From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Oklahoma running back Eric Gray.
#0 Eric Gray, Oklahoma (Senior) — 5094, 207 LBs
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Eric Gray||5094, 207||9 3/4″||29 5/8″||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
-Very decisive runner with great initial burst to get upfield
-Elusive runner in a phone booth; has high-end spatial awareness
-Understands his role in pass protection and uses good power at point of attack
-Good contact balance for his size
-Impressive vision that allows him to find space as a runner
-Despite ability to hit occasionally hit a home run, he is a disciplined runner who knows how to set up defenses
-Tremendous ball security
-Lacks that true home run ability due to concerns about long speed
-Not much of a power threat; profiles as more of a change-of-pace guy
-Spent a lot of time in a split backfield at Oklahoma; never really showed ability to be a workhorse back
-Limited route tree as receiver; won’t create much after the catch
-Has the want-to in pass pro, but technique needs major work
-Played in 47 career games between Oklahoma and Tennessee, starting 22
-Finished career with 3,089 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 549 carries; added 99 receptions for 827 yards and five touchdowns
-Turned in career year in 2022, rushing for 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns on 213 carries; led Big 12 in yards per carry
-Named second-team All-Big 12 by league coaches and AP
– First-team Academic All-Big 12 in 2022
-Named one of three recipients of program’s coveted Don Key Award (presented for excellence on and off the field)
-Transferred from Tennessee to Oklahoma for 2021 season
-Former 4-star recruit who stayed home at Tennessee as a Memphis native; was the No. 2 running back in the country
-Father, Eric, played running back at Tennessee State; uncle, Michael Hall, played running back at Ohio State
The No. 2 running back in the country entering the collegiate ranks and thought of as the next big thing in the SEC, Eric Gray had quite an interesting career in college, which saw him spend two years at Tennessee and his final two years at Oklahoma.
Often stuck in a timeshare, Gray finally got a crack at the top job in 2022 at Oklahoma and turned in a career year. He rushed for 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns on 213 carries, leading the Big 12 in yards per carry (6.4) while sitting 14th nationally with the mark.
Though it took him four years to truly tap into his high-level potential, it came at a great time for the Memphis native as he enters the 2023 NFL Draft on a high note.
While questions remain about his ability to be a true workhorse running back, he does profile as three-down capable with high-end elusiveness and vision, making him a dangerous threat anytime he touches the football.
Here against Texas in 2021, Gray shows off that vision and overall patience between the tackles. Really good job of planting his left foot in the turf and getting vertical quickly in the backfield. He does a terrific job of setting up his block, forcing the defender to pick a side. That allows his lineman to seal off the hole for Gray to pick through and get into the second level.
Once in the second level he’s able to show off his spatial awareness with a good late spin move to avoid a tackle, adding yardage to the run.
I really like the vision Gray consistently shows as a runner. He is patient and has good eyes behind the line of scrimmage. He changes the tempo in his runs to let things set up before hitting the cutback.
Watch the work he does here against Texas again in 2021. Good flow initially to get defenders sliding to their left, allowing blocks to set up well before he plants his right foot and hits the cutback for the big gain. Like the way he finishes the run with power, too. It’s not a big part of his game but he runs well behind his pads.
Gray is really slippery as a runner and is really at his best as that elusive runner when in a phone booth. He changes directions with ease and glides in and out of cuts, even when in close. He’s an explosive player overall.
This rep against Tulane in 2021 was the best I saw from Gray as a runner through two seasons. This should have been a loss on the play, but he’s able to get skinny in the hole and make defenders miss in tight, creating a positive run on his own after the blocking broke down at the snap.
Here against Oregon in 2021 in the Alamo Bowl, Gray again shows off that vision and ability to be a one-cut runner. He stretches out the read option just enough to get Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell to commit downhill. That sets up perfectly for Gray. Watch the plant and cut to get vertical and slip inside Sewell for the forced missed tackle, and then the vision to cut it back and try to get back across the defense in pursuit.
Gray is a very decisive runner. He consistently gets downhill and picks up the yardage that is there, rather than trying to dance and always hit the splash play. Linemen respect that and like blocking for those types of runners. This was a good show of that against Oregon in the bowl game.
Quick eyes and good vision to bounce this one and then finishes strong downhill. He doesn’t have the biggest frame and isn’t all that powerful, but he holds up well at the contact point.
His ability to make defenders miss in space is quite fun to watch. He’s so explosive in and out of his cuts and changes direction with such ease that he’s a major handful for defenders one on one in space.
The one area of concern with Gray is in pass protection.
He certainly has the want-to and plays with good power overall in those situations. But his technique is all over the place and he doesn’t always stay square in pass pro. That said, this was a strong rep against Tulane in 2021.
Good eyes to identify the support inside between the guard and tackle, but then has the awareness to peel off and pick up the late blitzer to give his quarterback time to throw. You don’t have to worry about getting him to be willing; it’s all about correcting his technique at the next level, which is easier said than done.
While he might not reach the heights that was expected from a top-100 player coming out of high school and the No. 2 running back in the country, Gray looks like he has a long, productive career ahead of him in a split backfield. He’s an elusive running back that can make defenders miss in a phone booth with impressive agility and explosion and top-notch spatial awareness. He has good vision overall to sift through traffic and find green grass.
Gray’s not going to rip off many home runs as his long speed is a concern, and he’s rather limited as a route runner overall — at least in terms of what Oklahoma asked him to do. He profiles as a solid change-of-pace No. 2 running back at the next level and could potentially work his way into a leading NFL role. like he did his final season at Oklahoma.
Projection: Mid-Day 3 (5th Round)
Depot Draft Grade: 6.7 Backup/Special Teamer
Games Watched: Tulane (2021), Texas (2021), Baylor (2021), Oregon (2021), Baylor (2022), Texas (2022), Iowa State (2022), TCU (2022)