There is no doubt that Duke football had a landmark weekend at the NFL Draft, with four former Blue Devils—the most since 1973—selected on day three and three more signing deals as undrafted free agents.
Chris Rumph II was the highest Blue Devil off the board, going to the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth round. When all is said and done, however, I believe the guy who will have the best NFL career is tight end Noah Gray.
Gray, who set the Blue Devil record for most receptions by a tight end with 105 during his four-year college career, was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. Despite the fact that it will likely take a season or two for the Massachusetts native to garner a consistent amount of snaps, the Chiefs clearly thought it was wise to find a young backup to six-time Pro Bowler Travis Kelce.
Don’t worry, I have some reasoning behind this projection. First off, Gray’s skillset is an ideal fit for the current trends of the league. There is just no way you can ignore the value of versatile pass catchers in today’s NFL, and Gray fits that mold to a T. The former captain lined up as an H-back and in the slot during his time as a Blue Devil, something that Kansas City head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy must be very intrigued by.
There are even some similarities between Gray and the man who has been a mainstay near the top of tight end rankings for the last five years. From a physical standpoint, the measurables are fairly compatible, as Gray is just an inch shorter than Kelce, is roughly 20 pounds lighter and ran a 4.57 second 40-yard dash compared to Kelce’s 4.61.
Where the two do the most damage on the field is also comparable. Kelce has been a huge threat in the red zone, where he ranked in a tie for third in targets last season. This all bodes well for Gray, considering how much the Blue Devils relied on the former All-ACC second teamer inside the 20-yard-line. It would not be surprising, then, if the Chiefs view Gray as either the ideal fill-in for Kelce or someone to utilize in double tight-end packages.
Plus, there may be some upheaval on the Chief roster over the next few seasons. Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year, $503 million extension last summer, setting Kansas City up for some salary cap difficulties once that eye-popping contract kicks in. Soon, some tough choices will have to be made regarding Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill, making Gray a prime candidate to take over as Mahomes’ safety valve in the event that the Chiefs part ways with their superstar tight end.
Look, this is no disrespect to Duke’s other draftees, who all are talented enough to have lengthy pro careers. Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje have a shot to be productive edge rushers at the next level, and Michael Carter II is the type of hard-hitting, speedy defensive back that teams look for in a slot corner. But from a skillset and fit perspective, Gray is set up to have the best NFL career of the group. Feel free to call me in a decade or so, and we can talk about whether this take held up. For now, though, give me Gray, and you can take the rest.
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Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.