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Ryan Grant: The Sleeper In Plain Sight

Is it possible to be one of the most talked about free agent signings of the offseason, and yet also be completely ignored? If you’re Ryan Grant it is.

The Ravens made one of the most surprising moves of the offseason when they signed Grant to a contract with $14.5 million of guaranteed money — a massive number for a player with Grant’s resume. They then made the shadiest move of the offseason when they subsequently claimed that Grant failed his physical right after Michael Crabtree became a free agent, throwing Grant back into the free agency pool and signing Crabtree instead.

While the $5 million guaranteed Grant received from the Colts on a one year deal is a much smaller commitment, it’s still more money than some free agents with bigger names and more production have signed for. While most of the focus has been on the Ravens’ apparent buyer’s remorse for giving him a contract way over his market value, Grant has quietly ended up in a situation where — if things break right for him — he could put up a useful fantasy season.

It’s worth asking though, is Grant any good?

Grant The Prospect

Grant took an unusual path as a prospect, playing in parts of five college seasons. After nine receptions as a freshman, Grant was second on the team in yards as a sophomore, and appeared primed for a breakout junior year as Tulane’s top receiving option heading into the season. A sports hernia suffered during the first half of the season opener knocked him out for the year though, and delayed any chance he had of a reasonably early breakout.

When Grant returned the following year, he immediately broke out to the tune of a 0.30 Dominator Rating, and followed that up with an even better senior year, albeit at an advanced age. For more on his college production, take yourself back to 2013 where Matthew Freedman goes in depth about his intriguing potential.

Grant’s combine wasn’t special, but he did display plus agility and held his own in the jumps. Though his 40 time at the combine was poor, he improved by a tenth of a second at his pro day, and certainly did nothing to disqualify himself from an athletic standpoint.

Grant wasn’t a special prospect. However, he was very productive in his final two seasons, and his advanced age could be blamed on a year lost to injury, along with the need most small-conference players have to prove themselves to NFL talent evaluators while playing against weaker competition.

Grant the NFL Player

Grant’s career stats are not impressive. Over his four years in the league, he has only 985 receiving yards and 6 TDs. More than half of that though came last year, in his age-27 season. In fact, from an efficiency standpoint, Grant was actually one of the best receivers in the league in 2017.

PLAYERSEASreTRGSreRECSreYDSreTDSPPRreFPOEreFPOEPA
Juju Smith-Schuster201779589177191.762.40.79
Tyreek Hill20171057511837239.271.40.68
Ted Ginn201770537874159.645.60.65
Will Fuller201750284237113.232.60.65
Tyrell Williams201769437284139.835.10.51
Marvin Jones20171076111019225.149.10.46
Stefon Diggs201795648498198.242.10.44
Sammy Watkins201770395938146.326.80.38
Doug Baldwin2017116759918221.339.20.34
Ryan Grant201765455734126.322.20.34
Antonio Brown201716210115339308.352.30.32
Nelson Agholor201795627688187.529.70.31
Robert Woods201785567815165.326.40.31
Cooper Kupp201794628585177.8260.28
Paul Richardson201780447036150.322.20.28
Golden Tate20171209210035224.532.90.27
Davante Adams20171187488510222.529.90.25
Brandin Cooks20171146510827219.228.60.25
Travis Benjamin201765345674124.315.30.24
Albert Wilson20176242554311614.90.24
Rishard Matthews201787537954156.219.50.22
DeAndre Hopkins201717496137813311.8340.2
Robby Anderson201711463941720020.10.18
Jermaine Kearse201710265810517618.30.18
Allen Hurns20175639484299.48.40.15
Devin Funchess201711263840819516.20.14
Kelvin Benjamin201778486923135.210.70.14
Keenan Allen201715910213936278.220.80.13
Michael Thomas201714910412455258.518.10.12
Mohamed Sanu201796677035174.8511.40.12
Kenny Stills2017105588476178.711.40.11
Keelan Cole201783427483134.89.40.11
Ty Hilton2017109579664177.610.80.1
Adam Thielen20171439112774243.812.40.09
Chris Hogan201759344395109.65.20.09
Julio Jones20171488814443251.97.90.05
Randall Cobb201792666534157.54.50.05
Sterling Shepard201784597312144.53.30.04
Trent Taylor201760434302982.50.04
A.J. Green20171437510758230.53.40.02
Larry Fitzgerald201716110911566261.652.10.01
Michael Crabtree2017101586188167.80.80.01
Amari Cooper201796486807158.410.01
Deonte Thompson20176838555210510.01
Jarvis Landry20171611129879264-0.10
Danny Amendola201786616592138.9-0.10
Adam Humphries201783616311130.70.10
Chris Godwin20175534525192.5-0.4-0.01
Jamison Crowder2017103667893166.3-1.9-0.02
Mike Wallace201792527484151.2-2.1-0.02
DeSean Jackson201790506683138.6-4.8-0.05
Martavis Bryant201784506033130.5-3.8-0.05
Tyler Lockett201771455552118.3-3.5-0.05
Marquise Goodwin2017105569622168.6-6.4-0.06
Alshon Jeffery2017120577899189.9-10-0.08
J.J. Nelson20176129504295.1-4.8-0.08
Marqise Lee201796567023145.9-9.1-0.09
Jordy Nelson201788534826137.2-7.9-0.09
Kendall Wright201791596141126.4-9.3-0.1
Demaryius Thomas2017140839495207.9-16.2-0.12
Seth Roberts20176543455194.5-7.5-0.12
Jaron Brown201769314774102.7-9.2-0.13
Bennie Fowler20175629350382-7.5-0.13
Jeremy Maclin201772404403102-10.3-0.14
Taylor Gabriel20175133378181.7-7.1-0.14
Josh Doctson201778355026119.8-11.8-0.15
Terrance Williams201778535680111.3-11.7-0.15
Mike Evans20171367110045201.4-22.3-0.16
Brandon LaFell201789525483124.8-16.4-0.18
Cole Beasley20176336314491.4-11.2-0.18
Eric Decker201783545631116.3-17-0.2
Pierre Garcon20176740500090-13.3-0.2
Torrey Smith20176836430290.7-14.4-0.21
Rashard Higgins20175027312270.6-10.3-0.21
Dez Bryant2017131688396187.5-31.4-0.24
Seth DeValve20175833395178.5-14-0.24
Dede Westbrook20175127339166.9-12.1-0.24
Bruce Ellington20175629330275.7-14-0.25
Roger Lewis20177236416289.6-19.1-0.27
DeVante Parker201796576701130-28-0.29
John Brown20175521299369.9-16.2-0.29
Emmanuel Sanders201792475552114.5-29.6-0.32
Corey Coleman20175723305265.5-21.2-0.37
Corey Davis20176534375071.5-29.9-0.46
Ricardo Louis20176127357062.7-30.2-0.49
Zay Jones20177427316270.6-53.7-0.73

Of the 87 WRs with 50 or more targets last year, Grant ranked 10th in fantasy points over expectation per attempt (FPOEPA). While it was over a smaller sample than most players, and efficiency is highly variable, it does offer evidence that Grant is capable of playing well when given the opportunity.

With such a limited sample, it’s impossible to draw any strong conclusions about his NFL ability, but the strong interest he attracted in free agency is a positive sign for his value. The Ravens may have initially overpaid for Grant, but clearly they saw something they liked, and the Colts didn’t hesitate to snap him up as soon as he became available again. He wasn’t an afterthought added to a roster as a fourth WR, he was an asset pursued right at the start of free agency.

The Colts Depth Chart

Let’s get this out of the way first, the Colts have plenty of draft picks and it would not at all be surprising for them to add a WR as high as the second round. The Colts also have needs at pretty much every other position though, and making assumptions about the draft has made fools of many an analyst.

Make no mistake, WR is most definitely a need for the Colts. Behind T.Y. Hilton and Grant is a crew of castoffs and UDFAs that have all done little at the NFL level. Many didn’t catch a single pass in 2017.

Colts WR Depth

Once the dust settles on the draft, there’s a decent chance that Grant enters the season as the Colts WR2. It’s hard to say what that role is worth in a Colts offense that has a totally new coaching staff and a quarterback in Andrew Luck whose range of outcomes encompasses everything from top-3 QB to never-fully-heals-and-misses-the-season-again, but it could end up being a valuable one.

The biggest threat to target volume other than a high draft pick may be the tight end group of Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron. The Colts have deployed two TEs in the past to great success, but that was under a different coaching staff. Still, both Ebron and Doyle have seen extensive usage in the past couple years, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to each garner significant targets again.

Summary

If it sounds like I’m not trying to sell Grant as the next big thing, you’re right, I’m not. There’s always the outside chance that Grant has a 5th-year breakout, and he actually bears a passing resemblance to some of the 5th-year guys Shawn Siegele found when he looked at the history of breakout WRs,1 but that’s not exactly a likely outcome. Grant doesn’t need to break 200 points to be a huge value where he’s currently being drafted though.

Grant is currently being taken as the 81st WR off the board in MFL10s, and even later in FFPC (92nd) and DRAFT (96th) best ball leagues. The uncertainty in Grant’s situation and the situation of the Colts as a whole has drafters spooked, but the potential for upside is being ignored.

Buy Grant now and put yourself in a position to profit if news breaks his way as the offseason rolls on.

  1. Later pick or UDFA with decent success in his 4th year who then changed teams.  (back)
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