Apr 292023
Eric Gray, Oklahoma Sooners (October 15, 2022)

Eric Gray – © USA TODAY Sports

On the third and final day of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected:

  • 5th Round: RB Eric Gray, 5’10”, 207lbs, 4.55, University of Oklahoma
  • 6th Round: CB Tre Hawkins III, 6’2”, 188lbs, 4.4, Old Dominion University
  • 7th Round: DL Jordon Riley, 6’5”, 338lbs, 5.31, University of Oregon
  • 7th Round: S Gervarrius Owens, 6’0”, 195lbs, University of Houston

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Eric Gray: Senior entry. Three-year starter from Memphis, TN. Spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma for his final two seasons. Second team All-Big 12 in 2022. Ended his career with almost double the usage and production of any other season in his career, finishing with the ninth most single-season rushing yards in Oklahoma history. Gray brings a tremendous physical profile and body to the table. He looks like he is manufactured in a running back factory and has the quality tape to back it up. He can fit into any running scheme but will be best suited for action between the tackles. There is where he can truly maximize the plus-burst, balance, and strength. Gray also has proven to carry a pair of elite hands as a receiver. While he may not end up with the best long speed in the group, Gray will create explosive plays with how decisive and violent he can run downhill while always maintaining the ability to abruptly stop and change direction. Gray is an ideally-built, versatile team player that fits into the every-down role at the next level.

*Gray was a favorite of mine when it came to the surface level scouting. He is not a very big guy, but he is huge in the right places. His lower half is put together almost like Saquon. His short limbs work well with the kind of movement we need to see out of running backs. Short, choppy, balanced movements that can get in and out of small spaces in a hurry. When he reaches the open field, he can be caught from behind but do not overlook just how much his burst can create initially. Gray is a guy that, if he hooks up with the right team (SF, PHI, BAL) – he is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher. An overlooked attribute in his game shows up as a receiver. He was targeted a lot (102 times last three years combined) and dropped just two of them, a very good number for anyone let alone a back with power.

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Tre Hawkins III: Fifth-year senior from Temple, TX. Spent two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College before transferring to Old Dominion. Had his first season there canceled due to Covid-19. He started two years on the outside and produced across the entire stat sheet. He puts together an impressive blend of tools catapulted by elite vertical speed and burst. Once he diagnoses the route, his reactionary skill are sudden, twitchy, and explosive. He does not hesitate against the run and will attack the ball carriers hands, forcing fumbles (six over his career). Hawkins III lacks the feel in zone coverage and is late to notice underneath routes, but the tools are all there to develop him into a quality backup down the road. Priority free agent.


Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Jordon Riley: Sixth-year senior from New Bern, NC. One-year starter who arrived at Oregon (his fourth stop) after stints at North Carolina, Nebraska, and Garden City Community College. Riley is a mammoth-sized interior defensive lineman who played his best football in his final year of eligibility. The natural bender shows an accurate punch with quality lockout. The ball location skills need work and he does not have much of a pass rush repertoire. He is overly reliant on the bull rush because of past knee issues, there is not much drive behind it. He is a long term-project who is older than the average prospect and will not offer a lot of versatility. FA/Camp Body

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Gervarrius Owens: Fifth-year senior. Four-year starter from Moore, OK. Spent three seasons at Houston after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M where he also started and was a JUCO All-American. Owens was a cornerback for a year before transitioning to safety in 2020. His size and movement traits better with what we see in the middle but there is enough speed and fluidity to occasionally play a corner role here and there. Owens is an explosive, well-built missile from the back end that can really put his foot in the ground and go. His closing speed gets him to where he needs to be in a blink. Owens will flash big play ability, but he also flashes big mistake potential. He sells out on his initial read and will get caught by looks-offs and double routes routinely. The missed tackle rate also strengthens the “all or nothing” feel to his game. If he can channel some of the aggression and improve his ability to finish plays, Owens can be a starting caliber safety. If not, he will be a special teamer and quality backup.

*Similar to a player discussed above, Owens passes the initial test but once you watch a lot of his tape, it is easy to tell there is a lot of guessing in his game. If he can truly process the information and play at his highest rate of speed, he can be a player. Watch out for guys like this coming from a program that does not exactly invest in defensive resources. First exposure to high quality coaching could turn a light on. Owens has that kind of untapped upside. I like him a lot as a day three prospect.

Media Q&A with General Manager Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll (Video):

Q. Talk about the guys you picked today.

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, so Eric Gray is a guy we liked. He was at the Senior Bowl. Played at Oklahoma and transferred from Tennessee. Super productive. Really good hands out of the backfield. Also has some elusiveness to him inside. Like what he brings. He also has done some returns in his past; he did some at Tennessee, comfortable catching punts at Senior Bowl. So again, he’ll come in and compete with our group. Tre Hawkins, we took him late in the sixth. From Old Dominion corner, height, weight, and speed prospect that has high upside. He’s a physical kid, not afraid to tackle. You see a trend with some of these guys that we took at that position. Good developmental prospect for Wink’s defense and projects well to special teams due to his physical traits and toughness. Jordon Riley, again, big body guy. It’s hard to find these guys. When you get into the 7th round, you are looking for guys that maybe it will be hard to get at different areas. And another guy we spent time with, big run stopper in there, 6’5, 330. He’ll compete for a depth role there. Gervarrius Owens, another guy we like, a tall, long, athletic safety from the University of Houston, was out at the East-West Game. Another physical kid. Projects well to special teams and also compete for a depth role. Excited about the group of guys we have got. All have very good traits. Competing for different roles but excited with the group. Then get the text here soon that the draft is over, and now we’re working on the second draft with free agency, college free agency, which is an exciting time for us.

Q. Can you talk more about Riley? He was not somebody that was listed by too many.

JOE SCHOEN: He’s at Oregon. You walk out to practice and there’s this 6-5, 330-pound guy, who piques your interest right there. Again, some of these guys in different schemes may not have the production, the tackles, the sacks. But for what Wink looks for in terms of size, length, knock back, he possesses those traits.

Q. Can you talk about the whole thing overall, did you fill all the needs you want or are there still things out there?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we are always going to be looking to continue to improve. We’ll never be satisfied. We’ll continue. Again, right now is another opportunity to add players and depth in competition with the college free agency process. Then we’ll have a rookie mini-camp next weekend, so we’ll have some players that will be here for that. Ideally, we have a bunch of 53 Pro Bowlers, but that’s impossible. We’ll continue to find where we need to add depth or maybe light on a starter or whatever it may be, but we’ll continue to add depth and competition at all times.

Q. As part of the off-season, you talked about how you wanted to add depth along the defensive line, which you’ve done. Do you feel like you have enough depth among edge rushers?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, and that’s something, again, we can continue to look for that. Again, I think we have Elerson (Smith) — showed promise but had an injury last year. (Tomon) Fox is a guy we like. So those guys have all played snaps, and we’re excited about them, and we may add a couple tonight or again, we continue to look at our emergency list. We are all weighing those two things, what’s available post-draft based on how teams drafted over the weekend. There may be a surplus of players that become available next week. We’ll continue to look at all positions and measure where we are if we like our group or not, and again we don’t play until September in terms of the regular season, so if we’re devoid of something somewhere, we’ll continue to look.

Q. Gray was saying he feels he has natural hands. How important is that for you for a running back, for your offense, that seems to project that he could potentially be a 3-down guy?

BRIAN DABOLL: We’ll see. Again, I just go back to — I think the question you asked, we always look to add and improve all the way through the season, from Tuesday when we have off. In terms of Gray, he’s a very mature young player that’s had some production. Does have good hands. How that sorts out, that will be up to him. The cool thing about it is after the rookie weekend, they come back, and we’ll finally have an auditorium full of seats. Coaches will be standing on the side and finally have a full auditorium to start working with.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your process in terms of the trades the first two days because I thought it was interesting. Sometimes you see GMs who might not have the trust of other teams, guys you talked to; you mentioned the deal you have with Trent Baalke. You guys obviously exchanged information. For you how important is that to build relationships where you’re sharing some of your plans, some guys don’t want to give away too much information and feel like it may come back and burn them, but do you feel like that has helped your process?

JOE SCHOEN: Trent and I were area scouts back in the day. We have a long relationship or some of the new GMs, Kwesi (Adofo-Mensah), in Minnesota, and we have become fast friends through this process. We were first-year GMs together. You always try to cultivate those relationships throughout the league because when you’re thinking about, hey, I may trade Player X, my name comes to him first that they are going to call me, whatever it may be. You always want to be in the mix if a team trades a guy. It’s always important to have relationships with the general managers and personnel staff of the other teams because it can lead to deals or maybe it’s easier to get a trade done or whatever it may be.

Definitely in that group where we were picking in specifically Thursday night, I had a good relationship with a lot of those guys. They were easy conversations. We could shoot each other straight and luckily it worked out.

Q. Are you ever fearful of giving up too much information?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, you definitely have to be careful of that. But if a trade was contingent on you giving up the information, you might as well — that’s your only chance to get there. There’s some risk involved if you do that.

Q. Looking back compared to maybe what you thought coming into the Draft, what would you have thought if I told you were going to get Banks, Schmitz, and Hyatt in the first two days of the Draft?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I would have liked to know how you’re going to do that, probably. You never know how it’s going to fall. We went through a million scenarios. We didn’t know who was going to be there at 25 or we ended up trading up to 24, so you really don’t know. Once you get into that second round, everybody sees things differently and has different flavors for the type of players they like. You may have a guy in the fifth round, he goes in the second; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As you go through the entire draft, usually the first round goes as planned, the group of players you think are going to go. But I’m thrilled with those guys, and I’m thrilled with some of the prospects we got today. We’ll see. And the coaching staff is motivated to work with all the guys that we drafted, and they are going to come in and assimilate into our culture and work hard and see what happens. Everybody is going to compete for their spots. I’m happy with where we are and it’s a good group of guys to work with and continue to build.

Q. Don’t know when the next time we’ll talk to you will be, do you plan to reengage with negotiations with Saquon?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we’ll have conversations with him. We have; we had conversations last week.

Q. Would you like — going by the assumption Saquon is going to be here, to play this year, would you like to draft a running back and decrease his snaps? Do you find that sustainable for a running back to play eight plus percent of the snaps, is that part of the reason why you wanted to add to that position?

BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, I’d say it’s probably a better question during the season. It’s not April 17th, what is it, April what? 29th. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Q. Was it important to you that you drafted a running back that could catch?

BRIAN DABOLL: Look, what I tell Joe and the scouts is find good players. You don’t always necessarily agree, whether it’s scout-to-scout, coach-to-scout, coach-to-coach. But you sit down, and you talk about these players. I’m excited about all these players. I think there were a lot of good discussions, and I think you just find good players. And then your job as a coaching staff, I’ll say this until I’m done coaching is to get good players and find a way to use them. You have a playbook, but our playbook really isn’t finished quite yet. We just added some players, and we have to do a good job as a staff of going out there on the practice field and trying different things, seeing how people respond, running different routes, or doing some different blocking schemes. Again, every playbook for me, I’d say the last five or six years has just been a little bit different and that’s based on the players that you have. So as a coach, I tell Joe, find good players, man. These guys have been working their tails off since the start of the last draft at the end of it, and the coaches have been working hard to try to evaluate them. Again, you don’t know what you’re going to get until they are out there doing it, too. So that’s why we’re big on competition. We’re excited about the players we have but we’ll throw them in the mix and let them compete it out.

Q. Where does Gray’s skill set lend the potential to be a passing down option early in his career?

BRIAN DABOLL: We’ll see. Start looking at him in rookie minicamp. Again, I think they all have a good skill set and we have spent a lot of time watching tape and talking to some of these guys. But until they are out there doing things on the grass in front of you; you can tweak things. There are times when you thought you were getting something, one draft with a player, and then all of a sudden, you’re like, man, this guy can do this a little better than I thought, so you start doing that more. They will all have a fair opportunity to go out there and prove what they can do to see if they can help us.

Q. Would you characterize your conversations with Saquon as negotiations or touching base?

JOE SCHOEN: Touching base again. We’ll circle up after the draft. See if it makes sense or not, through dialogue.

There was the contract that was offered originally, the contract was off the table. Would you plan on offering another revised extension to Saquon in the coming week?

JOE SCHOEN: We’ll talk this coming week now that the draft is over. We’ll reconvene and see if it makes sense or not through dialogue with his representative.

Q. Salary-cap-wise, do you need to make a move? Are you good, just to get through, now that the Draft is over?

JOE SCHOEN: If we need to, we have moves that we can make to free up cap space. So yeah, we are working through some things over the next couple of weeks.

Q. Since we’re on the topic of contracts, where do things stand with Dexter and those negotiations?

JOE SCHOEN: Same deal. Let’s get through the draft. His representation had a lot of prospects in the draft, and we were focused on the draft in our meetings. Next week, things will calm down a little bit and we’ll circle back up with everybody.

Q. From your vantage point how unusual is what the Eagles are doing leaning so hard into one program? Can you think of any other time that a team has done this, drafting so many players and acquiring so many players from one team and does that come with risks?

JOE SCHOEN: Well, if you’re going to do it, that’s a good program to do it from. You have to ask them that. I’m not really sure. Sometimes your board just falls that way. They have a lot of Georgia players down the road. I don’t know if they necessarily consciously are doing that, or again, I’m assuming their board fell that way.

Q. Do you feel good about this draft?

JOE SCHOEN: I do. I do. Yeah, it’s not just this draft. This is one piece of the off-season puzzle. I think you tie in free agency and you tie in the draft and I’m excited to go upstairs and see where we are on some undrafted free agents. And kind of how I started, it never stops. We are always looking to upgrade and add depth and competition. Where we are now, I feel good, but again, we still have to get these guys on the field. And all these guys are young. All these draft picks are young. They have come from various spots. Some of them have not been to New York City and some of them have. They are pros. There’s a human element, too, as these guys develop. We are not going to put a lot of pressure on them to be plug-and-play. We’ll let them develop and learn and continue to let them grow in our culture. But yeah, right now I feel good about where we are, and as a staff, we have continuity amongst the staff this off-season, which along with the roster building I think was very important.

Q. There was so much publicity with the draft, how do you feel about the “he killed it” narrative?

JOE SCHOEN: That lasts about two days. You don’t win games in April. The social media rankings and everything like that, you know, it’s about what we do this fall and how we go out there and compete when it matters and how we continue to build this off-season and get bigger, faster, stronger, through our strength program and then how we prepare and execute in August, I think there’s a process. And do I like some of the guys we drafted? Yeah. But still, like Dabs said, you know, in this press conference, every year is different, and the team has got to gel, and we have got to build chemistry. We have to stay healthy. There’s a lot that goes into it.

Q. You’re in this for a long time. When do you think you’ll be able to look at the sheet and look back and say, yeah, I think we killed it?

BRIAN DABOLL: The minute after of that? Are you talking about the minute after the draft?

Q. When would you think you would be able to look back at a sheet?

JOE SCHOEN: I think it’s three or four years when you look back, you look at the play time. But you’re never — you can’t get complacent in this business, ever. You’ll have a lot of trouble if you do that. So again, we are always looking to get better regardless of where it is. We’ll never be complacent. We’ll always strive and there will be a standard of excellence and we’ll continue to strive for that.

Q. You think back to last year —

BRIAN DABOLL: Pick 25 and not five, didn’t want it to carry the magnets around — begged the owners for a new draft room.

Q. Setting it up, you obviously wanted things a certain way and you had ideas last year, I’m curious now after this Draft, one of the things I noticed was it looked like you guys had FaceTime’s with the entire room on screens with your prospects, was that part of it you wanted to make it more of a team thing for everyone in that room?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah it’s a really neat feature and we could use that pre-Draft because you could Zoom with a prospect, so if there was ever a scenario where Dabs, myself, Wink, Jerome wanted to get in there, hey, let’s Zoom with this prospect and talk ball, and we could all be in there and have those type of meetings; and it’s a universal room that we can use for free agency draft, medical meetings, Zooming prospects.

So just trying to upgrade the technology the best we could and make it multi-faceted in terms of how we could utilize it. We did that, and one of the cool things we wanted to do was FaceTime the prospects afterward in the draft room and congratulate them one or time oncoming to the team. Just a cool feature. Nice touch for the players.

Q. Just a couple of you guys that would get a chance to interact with the prospect, scouts, and ownership, is that important to you to make sure that this entire aspect of it is the full team?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, absolutely. Like Dabs was just saying, the scouts are away from their family a lot during the year, a lot of miles on the road, a lot of hotel points and All-Star games and then being here for weeks at a time away from their family. A lot of hard work that goes into it from the medical staff and all the guys that they look at the combine, the calls they make for us, go on and on about it’s really all hands on deck in a true team effort to put this together.

Q. I assume in the next 48 to 72 hours, you get the free agents signed. When do you guys decompress?

JOE SCHOEN: When you come in in the morning and there’s like nothing going on, you’ve got to take advantage of it, because sure enough, something comes through the door at some point, and the day you thought you were going to have all this free time turns into three or four things you’ve got to deal with.

I think now that I’ve actually thought about this, hopefully, next week at some point I can. But it’s a different process for me. I’ve kind of been full circle now, because when I got here, I had already seen 500 prospects, I had a really good feel for the Draft. This year, I had not been through a season as a general manager and trying to watch film and see prospects and all that stuff. Now that I’ve been through the whole thing full circle, I think next week would be a good opportunity for me, I think I’ll be able to decompress a little bit.

Q. Like you said, this year you had other things to worry about. Do you find yourself relying on others on your staff more heavily?

JOE SCHOEN: Oh, absolutely, yeah, you have to be able to delegate in this position and get the right people in the right chairs and let them do their jobs. We have got a good group throughout the building in a lot of seats.

Media Q&A with Eric Gray:

Q. How much do you know about (Head Coach) Brian Daboll and the Giants’ offense and what do you think you can bring as?

ERIC GRAY: I just bring — I’m just going to bring a lot to the offense and be able to run in between the tackles, run outside zone, inside zone, being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. I think I just bring another threat to the offense.

Q. How much contact did you have with them during the pre-draft process?

ERIC GRAY: A pretty good amount. I had a workout with (Running Backs) Coach Nixon, the running backs coach, going into the draft. Early on in the process I had a workout with him, so I would say a pretty good amount of contact with them.

Q. What do you think it’s going to be like to soon be a teammate of (Running Back) Saquon Barkley?

ERIC GRAY: I’ve watched a lot of Saquon, me playing, I’ve watched a lot of his games, so just being able to learn from him, things that he did as a rookie being successful in the league, that’s going to be very important.

Q. Did you play with (Wide Receiver) Jalin Hyatt at Tennessee?

ERIC GRAY: I did. He was a freshman when I was a sophomore.

Q. What can you tell us about him?

ERIC GRAY: Just a great, fast receiver. Very productive. You see what he did this past year bursting on to the scene. Great receiver.

Q. What does it take to be a good receiver out of the backfield? What qualities do you think that you have that make you accomplished in that area?

ERIC GRAY: Being able to, one, just having those natural hands to be able to catch and being able to route run. Me personally, I have a good feel for knowing coverages coming out of the backfield, knowing if it’s man or zone or if I need to break it this way, setting crisp routes, getting to my depth. I would say I’ve been blessed to be a pretty good route runner out of the backfield.

Q. I saw you did some punt returns. Did they talk to you about that?

ERIC GRAY: Yes, I did, I did do some of that in my college years. I did, so that’s just adding more value for myself.

Q. What would you think about early in your career being like a third down, passing down running back?

ERIC GRAY: I’ll do what it takes for the team. I’m a ‘we guy’ not a ‘me guy’ – I’ll do what it takes for the team.

Q. What Giants have you heard from already?

ERIC GRAY: I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to any Giants yet. I’m sure (Wide Receiver) Sterling (Shepard) will call me soon, just him being in Oklahoma, but I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet.

Q. What’s your relationship with him?

ERIC GRAY: I have never talked to Sterling, but somebody just sent me his number — would be a good chance to talk to him.

Q. What does today mean to you to hear your name called and end up in New York?

ERIC GRAY: It’s a dream come true. It’s a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, and for it to be the Giants, it just means a lot to me, being able to, like I said, to learn from the guys that are already in the room, I’ve got a good feel for the coach when he had the private workout, Coach Daboll, I just love the Giants offense. I’m stoked about it. I can’t wait to get to New York.

Q. When you say you got a good feel in that private work out what did you learn from him or why do you think you would mesh really well with Nixon?

ERIC GRAY: Just his mentality in the running back room. He wants guys that are good for the room, that are good fits for the room. He wants guys that are going to work hard and that are going to come in there and give 100 percent every day and not take a day off, and that’s the kind of guy that I am. I’m going to go in there every single day and do as much as I can to help the team win.

Q. Where did you watch the Draft and where did you spend the day? When you got the call from the Giants, can you tell us about the reaction? Seemed like they have been videoing guys, doing FaceTimes. When you have experience with that?

ERIC GRAY: I’m in Nashville with my family. Me and my friends actually went for a drive when I got the call. Trying to just get out of the house for a minute, me and my friends went for a drive, and I got the call. We rushed home, everybody ran out of the house yelling. I got a chance to talk with the entire organization over FaceTime. Just a great FaceTime, for me just an unbelievable moment.

Q. What have the last few days been like for you? What did you think the likelihood that maybe you could get picked in the day two range yesterday and take us through your emotions of this whole thing.

ERIC GRAY: Definitely tried to stay level-headed though, but it was definitely a little roller coaster, thinking I could go – like you said – in day two, but ended up going today. But it’s all a blessing. Now it’s time to get on the field and work.

Q. I was looking at your stats. Did you carry like 549 times and never fumble?

ERIC GRAY: Yes, sir.

Q. What do you attribute that to? What is that about you that you think you have such good ball security?

ERIC GRAY: Just having awareness of the ball, knowing when you get in traffic, put two hands on it, having awareness of the defenders, where the defenders are, knowing that when you’re running, defenders are trying to knock it out. Just having that awareness.

Q. Going to test your memory. When was your last fumble, do you remember?

ERIC GRAY: My last fumble, I don’t know that one.

Q. Will you come with a chip on your shoulder given that you slipped to the third day?

ERIC GRAY: 100 percent. 100 percent going to come with a chip on my shoulder. I feel like I have to go prove it and be the player that I want to be in the league.

Q. Are you going to tell Daniel you know how to throw passes, too?

ERIC GRAY: (Laughs) I’m going to let him throw passes. I’m just going to take my hand offs and catch for him.

Q. What happened on your pass this year?

ERIC GRAY: (inaudible) throw my first touchdown, the route kind of got bumped off if I threw it, but at least I would have made the tackle.




Center John Michael Schmitz, who the Giants drafted on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, held a press conference at the team’s facility on Saturday. The transcript and video are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube, respectively.

Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, who the Giants drafted on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, held a press conference at the team’s facility on Saturday. The transcript and video are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube, respectively.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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