Chris Gragg comes into the season a bit undersized (6’3 and 235 pounds), however he plays bigger than listed. He came into his own last season and starting for the first time, replacing recently drafted D.J. Williams (Green Bay Packers) catching 41 passes for 518 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not one to get many opportunities on a team laced with offensive talent, Chris slowly churns until his number is called and plays to his potential; this being Week 12 against Mississippi State where he caught 8 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, assuring “style points” and bolstered Arkansas’ firm holding in the BCS standings. Prior to last year, Chris was a backup and played a limited role in the Razorback Offense. In 2010, he did play in all 13 games (as an extra blocker) but did have one “break out” game against Ole Miss where he had 8 catches for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns. Taking a Medical Redshirt in 2009 for a dislocated ankle, he missed the entire season. His first year on campus, Chris started 3 games, played in all 12 games, however this time at Wide Receiver.
Size and Speed: Chris comes into the year standing 6’3 and 235 pounds. A little on the small side for his Height, he plays bigger on the field than what he is listed. Reportedly, Chris is projected to run in the 4.63-4.7 range in this year’s draft process. He uses his size better than his frame would suggest and is coming into his own as an inline blocker (former Receiver). He does need to put on a bit more mass, as his frame shows it can handle it.
Release: As a former Wide Receiver, Chris has a very clean release off of the line. He is able to beat the press and also find soft spots in the zone. Chris has great separation skills and can shake off the initial defender, leading to greater YAC, and closer coverage, which, he is able to beat off the line.
Route Running: This may be Chris’ weakness in his game. He shows he can run the trees, but isn’t given a chance in his limited (however growing) part in the Razorback Offense. This past season he ran mostly Out Routes and short Crossing patterns, however, the more confidence he gains, Petrino has allowed him to run more Deep Vertical routes (see Mississippi State game). He needs to show more fluid turns, both in his hips, and turning to meet the ball/defender. Also, this upcoming season, more non-Out Routes.
Hands: Chris has great hands. It’s quite as simple as that. If the ball is thrown anywhere near him, he will find, track, and get his hands onto it. He is able to make adjustments both in the air (high point) and with his body to put himself in position, on the rare off-thrown ball from Quarterback Tyler Wilson. He is a great hand catcher, and doesn’t trap many (if any) passes against his chest. He needs to improve on his concentration; he had 2-3 passes last year fall off of his fingers, trying to make the play before securing the pass.
Body Control and Traffic Ability: Chris shows great body control and can flip and turn with the play and make a break on the ball. This leads to great ability in heavy traffic, as most of his game comes from making plays over the middle (middle slip screens/dunk off safety passes), which are highly contested by the Middle Linebacker and Safety. Chris shows an incredible ability to move around in heavy trafficked areas, and can break a play given tight windows/coverage.
YAC: Chris shows he can break away ability from both initial contact and can out run the middle of the field (linebacking corps). He can dip his shoulder to shake off and has a developed stiff arm. The downside is he doesn’t have the elite breakaway speed to outrun the secondary and will need to adjust to the speed at the next level. Also needs more reps on passing downs to fairly determine this ability.
Blocking: This may be one of Chris’ weaknesses, however, most used quality in the Razorback Offense. He is in as either the lead blocker or strong side blocker on run plays, playing both inline, and also in the backfield (FB). He needs work coming from the outside (Receiver) but has picked up his responsibilities and improved every week last year. He is able to seal the edge and work his way to the second and third levels. He needs to work on staying grounded and making sure he finishes the block before moving to the next helmet.
Overall: Chris grew on me the more I watched him. I initially had him as a mid round talent, due to infrequent touches and his underdeveloped blocking ability. However, re-watching he strikes me as a surefire2nd round pick and top-50 talent due to his catching prowess and able to stay in on third down. His ceiling will be that of a Dallas Clark if he can improve his overall blocking. His size/speed will create problems for defenses both in College and in the NFL as long as he is able to develop and work on his successes from the 2011 season.