Who is Ryan Grant?

Jaron Foster


There have been few bright spots on the Redskins’ offense in recent seasons, particularly with the drama and uncertainty at the quarterback position, but the most recent draft class produced a couple reasons for optimism in Washington. Matt Jones has received the majority of the attention after outperforming Alfred Morris early, but the Redskins added a wide receiver who has quietly been thrust into a starting role. Is Ryan Grant roster worthy in dynasty leagues, though?

Not to be confused with the former Green Bay running back, the second-year wideout for the Redskins attended Tulane from 2009 through 2013. Grant caught nine passes for 39 yards and a touchdown as a freshman in 2009 then recorded 33 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns in his sophomore season.

In what would have been his third season at Tulane, Grant suffered a season-ending hernia injury in the first game of the season. He made a triumphant return in 2012 with 76 receptions for 1,149 yards and six touchdowns and concluded his collegiate career with 77 receptions for 1,039 yards and nine scores.

Grant merited an invitation to the 2014 NFL Combine, but the 6’0, 195-pound receiver did not impress as much in drills as he did on the field. He placed 12th in the 20-yard shuttle and tied for fourth (with former Seahawk and current Panther Kevin Norwood) with a 6.68-second 3-cone drill, but did not place in the top 15 in any other category.

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Leading up to the draft, reviews were mixed on Grant and he was projected to be anything from a late day two selection to an undrafted free agent. The Redskins made him their fifth round pick (#142 overall) and first player selected on the offensive side of the ball. At the time, there was a great deal of negative feedback on the pick given the team’s perceived depth at the position. Of course, once promising receivers Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson have since been released and both age and injuries have caught up to other players on the depth chart.

Grant’s appeal to the Redskins likely started with his strong hands as he was widely considered to be among the most sound receivers in the draft. He has shown a knack for making difficult catches and runs strong routes. He is quick off the line and has shown toughness in the middle of the field – traits reminiscent of slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. Though Grant is bigger than Hawkins, similar skillsets and the Gruden connection (in Cincinnati) may tip the Redskins’ hand to their intentions of how to use Grant in the offense. In his time with the team, he has played all over the field as the team evaluates his effectiveness in different situations.

A lack of speed will likely limit him to the slot most of the time, though his small frame may be a concern when considering the hits he would regularly take in that role. He also showed elusiveness in the preseason to find ways of getting open in the middle of the field and could become a third down security blanket for his quarterback.

To do so, he will need to improve his strength and display more physicality against stronger defenders. He is smart and mature, with many coaches and teammates commenting on how the second year player has a veteran presence, though he needs to translate this better on the field as he doesn’t always finish plays or give 100% on every snap.

These were not significant concerns for Washington during the preseason, however, when Grant proved to be a favorite target of current starting quarterback Kirk Cousins and was referred to by Gruden as the team’s “best pure route runner.”

While he had played in all 16 games in 2014, primarily on special teams, Grant only caught seven passes for 68 yards and did not find the end zone. Making the 53-man roster in 2015 were six wide receivers (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jamison Crowder, Rashad Ross and Grant) as well as three tight ends (Jordan Reed, Anthony McCoy and the recently acquired Derek Carrier).

An injury to Jackson has thrust Grant into a starting role, although his skillset is closer to that of Garcon. Through three games, he has not exactly made his presence felt with only six receptions for 69 yards as the third receiving option behind Garcon and Reed. Some of this may be attributed to game flow and Cousins’ play at quarterback, though it has been clear Grant is more of a “move the chains” type of receiver. On the young season, he is third in receiving yards and fifth in receptions (behind Crowder’s eight and Chris Thompson’s nine as well).

Some liken Grant to another Redskin, Santana Moss, which is high praise considering Moss’ five seasons with 70 or more receptions and four seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards. The issue for Grant will be the potential for a workload that would allow him the targets to approach such statistics as Washington has run the ball on 53.2% of their offensive plays. With Jones and Morris to share the backfield workload, Reed and Garcon healthy (for now) and Jackson returning, Grant will likely be relegated to the sixth or seventh option in an offense that has not been particularly fantasy friendly.

On Grant’s side is that the current Gruden regime handpicked him as the first player they drafted for their offense this year. If he can add some muscle and prove his durability in the slot, Grant could evolve into a reliable possession receiver with a handful of targets per game. The upside is limited even in a starting role, but he may become a consistent flex play depending on the quarterback and supporting cast. His rookie contract extends through the 2017 season, while Jackson, Garcon and Reed all have expiring contracts following the 2016 season.

With Jackson close to a return, Grant can be left on the waiver wire. However, should Garcon or Reed miss time this season (a very good possibility) he should be on the short list of potential adds.


jaron foster
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