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Unexpected pass-rush help could be there for Cowboys at No. 27

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Shane Ray expected to fall in draft

ESPN NFL draft Insiders Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. explain how Shane Ray's citation for marijuana possession could hurt his draft stock and where Ray may slip to in the draft.

On Monday we offered up the NFL Nation mock draft and I selected UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks for the Dallas Cowboys even with Shane Ray on the board.

Part of my reasoning in bypassing Ray was I truly did not believe the Missouri pass-rusher would be available for the 27th pick. Now that Ray has been cited for marijuana possession, perhaps he could be there when the Cowboys pick.

Randy Gregory's failed drug test could lead him to be available when the Cowboys pick as well.

Like a lot of things in the draft, there will be some risk and reward. In the pure football evaluations, Ray and Gregory should not be available when the Cowboys pick. They are among the top-five pass-rushers available. Pass-rushers go faster than just about any position in the draft.

At the start of the draft process, Gregory was viewed as a top-five pick. In the NFL Nation mock, he lasted until No. 24. Ray is considered a top-15 prospect, however, he was available when the Cowboys picked. As I explained in the mock, I did not believe Ray would be available at No. 27. A few hours later, the news of his citation broke.

But off-field factors complicate things. The Cowboys knock players off their draft board every year for medical reasons as well as off-field concerns.

The Cowboys will have to investigate the depths of the issues of Ray and Gregory, but they might be able to find a value at No. 27 they never thought imaginable.

The Cowboys capitalized on a similar opportunity this offseason when they signed Greg Hardy. Without his domestic violence issues, he never would have been allowed to hit the open market by the Carolina Panthers. And if they did, the Cowboys never would have gotten him on a one-year deal that could end up costing a little bit more than $5 million in cap space if his 10-game suspension holds.

The Cowboys expected Hardy to be penalized by the league and were willing to deal with the circumstances later.

Ray and Gregory come with flags that could leave them one step closer to NFL sanctions as they enter the league, but finding a pass-rusher with that ability where they are picking in the draft might be worth the potential reward.