The New York Giants selected Oklahoma running back Eric Gray with the 172nd pick in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Giants' long-term solution at running back remains uncertain, with star RB Saquon Barkley unsigned through the 2023 season; Barkley has yet to sign his franchise tag.
Gray started his college career at the University of Tennessee but transferred to Oklahoma after Jeremey Pruitt was fired. Gray attended Lausanne High School in Memphis, Tenn., where helped his school win a state championship in his sophomore season by rushing for 2,251 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Lausanne High School won the state title in the subsequent year, and Gray was voted Tennessee Mr. Football for three consecutive seasons and Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year twice. His high school success led to a four-star rating, and plenty of schools were interested in his skills.
In his true freshman season with the Volunteers, Gray led the team in rushing touchdowns before leading the team in rushing in the COVID-shortened season of 2020. He transferred to Oklahoma and led the Big-12 in yards per rush (6.4 YPC) while leading the Sooners in rushing yards with 1,366.
Gray was unimpressive at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. His vertical jump, short shuttle, and ten-yard-split were good, but his 4.62 40-yard dash was an issue. Unfortunately, the lack of long speed and second gear is evident on tape. Here’s my scouting report on Gray:
- Excellent short-area athletic ability (Change of direction, lateral agility)
- Very good explosiveness off the cut
- Fluid in his lower-body
- Quicker than fast - good initial burst
- Very sudden and instinctive - makes defenders look silly
- Juke fake is impressive - stays low, sells the move, burst out of the plant
- Very elusive in tight spaces - slippery - can make alley defenders whiff
- Above average spin and balance recollection on the outside
- Runs low - low center of gravity presents tough targets for defenders
- Had 58 missed tackles forced - ranked 23rd in the FBS - 11th among draft-eligible RBs
- Excellent vision and decisiveness when square to LOS
- Good overall spatial awareness when approaching the LOS
- Good job reacting to LB flow and finding cut-back lanes
- Gets skinny through narrow alleys - efficient feet
- Can run through arm tackles - solid overall contact balance
- Functional inside and outside the tackles as a runner
- Has receiving upside (99 career catches)
- Willing and smart blitz pickup - not the strongest, but can get in the way
- Three down upside
- Smaller frame
- Had five career fumbles
- Most of his runs were out of the SG
- Lacks breakaway speed
- Modest overall acceleration when he opens his stride
- Isn’t a pile mover - adequate power at the tackle point
- Frame hinders blocking upside
- Wasn’t a huge problem in his profile, but he would get too cute at times instead of planting his foot in the ground and taking what was available.
What Gray lacks in breakaway speed is made up for with his instincts and short-area athletic ability. Gray is not an easy player to target or tackle when defenders have him squared up; his low running style, combined with his short stature, presents a difficult task for defenders because Gray’s excellent instincts and slipperiness allow him to evade and force tough tackle attempts.
He lacks breakaway speed and will get tracked down; he’s physical, but he won’t bully defenders with strength at the next level. He is a decisive - smart - runner who does a good job finding holes and making players miss in the alley. He would make a good change of pace back for Saquon Barkley with the upside to form part of a solid committee if Barkley leaves after the 2023 season.
Please enjoy our video on what Eric Gray can offer the Giants through his rookie contract: