KC Chiefs interview: Duke OC Jeff Faris talks about Noah Gray

Oct 3, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils tight end Noah Gray (87) makes a catch during warm ups before playing against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils tight end Noah Gray (87) makes a catch during warm ups before playing against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports /

Jeff Faris isn’t quite sure which story to tell me.

As co-offensive coordinator for the Duke Blue Devils, as well as tight ends coach for the last four seasons, Coach Faris knows a thing or two about new Kansas City Chiefs tight end Noah Gray. In the moment, he’s having trouble distilling down his excitement for the player and person down to a single representative moment.

Perhaps it’s the time his ankle was so swollen that he couldn’t walk in the team’s hotel before his final game against Florida State—a game in which coaches removed him from the game plan—yet ended up playing anyway. Or maybe it’s the time he caught a long touchdown pass only to get angry at the special teams coordinator for trying to take him off special teams duty on the next play. Then again, there’s the time he refused to come out of a hitting circuit against the linebackers despite having an injured shoulder as a primary offensive weapon.

“There are just so many. Noah’s just a great player. He’s unreal,,” said Faris.

Duke offensive coordinator Jeff Faris speaks about Chiefs TE Noah Gray.

Faris has plenty of superlatives for his now-former tight end, but he’s not the only one who clearly sees potential at the pro level for Gray. The Chiefs decided to make their only trade of the 2021 NFL Draft in the fifth round in order to move up and grab him. It was the addition that general manager Brett Veach had telegraphed at the start of the offseason when he stated that it was time to get Travis Kelce some rest for the rigors of a lengthening regular season and postseason.

“We talked to scouts from every team but it’s so hard to tell. Sometimes they’re drafted by teams you’ve talked to four or five times. Other times, it’s someone you’ve never even talked to. I’ve stopped trying to guess,” said Faris.

“:When it happened, I thought, ‘What a fit!’ And he felt the same way. In our Duke tight end meetings, we’d watch tight end tape and obviously Travis Kelce is one we like to watch and learn from. I know he’ll soak it all in and learn so much from his new coaches. I know he couldn’t be more excited.”

Over the last four years, Gray has set Duke records at the tight end position with 105 career catches for 948 yards and 8 touchdowns. HIs production, athleticism, and hands made him a pretty safe bet to be drafted, but no one was quite sure when or where he would fall. Faris said his primary advice before the draft was not to worry about how things would go—only to control what he can and to let the rest take care of itself.

“There is no one who is more built for success. Obviously his on the field ability speaks for itself, but who Noah Gray is—the way that he was raised and the way that he works—gave me no doubt that, regardless of where he went, he would be a helluva pro and be an unbelievable guy in that locker room and a leader.”

When it comes to making the adjustment to the pros, Gray is going to face longer odds by definition as a Day 3 selection. However, Faris isn’t buying that. He might be biased, but he also makes a great case for Gray’s likelihood for future success.

“A lot of people talk about his production in the passing game and his ability to get open on linebackers and safeties. I think what people don’t understand about Noah is how tough he is in the run game, too. I think he’s a complete player.

“He’s extremely intelligent. He graduated from Duke in 3.5 years with a degree in political science,” he continued. “The way he studies is fanatical. He asks questions in the meeting rooms like he was the offensive coordinator. He loves the game and can’t learn enough. I guess there’s a learning curve for every player going from college to the NFL, but I would assume that Noah would be very quick to catch up.”

Draft analysts have pointed to Gray’s size and skill level as a blocker as a primary reason for his lower draft stock. However, Faris says much of that is contingent on what Duke asked him to do.

“I think [blocking] is an extremely underrated part of his game,” explained Faris. “He’s one of the toughest players we’ve had at Duke. I think a lot of times, people would say that’s a concern, but we didn’t ask him to do that a lot because he was a weapon on the perimeter catching touchdown passes. Whenever we did ask him to, if we wanted to get into 13 personnel to run the ball on the goal line, we never had any doubt that Noah would get that job done.

Whatever you ask Noah to do, he is fine. He’s relentless in the weight room. At his pro day, he was 240 lbs. and 6’3 and change. If you told him to be at 250, he’d be there tomorrow. But for the role they’ll use him in, I think he’ll probably be a more-than-adequate blocker and then obviously still able to utilize him in the passing game.”

For now, Gray will have a chance to learn from the NFL’s best tight end in Kelce and slowly grow into a role on the league’s most dynamic offense. If anything, Gray will likely be given plenty of reps on special teams from the start and allowed to grow into a larger offensive role as the need arises and/or the coaches believe he is ready. While the door isn’t wide open for early playing time on offense, Faris had one more round of superlatives to make his case that Gray has a bright future at the next level.

“We’ve had really good pass catching tight ends and we’ve had really good run blocking tight ends. It’s hard to find guys who can do both, but I believe 2000 percent that Noah Gray can be both.”

Ranking every Chiefs first-round pick since 2000. dark. Next