It’s rare for a player who stays four years in college to have so much talent in his game. Eric Gray is my RB10 in the running back class, and we need to notice him more. Gray has some interesting skills that can adapt to the NFL level as long as he can work on his areas of improvement. Let’s dive deep into Gray as a 2023 prospect.
- College: Oklahoma
- Height: 5’9.5″
- Weight: 207 lbs.
- Hand Size: 9 3/4″
- Age: 23
- Year: Senior
- Draft Projection: 4th
High School And Personal Life
Gray played his high school ball at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis. He was one of Tennessee’s best high school running backs, showing great durability and consistency. He would be the first-ever three-time Mr. Tennessee award winner, a big honor. Gray rushed for 7,800 yards and 123 rushing touchdowns in three seasons as a high school starter. He had at least 100 games in 12 games each season, and at most, they played 12 to 14 games a year. Gray dealt with a bit of fumbling issues, seeing 15 fumbles over his four seasons and losing six. He would commit to playing his college ball at the University of Tennessee.
Gray started his career in Tennessee, where he, unfortunately, dealt with two terrible Volunteer offenses in 2019 and 2020. While he did not get the starting job as a freshman, he broke the all-time rushing record in the game at 294 yards. He would go on in his sophomore season to force Ty Chandler to move to UNC as he took over as the lead back. He would produce just over 1,000 all-purpose yards in that season but could not reach a 1,000-yard rushing season. Gray would enter the transfer portal to Oklahoma following the firing of Jeremy Pruitt after dealing with some recruiting volitions.
Gray had to wait his turn in Oklahoma as he was behind an Oklahoma all-star in Kennedy Brooks but managed his Junior season to produce almost 700 all-purpose yards. In 2022 as a Senior, Gray got the starting job and ran with it. He had nearly 1,600 all-purpose yards and double-digit TDs. He was one of the few bright spots on this Sooners team. I was also excited to see that he saw two seasons over 30 receptions, as we’ll talk more later about his value in the receiving game.
Change of Direction & Outstanding Cuts
Gray’s ability to move quickly on the field is fun to watch. On film, he made impressive cuts to find the right hole to gain each yard when things looked bad. He has the quickness and IQ to change direction when pressure comes towards his project running lane. He comes off with an incredible lateral burst that excites you to see him as a runner on an NFL team.
Creative in Space
Along with Gray’s ability to cut very well, he is creative in space in the open field. His ability to change direction and cut leads him into an open area. You’ll see on film that Gray can be very creative in space and make moves that lead to big plays. It also works on passing plays with screens and dump-offs that get Gray in an area to show off his talent well. He can manipulate tacklers with his body language to force missed tackles and find openings to pull big plays.
One talent that can translate perfectly for his future role is in the passing game. Gray is a receiving threat and showed each year when he was the guy that he could be valuable. He saw two seasons of 30-plus receptions, and the average receptions for a college running back falls in that 60 to 70 range. Gray hit triple digits in his four years in college. He took the majority of the receptions in Oklahoma’s backfield, and at Tennessee, he took a significant role in the passing game as the backup guy. He could be a 40 to 50 reception player at the NFL level.
Areas of Concern
One of the downfalls is that Gray is a below-average blocker. Being a poor blocker is not great for pass-catching running backs since it could limit their play on the field. It’s primarily due to his smaller frame, which defensive ends could bulldoze right on over. Gray does try but gets beat by great players more consistently. His ability to process blitz pick-up can be very inconsistent on film.
Power & Contact Balance
Gray is considered more of a twitchy player that can make defenders miss, but he isn’t one to show off power. For being a very competitive runner, Gray doesn’t show off too much power when being tackled. He inconsistency was unable to drive through the first contact that approached him. The NFL is bigger and faster, so Gray could have issues breaking tackles and gaining extra yards that way. Not sure Gray will be in many goal-line situations unless it involves him running a route out wide.
I hate to use Age as a concern, but it is for Gray. He’ll be 24 years old in November, which puts him at a disadvantage. If he signs a rookie contract, he’ll likely be heading toward 28 by the time he receives a new contract. Not a primary concern, but it does limit his long-term value if he is to make it in the NFL.
Projected Draft Capital & Role
Gray is currently projected in the fourth round of the NFL draft with the NFL Mock Draft Database. He can serve as a 1B role for a team. He can be in a 50/50 split and see more of the receiving work in an offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gray has a quieter rookie season and follows it up with a breakout sophomore season. The good teams that could use his services are the Bears and the Commanders. These situations would likely make Gray see a minimal role but take a leap in year two.
Dynasty Rookie Value
I’m interested to see where Gray would go. Fourth-round capital makes much sense for his talent, but we’ll see. I’m nervous he could go later than round four, so that could destroy his value. If he is selected in that round-four range, he’ll likely be a third-round pick and could be a late second if the right team grabs him. He has a good dynasty value as a bench piece that could eventually become a weekly flex option.
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