In Part 1, we looked at Ryan Grant's athletic profile and college production in order to help us get a better idea of what we can expect out of his career in the NFL. If you missed it, then check it out right here before reading on.
Today, we'll wrap things up by examining Grant's preseason and by comparing his rookie year production to the rookie seasons of every other starting receiver in the league. And finally, we'll answer the question of what exactly we should actually be expecting from a fifth-round wide receiver like Ryan Grant. Let's dive right in.
As we touched on in Part 1, Grant put up some impressive numbers in his first preseason in the NFL. He finished the exhibition season tied for fourth in receptions and receiving touchdowns and twelfth in receiving yards. He also posted an impressive mark of 2.12 yards per route run.
It seems that his success in these games was the primary impetus for the hype and the fanfare that followed him into the regular season and that continues to do so to this very day. If this is where the vast majority of the optimism surrounding Grant originates from, then it only makes sense for us to take a closer look at how he produced those numbers and who he produced them against.
Luckily for us, Pro Football Focus tracks who is covering a receiver on every one of their targets, receptions and touchdowns, so we can actually see who Grant recorded each of his 14 preseason receptions against. PFF also tracks where the receiver caught the ball, but we'll come back to that later. For now, let's focus on the defenders.
|Defender||Team||Targets||Rec||Yards||TD||14 PFF Rate|
As you can see, this group is not exactly comprised of elite defensive players. Five of them did not take a single snap in a regular season game and of the ten that did, only four (40%) were given a positive regular season grade by PFF.
Both of Grant's preseason touchdowns and over 40 percent of his receptions and yards in those games came against the aforementioned subset of players that did not record a regular season snap. The highest graded defender that he caught a preseason pass against was Cleveland linebacker Craig Robertson (2.2 regular season grade). I mean, I guess that's better than catching a pass against Craig Robinson; but if that's your best, then I'm not too impressed.
I have no historical data that backs up the idea that who you produce against in the preseason matters, but if this is where our hope of Grant developing into a starter stems from then it might be wise for us to pump the brakes after what we just saw. I also believe that if similar results are observed in the regular season then this information becomes even more instructive for us.
We know that Grant's regular season performance fell short of what he was able to accomplish in the preseason, but there are many that don't really understand how it happened and just how badly his production fell off.
Following the Week 2 contest against a lowly Jaguars team that saw him grab five passes for 57 yards, Grant went on to catch just two more balls for 11 yards in the final 14 games of the regular season. Passes directed at Grant in those final 14 games resulted in just as many interceptions as they did receptions (two each). His yards per route average took a precipitous drop from his preseason number of 2.14 all the way down to 0.61.
Not only did Grant not catch a touchdown against any NFL-caliber players in the preseason, he did not score in the regular season either. This is a disturbing trend when you consider that Grant also never caught a touchdown against top-level competition throughout his entire college career (versus Power 5 or top 25 ranked teams). Grant may have very well scored against a Conference USA defender that ended up in the NFL, but I was unable to find any proof that he did, so it's quite possible that he has never caught a touchdown pass against a NFL-caliber defender in his life.
That was kind of depressing, so let's all just take a deep breath and move on. Anyways, just as we did with the preseason, let's see who Grant did his best work against in the games that counted.
|Defender||Team||Targets||Rec||Yards||INT||TD||14 PFF Rate|
Almost 30 percent of Grant's receptions and 44 percent of his yards came against Jacksonville's Dwayne Gratz. Gratz was PFF's 83rd rated overall cornerback and their 100th rated corner in coverage. Grant was only targeted twice when covered by defenders with a PFF rating higher than 0.1. Both targets resulted in interceptions.
Before we compare Grant to the starting receivers around the league, I thought we would first see how he stacks up against his fellow members of the 2014 receiver class. This may very well be the greatest wide receiver class of all time, so it's probably best that we take the following rankings with a grain of salt. Only 34 receivers in the class were credited with at least one target on the year, so we will only be concentrating on those players.
||Targets||Rec||Catch %||Yards||Y/R||TD||INT||Drops||QB Rate|
|2014 Class Rank
Unsurprisingly, Grant is not off to a great start, but the previous table was comprised mostly of aggregate totals and Grant didn't get the same amount of playing time that many of his 2014 brethren did. His 187 snaps and 111 snaps in route ranked him 21st and 19th respectively in the class. Perhaps that means Grant will look better in terms of efficiency.
|2014 Class Rank||31st||31st||31st||30th||33rd|
Well, that didn't quite have the desired effect now, did it? He is ranked near the bottom of the class by every one of these measures.
|Advanced||PFF||PFF Pass||PFF Block||WPA||EPA||DVOA||DYAR||AV|
|2014 Class Rank||28th||26th||29th||33rd||33rd||25th||23rd||26th|
Things don't look quite as bad here, but they're still far from ideal. Just remember that we are looking at Grant next to what is probably the best class of wideouts in the history of the game.
Starting NFL Receivers' Rookie Seasons
Now it's finally time for us to see how Grant's rookie season compares to the rookie campaigns of every starting receiver in the league.
It is my belief that a team's third receiver should be counted as a starter in the modern-day NFL, because teams spend the majority of their time in the 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three receivers), so to that end I have listed the top three receivers for each team. That got me to 96 pass catchers, so I threw in four more (Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin) to make it an even 100. Ryan Grant is the 101st.
This should be one of the most telling historical comparisons that we observe as a part of this discussion, because if it is common for NFL starters to have a rookie year similar to the one that Grant just had, then logic would tell us that there is still a chance for Grant to have a successful NFL career. The table below is fully sortable and the letter "R" in the headers stands for "Rookie".
|Rookie Seasons||R Age||R Rec||R Yards||R TD||YPRR|
Those rankings obviously are not what you would like to see, but they also aren't a death sentence. His average ranking between the categories is 80th, so that means that there are roughly 20 receivers that had worse rookie years.
The area where he comes off looking poorly in is his rookie age. Season age is the player's age on December 31st of a given year. Grant finished his 2014 season as a 24-year old rookie. He is one of just 12 players on this list to finish their first season in the league at the age of 24. Those 12 players are either tied for 89th or 100th/ second to last depending on how you look at it. Only Ricardo Lockette finished his rookie year at age 25.
Digging Deeper for Answers
To get a better idea of whether or not Grant's first season is truly comparable to that of the other starters in the league, I decided to compare Grant to the other players on the list that were 24 or older as rookies and to the players that Grant outproduced in their first year. Let's start with the old guys.
Nearly half of those more senior first-year receivers are made up of a group of players in Terrance Williams, Rod Streater, Brandon LaFell, Roddy White and Harry Douglas that all at least quadrupled Ryan Grant's receiving yardage totals in their rookie years.
Nearly half of the players that Grant outproduced as rookies are comprised of a group that includes Markus Wheaton, Vincent Jackson, Danny Amendola, Jerricho Cotchery and Marquess Wilson. As 23-year olds, Four of these six tripled Grant's rookie year numbers in their second year in the league. Danny Amendola finished his second season as a 24-year old but he recorded over six times more receptions and yards than Grant did. The 22-year old Wilson was only able to double Grant's production in his second year.
This leaves us with a ragtag group of 12 wide receivers and Ryan Grant. For our final comparison to the league's starting receivers we'll take a step back to Part 1 by looking at their athleticism and college production. This time will be using a few new athletic metrics, so I provided a quick primer on them below.
Agility Score- The sum of a player's three-cone drill time and 20-yard short shuttle. This metric is used to measure agility and short area quickness.
Explosion Score- The sum of a player's vertical jump and broad jump distances. This metric is used to measure explosiveness and acceleration.
Height Adjusted Speed Score- A measure of a player's speed (based on their 40-yard dash time) that has been adjusted for both weight and height. This metric is used to measure a player's speed relative to their size.
SPARQ- A formula developed by Nike which measures player athleticism by outputting a single composite score. This is a measure of a player's overall athleticism. Check out Zach Whitman's site for more information.
|Vs. Comps||R/G||Y/G||TD/G||R Age||40||Agility||Explos||HaSS||SPARQ|
Grant's college production ranks him near the middle of the pack, but he's also probably the worst overall athlete in the group. This likely caps his ceiling and that is not good considering how poor his production was last year. The only area that Grant truly shines in is his agility score.
Ryan Grant vs. the World
I also compared Grant to the top 21 receivers in the incoming 2015 class per CBS and NFL Draft Scout. I went with 21 instead of 20 because, well, I kind of like Darren Waller and he was ranked 21st. As you'll see though, Grant outranks him in the majority of the categories, so it doesn't have much of an effect.
We will be looking at college production again this time, as these players obviously have not accumulated any rookie season stats as of yet.
|Vs. 2015 Class||R/G||Y/G||TD/G||R Age||Agility||Explos||40||HaSS||SPARQ|
Once again Grant finds himself stuck in the middle in terms of college production and in the cellar in terms of overall athleticism, but fortunately for him that's not the only thing that remained the same. His agility continues to stand out, as only Amari Cooper bests him in this department. If there's one thing that Grant can hope to hang his hat on in the NFL, it's his agility.
Where can Grant Slot in?
If you're a receiver and you want to put your agility and short-area quickness to good use then the logical place to do so is in the slot. However, before we take away Andre Robert's official designation as Washington's resident "slot machine" and hand the title over to Grant, let's take a look and see how Grant's agility and speed matches up against to the rest of slot guys in the NFL. I had to include more than one player from a few teams because they do not have a clearly defined slot receiver.
If you're a big fan of Ryan Grant and you've been dragging yourself through this article in hopes of finding a silver lining, then look no further because this is it. Grant would rank as the fifth most agile slot receiver in the NFL! He would also rank as the tenth slowest slot guy in the league, but in a way, that's all the more reason for him to be used in this role. If he can't win with his speed, then there isn't much of a point of putting him on the outside and asking to win with go routes and the like.
We've already seen the evidence of the fact that Grant is more comfortable working in the short areas of the field anyways. Eight of his fourteen preseason receptions and six of his seven regular season receptions came within nine yards of the line of scrimmage per PFF.
However, if Grant is ever going to find a niche as slot receiver then he will need to learn how to better use his agility to create separation and break tackles. Only three players in the table above had a lower YAC per reception average than Grant last year: James Jones, Markus Wheaton and Danny Amendola. Those are players whose roles have a much better chance of diminishing than expanding.
What should we be expecting?
Amid the optimism and hype surrounding Ryan Grant sometimes it's easy to forget that he was a fifth-round draft pick. And the hard truth is that fifth-round picks rarely go on to have productive NFL careers, especially at the wide receiver position.
Since the NFL cut the draft down to seven rounds in 1994, receivers that were selected in the fifth round and that have finished their NFL careers have averaged 50 receptions, 685 yards and 4 touchdowns in their entire careers. These are career numbers similar to the ones put up by players like Maurice Stovall, David Tyree, Sam Hurd and Darnerien McCants.
Also, Ryan Grant was selected with the 142nd pick in the draft. Since the merger in 1970, players that were selected with that pick and that have finished their NFL careers have averaged a total career Approximate Value score of between 12 and 13. Receivers with an AV in that range average about 85 receptions, 1,131 yards and 7 touchdowns in their NFL careers. These are numbers comparable to the ones put up by players like Hank Basket, Ruvell Martin and Devin Aromashodu.
A moment ago, I mentioned Darnerien McCants' name to give you an idea of the type of production that we can expect out of a fifth-round wide receiver. That should also serve as a reminder to everyone that we've been in this very same situation before. Take a look at the table below to see every receiver drafted by the Redskins since 2000.
|Name||Draft Year||Round||Pick||Career Rec||Career Yards||Career TD|
|Leonard Hankerson *||2011||3||79||81||1081||6|
|Niles Paul *||2011||5||155||53||735||2|
|Aldrick Robinson *||2011||6||178||30||608||5|
|Ryan Grant *||2014||5||142||7||68||0|
Just take a moment to ask yourself what is more likely: that Ryan Grant eventually becomes a productive NFL starter or that he just represents the next iteration of backup receivers that Redskins fans develop an irrational fondness towards in the tradition of players like Darnerien McCants, Anthony Armstrong (UDFA), Brandon Banks (UDFA) and Aldrick Robinson.
You also may have realized by now that the career averages of all the historical comparisons that have been made in both Part 1 and in this article look very similar to one another.
|Table Summary||Career Rec||Career Yards||Career TD|
|Pick 142 AV||84.9||1130.9||7.0|
|Round 5 WRs||49.6||684.8||3.8|
|WAS WR Picks Since 2000||46.4||609.5||3.8|
There is a chance that Ryan Grant develops into a starting receiver in the NFL, but history tells us that those chances are slim at best. The optimism in the idea that this will happen is simply not warranted. All Redskins fans should want him to succeed, but none of us should be expecting it to happen. We would be much better served by coming to the realization that the team does in fact have a need at the receiver position.
DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both approaching 30, Andre Roberts was a huge disappointment and we cannot count on Ryan Grant to step in and fill the void that will be left by the eventual departure of one or more of these players.
I don't believe that wide receiver is the biggest area of need for the Redskins, but if Scot McCloughan chooses to use the team's first-round pick on Amari Cooper or Kevin White, then I certainly won't be complaining.
*Statistics and other player data courtesy of 3 Sigma Athlete, Advanced Football Analytics, Football Outsiders, Mockdraftable, NFL Draft Scout, Player Profiler, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Sports Reference and Zach Whitman*