Browns 2024 NFL Draft Prospect: North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray

This 6-foot-1 1/2 linebacker from North Carolina could be a great fit for the Cleveland Browns in the 2024 Draft.
Notre Dame v North Carolina
Notre Dame v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Next up in our Cleveland Browns draft series is Cedric Gray, a 6-1 1/2, 234-pound linebacker, who helped lead the North Carolina Tar Heels to fourth consecutive bowl appearances during his time with the program. Gray was a four-star recruit out of Charlotte, North Carolina, the 11th-ranked athlete in the Nation, and the 10th-ranked prospect in the State of North Carolina, according to 247Sports. Gray committed to the University of North Carolina in April of 2019. 

Once at UNC, Gray appeared in all 12 games and totaled three tackles. The Tar Heels finished the 2020 regular season 8-3 and were elected to face off against the Texas A&M Aggies in the Orange Bowl. North Carolina would go on to fall to the Aggies 41-27.

Gray’s playing time and productivity significantly increased in 2021. Through 13 games, Gray recorded 100 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, five passes deflected, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The Tar Heels finished the 2021 season 6-6 and were elected to face off against the South Carolina Game Cocks in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Gray recorded 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack in North Carolina’s 38-31 loss to the Game Cocks.

In 2022, Gray appeared in all 14 games, totaling a career-high 145 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, eight passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. North Carolina finished the 2022 regular season 9-4 following a 39-10 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game and was elected to face off against Oregon Ducks in the Holiday Bowl.

Gray recorded eight total tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit in the Tar Heels 28-27 loss to the Ducks. Gray’s efforts during the 2022 campaign earned him first-team All-ACC (Coaches) and second-team All-American (Sporting News, Pro Football Focus) honors. 

He appeared in 12 games during the 2023 season, recording 121 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, one interception, five passes defended, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The Tar Heels finished the 2023 regular season 8-4 and were elected to face off against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Gray's performance on the field earned him first-team All-ACC (Coaches) and first-team AP All-ACC honors. Gray took to social media in early December to announce he would forego the Duke’s Mayo Bowl and declare for the 2024 NFL Draft. 

Gray’s noted strengths according to Bleacher Report:

  • Good size and frame with a thick build and good movement skills overall.
  • Against the run, he takes on blocks with low pad level and has impressive upper body strength to get extension against offensive linemen. Also, is solid at holding his ground as a run defender.
  • Impressive speed to help his sideline-to-sideline range versus stretch runs.
  • In zone coverage, he can read the quarterback's eyes to anticipate throws and has the movement skills to tighten throwing windows.
  • Quick to close after the catch and is a decent open-field tackler who wraps up and understands how to use his body weight and leverage to bring ball carriers down.

Gray’s noted weaknesses: 

  • Instincts as a run defender are shaky, he'll often leave his gap early against zone runs and doesn't put himself in a good position to take on blocks.
  • Has a habit of leaving his feet when tackling, leading to misses.
  • In man coverage, he gets caught flat-footed against sharp-breaking routes and panics/freezes against option routes.
  • Struggles to recognize passing concepts as he'll often run into picks when playing man against wheel routes and gets caught vacating his area by following short drag routes in zone coverage versus mesh concepts.

Cedric Gray’s Combine Results: 

Height: 6’1 1/2
Weight: 234 pounds
Hands: 19 inches
Arms: 32 ½ inches
Wingspan: 78 3/8 inches
40-Time: 4.64 Seconds
10-Yard Split: 1.59 Seconds
Vertical: 35.5 inches
Broad Jump: 10 feet
3-Cone: DNP
Shuttle: DNP

Cedric Gray compared to other 2024 prospects: 

Cedric Gray - North Carolina Tar Heels - 6’1 1/2 - 234 lbs

  • 51 Games
  • 369 Total Tackles (199 Solo - 170 Assisted - 30 for Loss) 
  • 8.5 Sacks
  • 18 Passes Defended
  • 5 Interceptions
  • 6 Forced Fumbles
  • 5 Fumble Recoveries

Edgerrin Cooper - Texas A&M Aggies - 6’2 - 230 lbs

  • 45 Games 
  • 204 Total Tackles (111 Solo - 93 Assisted - 30.5 For Loss)
  • 8.5 Sacks 
  • 10 Passes Defended
  • 2 Interceptions 
  • 3 Forced Fumbles 
  • 2 Fumble Recoveries 

Junior Colson - Michigan Wolverines - 6’3 - 247 lbs

  • 42 Games
  • 245 Total Tackles (109 Solo - 136 Assisted - 8 For Loss)
  • 2 Sacks
  • 5 Passes Defended
  • 1 Fumble Recoveries 

Jeremiah Trotter Jr - Clemson Tigers - 6’0 - 230 lbs

  • 39 Games 
  • 192 Total Tackles (113 Solo - 79 Assisted - 29.5 For Loss) 
  • 13 Sacks 
  • 14 Passes Defended 
  • 4 Interceptions 
  • 2 Defensive Touchdowns
  • 3 Forced Fumbles 

Tommy Eichenberg - Ohio State Buckeyes - 6’2 - 239 lbs 

  • 37 Games 
  • 258 Total Tackles (145 Solo - 113 Assisted - 20.5 For Loss)
  • 3 Sacks
  • 6 Passes Defended
  • 2 Interceptions 
  • 1 Forced Fumble 
  • 1 Fumble Recovery 

Payton Wilson - NC State Wolfpack - 6’4 - 238 lbs

  • 46 Games 
  • 402 Total Tackles (202 Solo - 200 Assisted - 48 For Loss)
  • 15 Sacks 
  • 20 Passes Defended
  • 7 Interceptions 
  • 1 Defensive Touchdowns 
  • 1 Forced Fumble
  • 2 Fumble Recoveries 

While Gray’s footwork, run defense, and ability to defend against certain routes are areas of concern, his frame, strength, and speed make him a perfect fit for the Cleveland Browns defense.   

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