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Will RB Eric Gray be a factor for the Giants this year?

Gray has path to playing time as backup for Saquon Barkley

NFL Combine
Eric Gray
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

With Saquon Barkley’s contract situation still not sorted out, the New York Giants have a bit of an uncertain future at running back. New York likely did not find Barkley’s potential replacement by taking Eric Gray in the fifth round of this year’s draft, but they did select a player with the skillset to play every down.

As we head into training camp and the preseason, we’ll get a better idea of how Gray will function in the Giants’ offense. Could he become a real contributor this year? Or just another late-round running back that doesn’t pan out?

By the numbers

Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 210
Age: 23
Position: Running back
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Year 1 of four-year, $4.1 million rookie deal | 2023 cap hit: $811,245

Career to date

Gray started his college career with Tennessee in 2019 as a teammate of fellow Giants rookie Jalin Hyatt. He led the team with 772 rushing yards as a sophomore before entering the transfer portal. He departed for Oklahoma, mainly to work with Dallas Cowboys star DeMarco Murray as his running backs coach.

Gray broke out during his senior year at Oklahoma. He put up 1,366 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He also had 229 receiving yards.

Murray praised Gray’s receiving skills and work ethic in an interview with the Giants.

“Eric, since the first day I spoke with him, he’s always had a pro mentality. He’s always been very mature, always been an extremely hard work working kid with a great mindset,” Murray said. “Eric’s been a great, great person to work with, a tremendous athlete for us, great leader for me. But also, a guy that I knew every day coming to this building, he was one guy I never had to worry about.”

The Giants selected Gray in the fifth round of this year’s draft, No. 172 overall. He was the 11th running back off the board.

Pro Football Network had him ranked as a top-five running back in the draft and had this to say in his evaluation:

At 5’10”, 210 pounds, Gray is very compact and well-leveraged. That build helps him work through and withstand contact. But beyond that, he’s also a very smooth runner in short areas, with the lateral burst, loose hips, twitch, and anticipatory instincts to set up defenders and capitalize on vacated space.

Gray is a smart runner who has the athleticism to control space. And on top of that, he’s also a very strong receiving threat with utility at multiple levels. He’s not quite as explosive or as fast as other top-end RB prospects. But regardless, Gray has ideal three-down utility.

2023 outlook

Depending on how he performs in training camp and the preseason, Gray could potentially begin the season as the Giants’ third running back behind Saquon Barkley and Matt Breida. But it’s still likely that Gary Brightwell will be ahead of him on the depth chart to start.

Gray’s speed could present an issue; he ran just a 4.62 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He’ll also turn 24 years old in November, even though he’s a rookie. But with his receiving and pass protection skills, he could develop into a legitimate second option behind Barkley.

The hope is that Gray is well-rounded enough to take some pressure off Barkley as an every-down player, or potentially be part of a committee depending on how much longer Barkley is in New York.