RUNNING BACK, OKLAHOMA, NFL DRAFT ELIGIBLE IN 2022
Eric Gray is a 5’10” 205 lbs. running back that was a former four-star recruit. He was 247’s 13th-ranked running back in the 2019 class and the 5th ranked player from Tennessee. Gray was floated offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, Miami, Stanford, Texas A&M, and many others. He committed to Michigan before ultimately pulling out and opting to stay in his home state and attend Tennessee.
PAST PRODUCTION (COLLEGE STATS)
Gray began his career at Tennessee in impressive fashion, sharing the backfield before breaking out late in the season. He finished with 539 rushing yards and 115 receiving yards with 5 total TDs as a true freshman. This past season, he led the Vols with 772 yards and scored four TDs on 157 carries. He tacked on 30 receptions for 254 more yards and two TDs, eclipsing 1000 scrimmage yards. Gray was featured as a player on the rise in your author’s weekly draft stock seasonal article in October.
After enduring the perils of the Tennessee Volunteer football program, Eric Gray entered the transfer portal six weeks ago. Seven days later he had transferred to Oklahoma. Gray looks to add to his resume and production his junior year in Norman. His 1,727 all-purpose yards to date could be achieved in just one season within the Sooners’ potent offensive attack–especially when you consider the transition from SEC to Big-12 competition.
The former three-time Mr. Tennessee Football and two-time Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year brings elusiveness, speed, and versatility to the Sooners’ backfield.
If a normal person tried to cut like Eric Gray they would tear every ligament in their knee. pic.twitter.com/MlfT8d5j2a
— Austin Burlage (@Power_T_Tape) May 2, 2020
He is an instinctual player that makes things happen when he gets to the second level of the defense. Gray’s in-line speed is good, but his acceleration and short-area quickness separates him from his RB peers.
He's not as big, but Tennessee freshman RB Eric Gray has some D'Andre Swift in his game with his ability to hit the dead leg and then explode into space.
Kid has some skills. pic.twitter.com/xoJQdm2HMd
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) January 3, 2020
Gray immediately becomes the best RB in the Sooners’ backfield. His competition for touches will come from former starter Kennedy Brooks and last season’s exciting freshman Seth McGowan. Brookes, who opted-out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19, does have two 1,000 yard seasons on his resume. McGowan showed his big-play potential last season but struggled to stay healthy. Neither player offers what Gray does in terms of athleticism, speed, or even as a receiver.
While it may take a few games for Gray to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates, expect him to eventually earn the lion’s share of backfield touches. Moreover, consider the Sooners’ offensive firepower with returning QB Spencer Rattler, the speedy receivers on the outside, and four of five starters from last season’s top-ten ranked (per PFF) offensive line. Eric Gray could realistically surpass his current collegiate career production in the 2021 season alone. To date, Gray has been durable and consistent. Expect his accolades to rise, and his draft capital along with it, throughout 2021.
What’s the outlook for the next 3-5 years?
Your author has Eric Gray currently ranked as the number four RB of the 2022 class, with the potential to rise as high as number two. If everything clicks in the Sooners’ offense, Gray could be in line for a historic season. Barring a significant injury next year, he should declare for the NFL Draft in 2022 to avoid an already loaded 2023 RB class. Gray is an effective receiver in addition to his game-breaking rushing ability. However, he needs to learn to finish runs with physicality and run with more power. He could also benefit from some added mass, to ensure he will see more touches at the next level.
It may already be too late, now that his landing spot is widely known, but a devy owner that believes in Gray should try to acquire him this offseason. The video game statistics in this Oklahoma offense are coming as early as August. Gray is one of five RBs from the 2022 class that should be drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. His draft capital, along with his explosiveness and ability as a receiver, should render him a mid-to-late first-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts, regardless of his landing spot.
What are the player’s strengths and weaknesses?
- NFL level elusiveness and athleticism
- Quick acceleration and great lateral agility
- Diverse skillset that allows him to stay on the field every down
- Competent and experienced as a pass-catcher
- Can be overmatched in pass protection; needs to add size, strength, and reps doing it
- Does not display power or the ability/willingness to finish runs stifled at the LOS
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