Just four years after being deemed academically ineligible to play D1 football, SMU WR Danny Gray has emerged as a potential prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. His journey has been one of hard times and hard work. However, Gray’s scouting report is packed with pass-catching promise ahead of the NFL’s annual selection event.
Danny Gray NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide receiver
- School: SMU
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’11 5/8″
- Weight: 182
- Wingspan: 76 5/8″
- Arm: 32″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
Danny Gray Scouting Report
If you’re an NFL team in need of pass-catching help from the draft, you’re in luck. The 2022 NFL Draft class is stacked from top to bottom with players that could make an impact in the league for years to come. That includes big-bodied pass catchers to smaller speed merchants, and frankly everything in between. There are even some players that combine both elements.
Where does Gray fit within this class? Well, his scouting report reveals a size and speed threat who projects to being a mid-Day 3 selection. He currently ranks as my 167th overall prospect. However, he has the opportunity to impact that stock with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl and with his testing at the NFL Combine.
His athletic testing will be interesting. Gray ran a 10.59-second 100m in high school. He was also a Class 3A State Champion in the 100m.
The SMU WR has wheels, and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t threaten a late 4.3-second 40-yard dash time. His speed is evident on film. He breezes down the field in a straight line, giving defensive backs fits as they try to keep up with him.
Speed and after-the-catch threat who also has catch-point potential
While Gray’s straight-line speed poses a threat on go routes, it also translates well in other areas of his game. He is a dangerous after-the-catch threat. Once he has the ball in his hands, there’s little hope of catching him or stopping him. Case in point: his career-long reception against TCU where he took the ball 68 yards across the field, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake.
The SMU WR isn’t all “hit the boosters and say goodbye,” however. He can manipulate his speed to create separation. There were multiple examples of him varying his speed along his route to lull his coverage into a false sense of security before accelerating with incredible explosion.
Gray is an explosive athlete with stop-start ability. Furthermore, he showcases good lower body strength and contact balance which helps his after-the-catch ability.
Gray’s scouting report also reveals impressive attributes at the catch point. He’s a good vertical athlete who can go up and contest for the ball. He possesses excellent ball tracking and body control to make the most difficult catches appear simple. That also includes being able to get down and secure the ball on low passes without it hitting the turf. The SMU WR has a good catch radius and solid hands.
Areas for improvement
As you can see from his scouting report, Gray possesses many alluring characteristics as a wide receiver prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, there are some areas for improvement that will potentially limit where he is drafted in April.
Although he is a willing blocker, Gray isn’t the most effective in this regard. He isn’t the most physical when blocking, and there is room for technical improvement too. As a result, he is frequently overwhelmed too easily. On multiple occasions, Gray’s attempt at hand placement saw him miss his opponent completely.
His ability against press coverage will be something that could define his stock. He wasn’t exposed to significant snaps against top-tier cornerbacks in press. As a result, he’s not the most physical or technically refined receiver in this regard. Gray needs to improve on using his hands at the line of scrimmage to help gain separation against press coverage.
Although he possesses a good catch radius and solid hands, Gray needs to ensure he maintains possession through contact across the middle of the field. While he showcased ability in this regard, it was inconsistent across his tape.
Gray’s Player Profile
As he prepares for the NFL Draft as a prospect in the spotlight of the Senior Bowl, Gray’s journey serves as a timely reminder that you’re often judged not by how you respond to success, but more importantly how you react when success is taken away from you.
Gray was a success at James Madison High School. As a sophomore, he was named the District 4-4A II Overall MVP after snagging 903 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns from just 43 receptions. The following year, as a junior, he tallied 13 touchdowns off just 34 receptions. Furthermore, he tallied over 800 all-purpose yards as he became a multi-faceted weapon in the high school offense.
As a result of his high school performances, Gray was a three-star recruit and a top-100 prospect in the talent-rich state of Texas. He held offers from multiple Power Five programs but committed to Missouri in July 2017. He played out his senior season with James Madison and prepared to make the journey to Columbia to begin his college career.
Hard times and hard work
However, Gray never set foot on the field for the Tigers, having failed to meet the academic standard requirements for D1 football. Instead of suiting up in the SEC in the fall of 2018, Gray attended Blinn College, famously the home of Cam Newton in 2009. As a freshman, Gray tallied 15 catches for 409 yards and 6 touchdowns. During his sophomore season, he snagged 54 receptions for 877 yards and 8 scores. His performances earned him first-team Southwest Junior College Conference honors.
They also earned him a reputation on the recruiting circuit. Now eligible, Gray attracted offers from Auburn, Tennessee, Florida State, and Missouri. As a Texas native, he committed to TCU before flipping his commitment to SMU, citing the atmosphere created by their coaching staff and the pass-happy “Air Raid” system in place at University Park.
Gray’s career at SMU
As the third-ranked WR in the JUCO recruiting class of 2020, there was an air of expectation for Gray on his arrival at SMU. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-AAC fourth-team before even taking a snap at the FBS level. On his debut against Texas State, the SMU wide receiver averaged 18 yards per catch on his way to a 72-yard day. He’d end the season with 448 yards and 4 touchdowns while adding 2 more scores as a rusher.
Gray’s junior season served as an appetizer for a standout senior campaign. Gray recorded two 100-plus-yard games and three games with multiple touchdowns. Throughout the 2021 season, Gray landed on many college football watchlists, including the Biletnikoff Award and the Paul Hornung Award. After tallying 803 yards and 9 touchdowns, Gray earned first-team All-AAC honors.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Danny Gray
Positives: Explosive receiver who is starting to hit his stride. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, immediately gets to top speed, and is fast enough to beat defenders down the field. Tracks the pass in the air, displays terrific focus, and has strong hands.
Lays out for the difficult reception and gets down to scoop up low throws. Keeps the play in bounds and works to pick up yardage after the catch. Comes back to the ball, finds the opening in the defense, and adjusts to make the reception in stride. Possesses a smooth and fluid style.
Negatives: Occasionally lets passes get inside him. Does not display a second gear on the field despite his Combine 40 time.
Analysis: Gray has shown tremendous progress in his game the past two seasons, and after a solid senior year, he went on to have a good postseason. Gray was one of the better receivers during the first day of Senior Bowl practices before he suffered a minor heel injury, then he ran exceptionally well at the Combine. Gray possesses an upside and, while he needs to polish his game, he has enough ability to line up as a fourth receiver this season.
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