Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

4 things to know about new 49ers WR Danny Gray

Apr 29, 2022 at 10:56 PM--

The 49ers added a heavy dose of speed to their receiving room on Friday when they selected SMU wideout Danny Gray with the final pick in Round 3 (105 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Gray (6-0, 186) is coming off a season of 49 catches for 803 yards and nine touchdowns at SMU. He's come a long way to get where he is now, and he'll be motivated to make the most of the opportunity he'll be getting in San Francisco.

Here are some things to know about Gray as he begins his time with the 49ers.

A long and tough road to success

Gray's story is one of perseverance through circumstances that not every youngster is able to overcome. He grew up in a single-parent household where his mother had to work 16-hour days (or more) and was one of six siblings. He decided to skip most of his freshman year of high school in order to help take care of two of his younger siblings.

"I had to grow up real early," Gray told FOX4 in Dallas. "Had to be a man, had to take care of responsibilities real early."

Gray thought his dreams of reaching the NFL were slipping away before he decided to contact his first coach, Keldrick Barron. Gray moved in with Barron, who helped keep him on his path towards the NFL.

Gray hit another bump in the road when he failed to qualify to play in college at the University of Missouri due to the academic credits he missed while sitting out during his freshman year. But he wound up going to Blinn Junior College, where he played two seasons before transferring to SMU, which eventually put him on the path to the 49ers.

He now hopes to be an example for others who have to fight similar battles.

"Watching young kids every day with my talent go down the wrong path," Gray told CBS News in Dallas. "For me to be a steppingstone, that legacy for them showing them that you can really do it. You can be somebody."

Speed, speed, speed

There's speed, and then there's Danny Gray's type of speed. He's shown it on the football field and in competition on the track in high school.

Gray was clocked at 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine to go with a vertical jump of 34 inches and a broad jump of 126 inches. He was a state champion in track at James Madison High School in Dallas, Texas, running a personal best of 10.59 in the 100 meter dash while also winning a title as a part of the school's 4x100 relay team (per 247Sports).

That speed is one of the big reasons the 49ers selected Gray with the final pick in the third round.

"I bring elite speed, great in open space, and I'm a deep ball threat," Gray said.

Not necessarily a need

Some felt the 49ers needed a receiver coming into the draft, especially after All-Pro Deebo Samuel asked for a trade. But the 49ers didn't necessarily view Gray as a need pick. They liked what he had to offer at the spot he was drafted and expect that he'll be able to fill a similar role to that of former 49ers receiver Travis Benjamin.

"We feel pretty good about our receivers," general manager John Lynch said. "We just felt good about the skillset that Danny had. We felt good about our three receivers last year. We were able to add Ray-Ray (McCloud), who we think can help us a lot this year -- not just as a returner, but also part of the group. And we got some guys that you guys don't know about that are good -- players that have bounced around in this league that add some depth for training camp. So this wasn't at all a position we had to go do.

"But when you look at there in the third round, you look at the speed asset this kid has that brings something different to the rest of our guys, that's one of the reasons it was important for us to have Travis Benjamin last year. He was our main speed guy. He didn't get a lot of balls or anything, but he did things to help coverages out. If we could find a guy like that at the right spot, we thought it was good to add him."

Gray will likely have a spot on the roster along with Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, McCloud, and Samuel, assuming he and the 49ers are able to work out their differences. A number of other receivers will be competing for a possible sixth spot, led by veterans Malik Turner, KeeSean Johnson, and Austin Mack.


It's been a wide receiver-heavy draft to this point, with Gray being the 16th receiver chosen over the first three rounds. But he wants to show he'll be the best of the bunch.

"It was a great moment (to get drafted)," Gray told reporters after being selected. "All the receivers that were taken before me, yeah, I'm gonna show 'em something."

As a member of the 49ers, he'll be in a good spot to prove himself and already has a good comfort level after visiting with the team earlier in the predraft process.

"All the meetings were great," Gray said. "It just felt like home. The whole thing just felt like home."

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