With the 2022 NFL Draft less than two weeks away, we take a look at SMU WR Danny Gray, who was invited to the Cowboys’ Dallas Day for local draft prospects.
Name: Danny Gray
Weight: 186 pounds
Combine Results: 4.33 40-yard dash, 34” vertical jump, 126” broad jump
Everyone knows the Cowboys are in need of wide receiver help after trading Amari Cooper, letting Cedrick Wilson walk in free agency, and with Michael Gallup not expected to be back from injury in time for training camp. If Dallas doesn’t address the position in the first round, as some expect them to, Danny Gray would be a prime option in the later rounds.
Gray’s path to this point has been a little unconventional. As a 3-star recruit out of Dallas, he committed to Missouri ahead of the 2018 season. However, Gray was ruled academically ineligible and Missouri retracted their scholarship offer. This led Gray to spend two years at the same junior college Cam Newton briefly attended. After tallying 1,286 yards and 14 touchdowns on 69 catches, Gray received offers from the likes of Auburn, Tennessee, and Florida State. Ultimately, Gray returned home to play for the SMU Mustangs.
Playing in an Air Raid offense there, Gray’s production shot up. His first season, 2020, saw a shortened schedule due to COVID-19 but the playmaking skills were evident. Gray then returned for his senior season and put on a show, which is why he’s now being talked to by a handful of NFL teams.
Route Running: Gray has some ridiculous speed, which has factored the most into his route running. That means he’s not exactly a route running technician, and instead won by running faster than the defender. That said, Gray is still serviceable in the way he runs his routes, although the offense he played in didn’t have an overly complex route tree.
Hands: Gray has very reliable hands, and he’s shown a consistent ability to secure the ball in a wide variety of ways. SMU’s quarterback play in 2021 wasn’t exactly the most accurate work, which gave him ample opportunities to show his ability to make tougher catches.
Playmaking Ability: Gray is a playmaker, period. His speed makes him a dangerous threat on both deep routes and quick passes and Gray has the hands and ball-tracking skills to adjust and make the catch on any type of play. He averaged over 16 yards per catch in 2021, and it’s easy to see why.
Release: The offense that SMU ran afforded Gray a lot of clean releases at the line of scrimmage, which complicates the evaluation here. When pressed, he showed a reliable ability to work himself open, although it sometimes took a little longer than you’d like.
Run After Catch: It was hard to keep track of how many times Gray would make a catch and then slip past a defender and pick up additional yards. He’s a natural after the catch and has great balance to play through the contact before letting his speed take over.
Blocking: Gray is pretty narrow for a receiver, and while it never becomes an issue with the ball in the air, it does pop up in blocking. He also doesn’t seem to be overly invested in blocking, although he’s shown some potential when the play comes his way.
Versatility: Due to the offense SMU ran, Gray lined up all over the field. At the next level, he has similar potential to play either outside spot as well as the slot. SMU also used him as a kick and punt returner, and his talent running in open space was evident there.
Size: Gray doesn’t have great size for the position, mostly due to his 186 pound frame. Some teams will be scared off by that, but his film doesn’t show any troubles from his size. He’s lightning fast, physical at the catch point, and challenging to tackle after the catch. He plays much bigger than he is.
Intangibles: The obvious question is about his academic struggles coming out of high school, but Gray put all that behind him after two spotless seasons at SMU.
Danny Gray has plenty of holes you can poke in his game, and that’s why he’s not likely going in the first round this year. But when you put on the tape and watch him work, Gray just seems to make play after play. More than that, he does so in a variety of ways.
In Dallas, Gray would give the Cowboys a much-needed speed boost. He had the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash at the combine this year, and would instantly be the fastest receiver on the team by a comfortable margin. Gray’s speed and playmaking ability would give a lot of flexibility with CeeDee Lamb, as both can play outside and inside, and Gray could also contribute as a deep threat while Gallup continues his recovery.
Of course, being drafted by the Cowboys would also give Gray the chance to stay home after playing his best years of college right in the Cowboys’ backyard. Gray is currently expected to be a fourth-round pick, although he could go as high as the third or as low as the fifth due to his exceptional speed and concerning size.