He is ideal for a screen-heavy team, as he has reliable hands and is patient to wait for plays to develop. He likes to bounce the ball outside, sometimes too quickly, but he is effective when doing so. There are knocks on his game as an inside runner, which will keep him from getting drafted as an every-down back in the NFL. He does, however, bring value as a returner. Although not explosive, he is effective in this role. Look for him to be selected in the middle rounds.
Head coach Mike Sherman got Gray on the field as a rusher (75-363) and slot receiver (10-60) as a true freshman, but his real contribution came as a kick returner (49-1,169-1). The Texas native then earned honorable-mention All-Big 12 accolades in 2009 (159-757-5 rush, 28-226-2 rec, 27-642-1 KR) and 2010 (200-1,133-12 rush, 34-251-1 rec, 17-422 KR).
Gray will not be selected as early as former high school and college teammate Von Miller, who Denver selected with the second pick of the 2011 draft. But if he adds consistent acceleration once he sees an opening to his toughness inside and balance in the open field, teams will have a tough time passing on him two or three times in April.
Inside: Lacks great size for running inside but owns a compact build with relatively thick upper body and strong legs. Runs hard every carry, side-hops to find creases inside and usually falls forward for an extra yard. Bulls through arm tackles to find the end zone or first down. Holds ball high and tight in close quarters. Lines up at fullback in short-yardage situations, churns legs and lowers pads to pick up tough yardage. Won't move piles at the next level, but can bounce off them to keep moving if allowed to.
Outside: Patient stretch runner, presses line but waits for a crease before heading upfield or cutting inside a block. Has enough straight-line speed to be a breakaway threat once past the second level. Sets up defender with a quick cut to either side without dancing, though he loses his balance when brain moves faster than his feet. Uses stiff-arm to hold off oncoming inside-out tacklers. Puts ball in outside hand on runs to either side. Improving his instincts and burst, able to avoid tacklers in the hole and turn on the jets once seeing open field. Waits too long to make a cut on some stretch runs, allowing inside-out defenders to get a hold of him.
Breaking Tackles: Not the strongest back in the class, but difficult to bring down in the open field because his balance, active legs and strong upper-body allows him to run through arm tackles. Shows some shifty hips in space, can cut inside or stop short to break the ankles of would-be tacklers. Success as kick returner comes from quick cuts in open field and straight-line speed, also tough enough to bounce off poor tackle attempts and keep feet moving.
Blocking: Does more than get in the way as a pass protector. Stands up to linebackers in the backfield and will deliver a punch on quarterback draws. Lacks the size and tenacity to sustain, however. Willing to take a hit on play-fakes up the middle to protect the quarterback.
Receiving: Uses as slot receiver at times during his career because of his receiving skills, but mostly catches dump-offs in his current role. A threat on screen passes due to his speed and strength in traffic. Dances after the catch at times, does not show immediate acceleration once stopped. Inconsistent adjusting to poor throws, must secure the pass before making a move.
Intangibles: Sherman referred to Gray as a "guy you want to marry your daughter" because of his attitude and work ethic on and off the field. Accepts whatever role he is given on the team, supports teammates who may get more touches. "We" player, deflects praise to teammates."
Creates a lot of yards after contact and can run through arm tackles inside. Looks a little more explosive laterally when cutting off his right foot than his left and isn’t an overly dynamic make you miss athlete in space. Will get a but “weavey” off his left foot at times, especially on perimeter runs and will chop his feet in order to catch his balance.
However, is patient setting up blocks, churns his legs through contact and accelerates well out of his breaks. Showcases good natural power when asked to fight for yards inside. Has a good sense when plays are clogged up, takes what the defenses gives him and does a nice job making himself small and churning his legs through contact inside. Has experience running from both I-formation sets and from the gun.
Looks more natural with a full back in front of him where he has more time to decipher info and pick up speed. Plus, he’s more sudden/shifty attacking forward than standing flat-footed and having to make a defender miss. Demonstrates good cut back ability at the line and in space. Can put back-to-back cuts together off both feet inside and accelerates into daylight.
Possesses good straight-line speed, not elite. At times will bounce runs prematurely to the edge and has the initial burst to gain a step, but won’t consistency outpace angles in the NFL. However, on perimeter runs does a nice job keeping his pad level down when turning the corner, keeping his feet under him and exploding toward space, using his balance to side step defenders at full speed and break tackles in the process.
Is a plus blocker for the position as well, keeps his pad level down, recognizes his target and generates a good snap into contact. Is also coordinated in the pass game, isn’t going to be used in the slot and beat man. However, is a plus receiver in the screen game as he locates the ball quickly, squares his shoulder and will create.
Impression: An instinctive, well put together back with natural running skills inside. Isn’t ever going to be a cowbell back at the next level and isn’t overly dynamic in the open field. But can be productive in a two back system in the NFL."
Weaknesses: Gray doesn’t fight for extra yards and too often his legs go dead on contact. He also needs to learn to square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage as he has a tendency to rely just on speed on runs to the outside. While he’s a willing blocker, he will have to become a more effective one if he wants to be considered a three-down back.
Bottom Line: Gray’s speed, quickness, and low center of gravity are all top level for this class. His inability to gain yards after contact are a major concern and could keep him out of the first three rounds of April’s draft.
Draft Projection: Gray should be a fourth round pick."
Shows good balance on contact and flashes the ability to make quick, subtle cuts.
Will gain what is blocked for him but does not possess unique speed, elusiveness or power and too often exhibits a finesse mentality.
Took better care of the football as a junior after fumbling 10 times his first two seasons and is a dependable body catcher, though he is inconsistent as a blocker.
Is well respected by teammates and coaches who praise him for outstanding character and team-first attitude."
His game is very balanced as he is able to run between the tackles and also contribute in the passing game. However, his 2nd gear and burst is though to match. He is an good looking prospect that really only needs to improve his pass blocking. Gray could also look to add a few more pounds and a bit more strength. His built is a little thin which could impact his durability.
Overall, Gray is an excellent prospect with a ton of upside. His versatility is something NFL teams will be immediately drawn to. He needs to continue his production this season but anything thing other than a major injury will only help his draft stock.
Bold Statement: Cyrus Gray will be a 1st round draft pick and the 2nd running back selected
Games Viewed: Baylor ('10), Nebraska ('10)
- Gray is an explosive and exciting player
- His ability to get up to full speed in a hurry makes it look like he was shot out of a cannon
- That 2 step ability allows him to press the hole and shoot the gap
- He also has long speed making him a home run threat
- Gray keeps his pad level low and runs behind them limiting the amount of his body exposed
- His tough running style combined with this technique makes it very difficult to bring him down
- He has elite lateral quickness allowing him to slip past defenders and create in space
- Gray also possess exceptional patience and vision helping him identify the open holes
- In the passing game, he is a reliable target with game breaking ability as he plucks the ball with his hands and runs crisp routes
- He is a really tough runner that breaks a lot of tackles due to his leg drive and balance
- Gray's lateral quickness and running style help him avoid lost yardage"
However, while he could run in the 4.4 range at pre-draft testing, doesn’t play quite as quick and isn’t particularly shifty or elusive; can also catch the football out of the backfield and had 34 receptions last fall;
Also a next-level caliber KO returner who averaged almost 25 yards per return last fall and has brought back two for scores ;
Character player was actually a QB in high school."
Great short area quickness, tough to contain... Runs low to the ground... Ideal fit in a zone-blocking scheme with his patience and ability to make one cut... Solid vision, was the beneficiary of good blocking at Texas A&M but does a good job of finding the hole and letting things open up for him....
Strong pass blocker, really anchors well and will attack his assignment... Good receiving ability, catches the ball away from his body and can pluck on the run, should be able to contribute heavily on passing downs...
Does not have much tread on his tires after splitting the backfield with Christine Michael the past couple years... Has some added value as a kick returner... His versatility will appeal to teams looking for a guy who can play on any down.
Negatives -- More quick than fast, doesn't have elite long-speed, he's fast enough, but doesn't have that second gear to make him dangerous... Extends plays too far to the sideline, needs to cut up field quicker, will get trapped at the corner... Will dance a little too much behind the line of scrimmage, takes some negative yardage plays...
Doesn't always fight for the extra yard, legs will go dead on contact at times... Is rather small, struggles to push larger defenders backwards at the point of attack...
After ending his junior campaign with a string of seven consecutive 100-yard outings, he really fell off as a senior and didn't look like the same player, production and draft stock both fell as a result... Suffered a stress fracture in his left shoulder in 2011 which forced him to miss the final two games of his collegiate career."
He works well through traffic, pushing for more yardage with forward momentum. Gray has an above-average ability to make the first man miss, but not particularly elusive at the second-level.
He should be a good fit in zone-blocking schemes since he does show good patience in being able to wait for his blocks, putting one foot down and quickly engaging upfield. Not a burner, but has solid speed and quickness. He will need to improve his ability to run out of single back formations.
Can make all the runs on the perimeter as well as between the tackles. Gray maintains a good pad level and knows when to get scrappy for tough yards. He's ahead of the curve as a pass protector, one of the benefits of staying in school though his senior year."
Not a great inside runner, but he doesn’t hesitate in the backfield so he more than compensates for his lack of natural power. He will remind a lot of people of a LeSean McCoy type of player, and is improving in that regard as a receiver out of the backfield. In fact, he has 61 receptions over the last two years, so he has been an integral part of the Texas A&M passing attack. Probably the best overall senior running back in this class of players.
Very good at reading his blocks, and has excellent vision. Always keeping his eyes down field, and great body control in the open field. Always a threat to make something out of nothing. Probably shorter than his listed height. Threw a pretty touchdown pass against LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and has taken snaps at wide receiver as well as quarterback for the Aggies, so could have upside in the NFL as a wildcat quarterback.
Plays with a low center of gravity, but could add lower body strength to make him even more effective in the trenches. If he is up to 210 pounds by the NFL Scouting combine, he will likely be a sure-fire first or second round pick in the NFL Draft. Hard nosed guy who typically doesn’t go down on first contact. Workhorse for the Aggies who has great balance."