Steelers mock draft round 2: Cedric Gray, ILB
Cedric Gray isn’t great at any one thing but he’s very good at a lot of things. The clear leader of the defense, he was voted season-long team captain and Defensive MVP for the Tar Heels in 2022.
Gray reads and reacts very quickly, always being one of the first to break on the ball. He keeps his eyes on the ball carrier, shedding blockers while he tracks them down. He has sufficient size and strength to set the edge against the run. He doesn’t get washed out by blockers but he sometimes has a tendency to get stuck hand fighting.
Gray needs to develop some swim and rip moves to disengage faster. Gray has the frame to add another ten pounds which will only help his already impressive run defense. While he won’t create much of a pass rush dealing with blockers one on one, he can shoot the gap on the inside and delay blitzes.
Gray was a standout at both linebacker and wide receiver in high school. His knowledge of the pass game shows up in his play. He looks good reading the QB's eyes and anticipating routes in zone. He has enough speed and athleticism to handle coverage duty in zone ‘man under’ schemes. Gray has the traits to play WILL or MACK.
In 2022 Gray had an incredible 145 tackles with 12.0 for a loss, 1.0 sack, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. Before you start to worry about the one sack he also had 14 QB hurries and 5 QB hits for a total of 20 QB pressures. Those numbers are good when you consider he wasn't brought on many blitzes. His Pro Football Focus score was 82.2 overall with 84.4 against the run, 70.3 pass rushing, and 71.4 in pass coverage. Gray projects as an every down inside linebacker in the NFL.