KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Duke tight end Noah Gray, adding depth to a position that already boasts what many believe to be the best tight end in the league in Travis Kelce.
As the offseason has progressed, so has Gray and head coach Andy Reid is excited to see what he looks like once the team gets to training camp and can put on pads.
“You can see that he’s a good route-runner. There’s more to that spot than just doing that, so we’ll see once he gets pads on, but he sure is willing to do whatever we’ve asked and you get a sense that he’s quarterback-friendly,” Reid said. “That always helps if you’re a receiver. If quarterbacks like throwing the ball to you, that’s a plus.”
Gray’s new quarterback, Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes, would agree.
“I think he has that veteran-type skillset that he’s able to get himself open even if it’s not what the play was designed to do,” Mahomes said. “He knows how to get his eyes back, be on the quarterback’s timing.”
In his time with the Duke Blue Devils, Gray missed only one game and played in 48. He pulled in 105 catches for 948 yards.
Gray was also able to find the end zone eight times in his college career, something he’ll look to add on to at the professional level while backing up Kelce who tied for most among tight ends with 11 touchdowns in 2020.
“It’s not everyday you get to learn from one of the best tight ends in the league and it’s truly an honor. I’m excited to get there and just be a sponge,” Gray said. “Just try to gather as much information watch him as much as possible see everything that he does. On the field even off the field.”
Minicamp just finished, but Gray’s performance so far has impressed the three-time All-Pro tight end.
“He’s got a very unique way of understanding football. He’s years ahead of being a rookie, which is awesome. You can kind of give him pointers, and he’s running with everything,” Kelce said. “He’s absorbing all the information that the coaches are giving him, that he’s hearing from other players, and he’s having a lot of success out there on the field. He’s going to definitely help us this year.”
Kelce is no stranger to sitting behind a veteran upon entering the league.
In 2013, Kelce backed-up tight end Anthony Fasano. Although an injury kept him sidelined for all but one snap as a rookie, he said the ability to learn behind Fasano helped boost his confidence.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that Fasano gave me, was that if you put the work in, if you understand the game mentally, you can play so much faster,” Kelce said. “I think Noah has a great understanding of the game. He has a good understanding of what defenses are being presented in front of him, and that’s half the battle.”
The tight end room in Kansas City also includes Blake Bell, Even Baylis and Nick Keizer. If Gray can continue to compete and earn the No. 2 spot, his pass catching ability will allow the Chiefs to run multiple tight end sets and create mismatches on offense.
“They bring in more linebackers or a bigger guy because we’re bringing in bigger guys, so they try to match the personnel, which can also kind of play in our advantage because we’ve got guys that can run routes everywhere in the tight end room,” Kelce said. “It’s just trying to take advantage of those mismatches and just be accountable for the team. Anything that Coach Reid can imagine, we want to be able to give him that option to call.”