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2024 IDP Rookie Profile: Cedric Gray, LB

@Glosser13 brings you the breakdown of UNC linebacker Cedric Gray!

The Player

  • Cedric Gray
  • College: North Carolina
  • Height: 6’1 ½”
  • Weight: 234 lbs.
  • Age: 21 (October 30, 2002)
  • Arm: 32 ½”
  • Hand: 9”
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.64
  • 10-Yard Split: 1.59
  • Vertical Jump: 35.5”
  • Broad Jump: 10’ 0”

High School

Cedric Gray is a native of Fort Washington, Maryland, where he grew up playing football and basketball. His path to sports greatness was instilled in him at a young age, as he is credited with scoring a game-winning touchdown as an 8-year-old boy. Just a few years later, Gray and his family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he attended Ardrey Kell High School.

Gray was a two-sport high school athlete and a two-way football field player. He was a very successful offensive weapon at WR before switching to defense over his final two seasons. Gray had over 140+ receptions, 2,400+ yards, and 27 touchdowns as a WR. He collected 130 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and three interceptions over his junior and senior seasons. Gray was a three-year team captain who was named Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was rated as a four-star recruit by 247sports and the number 10 player in North Carolina in the 2020 recruiting class. 

College 

Gray would not find instant success as he enrolled at North Carolina. He spent most of his true freshman season as a special teams player. That would not last long as the young linebacker moved into a starting role in his second season. The North Carolina linebacker would finish fourth in the ACC in tackles in his first year as a starter. He recorded 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. He finished with double-digit tackles in five of his last eight games, averaging 10.12 tackles per game. 

The North Carolina Tar Heels recruited a special talent in Gray. He would collect 266 tackles over his next two seasons. Gray finished in the top two in the ACC in his final two seasons in total tackles. He was also no stranger to impact plays, and Gray finished with six sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries over his final two seasons. The UNC linebacker was a tackling machine, evident by his career tackling numbers. He finished his career 11th overall in the ACC in solo tackles (198) and 7th in total tackles (368).

Strengths

Production

Gray has been one of this year’s class’s most productive college linebackers. He had the best production score of any linebacker who attended the NFL Combine this off-season. He was rewarded for his play on the field, coming off back-to-back seasons being ranked as an All-ACC First Team selection.

As an IDP manager, you are looking for a player who can fill up the stat sheet and score you fantasy points you just found your guy. Gray has compiled 18 impact plays to go along with 266 tackles over his last two seasons. This player has delivered big plays at every level of football he’s played in his life. He should be expected to continue that trend as an NFL player.

Gray understands the game and angles very well. He never seems to be out of a play and rarely disappoints when he is playing active and aggressive. He’s not the most instinctive player, but he makes the play for his defense when he commits and gets downhill. I love how Gray never gets flat-footed on this play and can read the combination of the running back and offensive line to diagnose this play. He can see where this play is going before the lineman gets downfield and blocks him. Gray turns what could be an easy first down into a tackle for loss. His range and speed help him tremendously when he can dial in on a ball carrier. This will benefit him tremendously at the next level. 

Effort and Motor

The most successful defensive players in the NFL have a relentless motor, and it’s rare not to see them giving effort on every play. Gray fits the mold; his effort can never be questioned. Gray has played over 2500 snaps for the Tar Heels over his past three seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, he tied for 14th with 41 run stops in 2023. Gray was also one of seven linebackers in this class with a coverage grade of 85 or higher. 

Not too many plays throughout Gray’s career show effort as much as this one. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a blitzer, although he has some productive sack numbers. Gray does an excellent job here, forcing the quarterback into the pocket with an impressive swim move on the running back. I love how he doesn’t give up here and tracks the QB down to get the sack.

Often, when you are ten yards deep in the backfield, it’s easy to give up on a play. Gray never seems to do that but finds his way back to football and creates a big play. As a dynasty manager or NFL general manager, you love to see plays like this from a college linebacker. 

Development Opportunities 

Missed Tackles

The high-volume tacklers tend to get a little bit of a pass because of how productive they can be. However, Gray still has some improvements to make in that area. Pro Football Focus has Gray missing 57 tackles over his past three seasons. He had a 14.6% missed tackle rate in 2023. He is a player who is always around the ball, and he’s collected over 95+ tackles in each of his last three seasons.

Gray will just need to improve in this area if he’s going to play a three-down role in the NFL. He has been more successful as a chase-down tackler rather than a player who can take on a block and make a stop in the hole. I’m hopeful that with some coaching and the use of leverage, he can make a big improvement in this area. 

Landing Spot 

The linebacker position in the NFL is crucial to a successful defense. Few teams have the luxury of having an LB who can play all three downs and be the signal caller for their defense. Gray has the potential to be a good NFL player and have a long career in the right system.

Three teams that could be solid landing spots for him are the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, and Tennessee Titans. These teams all need more depth at the LB position. Gray is more than likely an early day-three pick in the NFL draft but should have an opportunity to compete. IDP managers would love to see him in a situation where he can compete for snaps as a rookie and potentially provide instant value to their dynasty teams. 

Fantasy Outlook 

Traditionally, rookie linebackers could take some time to develop into reliable fantasy producers. A player who comes with the production scores like Gray could surprise us. Landing spot and draft capital will play a huge role in deciding how productive he can be as a rookie. IDP managers can improve their teams significantly by selecting the right players in the late rounds of the rookie draft. That has proven true in all of my years playing dynasty fantasy football.

Gray has some Denzel Perryman vibes about him, and if he can use his speed and aggressiveness to tackle anything that moves, he could be a reliable fantasy asset. IDP managers should keep a close eye on where he ends up after the draft this weekend. 

The Wrap-up 

We have officially made it to the finish line my fellow IDP nerds. It’s been a long off-season, but our ‘off-season Super Bowl’ is officially here this week. The NFL draft is so close, and we finally get to put players on a team and change their values for the 100th time. It’s a very exciting time of year for dynasty managers and one of the many reasons we play this crazy game. I hope this year’s collection of IDP rookie profiles has been enjoyable to you all. We look forward to bringing you updated rankings and profiles as the off-season continues. 


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