp, Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman may have to make a call on Randy Gregory. Given Zimmer’s history, it would not be a surprise to see the Vikings take a chance on Gregory if he slides. If the Vikings do pass on a tumbling Gregory and he goes on to realize all his great potential for someone else? Then Denny Green will have company in the Vikings Draft Day Hall of Shame.

Next: Taylor Mays Likely to Take On Rover Role for Mike Zimmer

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