featured image via ESPN[dropcap style=”normal or inverse or boxed”]A[/dropcap]t this point in time, I believe Randy Gregory is the best EDGE player in the draft. I would not be surprised if he were my highest rated player in the entire class. However, there seems to be a split on Gregory. While it’s clear which side I am on, I can also see the other side. To begin, Gregory has the label of being a one year wonder as well as being injury prone. The former doesn’t concern me, and the latter is something that would be a foolish endeavor for me to try and factor into my evaluation.
With that being said, if you told me I was wrong and that Gregory was a bust in a few years, I’d say it likely was a result of plays like the following:
Perhaps the most off-putting part of Gregory’s game is frequently seeing a delay between the snap and his get off. The ultimate result of any EDGE vs OT battle is swung heavily to one side around the pass rusher’s third step. Thus any hesitation, especially a sizable one, is extraordinarily detrimental. The other thing to take away from the previous GIF is something that you can likely surmise by looking at Gregory’s body type, specifically his lower half. Gregory is just simply not very strong. You’ll see that the OT’s right hand actually grabs far out of Gregory’s framework and that the OT’s balance, pad level, and coordination are so poor that he’s actually hopping on one foot at some point. This is an extraordinarily advantageous situation for Gregory, but he failed to generate the necessary power to take advantage.
Anyone who points out these flaws isn’t “overscouting”, as there are too many plays like the one above on the Gregory tape that I’ve seen. So why am I confident in Gregory? Look at the following two GIFs
The first GIF has Gregory lining up in a more current RDE position, while the second GIF has him lining up in a stance you’d see from a 34 OLB. He certainly doesn’t look slow off the ball to me. In fact, I think Gregory actually has a very good first step. Most of the struggles off the ball that I’ve seen from Gregory result in his alignment and head positioning. There are many instances in which Gregory lined up “heads up” or directly in front of an offensive tackle, or with a slight outside shade. Further, in these instances, I noticed that Gregory’s head/eyes seemed to lock forward on the OT’s chest. Simply put, this isn’t something Gregory will be doing much in the NFL.
As a traditional weakside EDGE, Gregory will be playing at a wider technique with a head tilt focused on the movement of the football as opposed to the OT. Once again, as the prior 2 GIFs show, Gregory is quite explosive and dynamic from that set of circumstances.
In my estimation, the tighter alignments may have been a good thing for Gregory’s development. You’d always prefer for a player to start in close and then move out wide. Why? Because everything happens so much faster in the inside. One of the most impressive things I’ve noticed from Gregory is his hand placement; it is absolutely pristine. Gregory consistently hits offensive tackles square in their chest plate and works to jack them up. Gregory most certainly needs to develop a stronger lower half, but note the force that he’s able to generate from lining up in a more fitting alignment; thus firing off with explosion, and aiming point/technique.
Next, Gregory has extremely impressive hand usage and an inside swim move. Starting with the hand usage, it seems to come very easily for Gregory. It’s all centered on his aiming point and understanding of leverage, but he’s skilled with his hand usage, and he makes fast reactions. The following GIF is an example.
The interior swim move really needs no explanation. It’s an extremely effective move in order to exploit mistakes by the offensive tackle and finding the shorter path to the quarterback if it is presented. This move was made popular by Jadeveon Clowney last year. Now while Gregory doesn’t have Clowney’s raw power, explosion, or closing speed, you can see how it can be an extremely effective move.
As an aside, having a variety of extraordinary pass rushing moves is perhaps the most overrated trait for an EDGE rusher. The objective is getting to the quarterback as fast as possible. If an EDGE player can create enough energy around the third step (as I had previously mentioned), while knowing how to use his hands, it is infinitely more valuable than a player showcasing a swim, push pull, spin, etc. at various times. The fact that Gregory has “one-move” isn’t concerning because of his other traits.
Finishing up, Gregory also possesses some of the best balance I’ve seen from an edge player recently. Balance is something that is often overlooked for a pass rusher, but it’s tremendously important in running the arc. The following GIF showcases Gregory’s unreal balance. Him being able to successfully move forward despite the cut block attempt by the LT is impressive enough, but the ability to contort his body to avoid the LG’s attempt is otherworldly.
In conclusion, Gregory does have some things to work on. Although his aiming points and understanding of leverage helps mitigate the issue, he simply must get stronger. Further, Gregory’s lack of snap awareness cannot be solely attributed to his alignment, but I do think it played a major factor.
If you tell me Randy Gregory fails, I’d tell you I had a pretty good idea of why. If Randy Gregory becomes the future Pro Bowler I think he is, I just told you why.