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