The Kansas City Chiefs missed a solid TE2 presence in 2020. Here is how Noah Gray can fill that void, and provide a little extra.
It was mid-Saturday afternoon on day three of the 2021 NFL Draft, but Andy Reid had a grin as big as the moon as he announced the Chiefs fifth-round draft pick. Not many fifth-round picks will excite head coaches this much, but the fact that Reid made the announcement should tell the Kingdom that this could potentially be a great pick.
Noah Gray may not have the physical intangibles that some are looking for in a tight end, but he has the football intangibles that Reid and the organization are looking for in a football player.
The reason for that being, is that Gray is a good football player.
Gray did a multitude of different things for the Blue Devils, and he wasn’t static to just one spot on the field. The top two plays show him lined up in the slot, as well as in the backfield in more of an H-Back role. Most of his production came when he was lined up wide, and his 105 career receptions rank number one for any tight end ever at Duke.
It’s an overused term, but Gray has some sneak athletic ability, and he does have some twitch in his step. His timing on his routes, and his understanding of what his team is trying to accomplish help him to get open. As far as his hands go they are reliable. He can catch contested passes, and he can do it consistently. After the catch he often time’s displays some “sneaky” ability, but he does have some twitch to his game.
Gray will never be a dominant inline blocker in the NFL, mostly due to leaner frame, but also because he is much more valuable in space. Gray is a decent position blocker if given the correct angle to work on, but he does his best blocking in space. Moving around from spot to spot also allowed for him to block as a H-back in Duke’s pistol sets.
This blocking allowed him to get experience lead blocking on plays, as well as using his mobility to let him get up to the second level to block linebackers. Gray needs to continue to improve his initial contact into the block, as well as work his base, but he does play to the whistle.
The Chiefs have been looking for consistency at the backup tight end position for some time now. Travis Kelce is the best in the game, so the need hasn’t been to find someone take snaps from him, but someone that they can put alongside Kelce who can create production.
For a team that passes the ball as much as the Kansas City Chiefs do it has always been interesting that Andy Reid runs such a high percentage of two-tight end looks. This is not new, but since Travis Kelce took over in 2014 the team has not found any consistency at the backup spot.
For all his faults, Demetrius Harris has been the best backup pass-catching tight end the team has had for some time. Blake Bell is a good blocker, but gives very little from the receiving end (The team brought him back to be an extra lineman essentially), and got nothing at all last year from Nick Keizer or Deon Yelder.
With a creative mind like Reid, a coach who values tight ends, and a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes the Chiefs have needed another player at the position who can be a reliable pass catcher, as well as a red-zone target. Gray can provide both.
It will likely take some time for him to get his feet wet in the NFL, and it may be mid-season before we get to see the flashes of his game that he showed at Duke. That being said, if he adjusts to the NFL speed and physicality there are endless possibilities for what he can do in the team’s offense. That’s why the Chiefs drafted him, and that’s why he could end up being a valuable role player during his time in Kansas City.