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Will former rugby star Alex Gray make the Falcons roster in 2018?

The young, learning tight end will certainly compete.

NFL: JAN 13 NFC Divisional Playoff  Falcons at Eagles Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Alex Gray joined the Falcons as the 11th member of their practice squad, it would be fair to say that expectations for him were fairly low. He’s obviously a solid athlete, but he was going to spend the 2017 season learning the sport with literally zero chance of actually making the roster.

The 2018 season is a different story, however, and Gray will be competing for a spot in a relatively unsettled Falcons tight end depth chart. Austin Hooper is the nominal (and deserved) starter and the Falcons have already been scoping out tight ends, but Levine Toilolo isn’t guaranteed to make the roster with some cap savings if he’s cut (even if I think he will) and absolutely nothing is certain for second-year player Eric Saubert. There’s some opportunity here for Gray, if he can seize it.

So if there’s an opportunity and Gray has the tools, what could keep him off this roster? Plenty.

The biggest problem is that we don’t know what Gray’s progress has actually added up to, and whether he’d be ready to play the tight end position at an NFL level last year. The physical tools are there and the coaching staff talked him up throughout much of the 2017 season, but until we see him out there competing with a year under his belt, we simply won’t know if he’s ready to contend for a spot. There’s also the matter that the three guys on the roster are all currently entrenched and received at least some playing time in 2017, which gives them a leg up on someone like Gray who hasn’t had live game action.

Ultimately, Gray is a long shot for a roster spot, as you’d expect. But I do think if he’s caught on quickly, there’s opportunity to latch on as the team’s third or fourth tight end, and I think Gray gets a long look even if the Falcons add a draft pick or free agent to the position.