Spotlight: Ryan Grant

posted by Jeff Pasquino on Jun 15th


Jeff Pasquino's thoughts

Ryan Grant gets very little respect. For the past two seasons, Grant has been the model of consistency for Green Bay as their top running back, posting over 1,200 yards rushing and - most importantly - starting in every contest during that two-year stretch. To put that 1,200 yards statistic in perspective, only three NFL rushers have reached that level in 2008 and 2009 - Adrian Peterson, Thomas Jones and Ryan Grant. Grant is one of the few feature tailbacks in the NFL right now and he there is no one on the Green Bay roster that should be considered a threat to Grant's top dog status. The Packers did draft a running back in April (James Starks out of Buffalo) but the sixth rounder is far from being ready to step in and contribute at the top level.

Grant also gets to benefit from the strong passing attack that leads the Green Bay offense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has several options at receiver and tight end to move the ball quickly downfield. With defenses having to respect Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings on every snap, running lanes pop up quite often for Grant to exploit.

Positives

  • The Green Bay Packers are a top notch offense led first and foremost by their passing attack. Despite the talented passing game of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley the Packers are still committed to a balanced offense. The strong passing game opens up big holes for Ryan Grant in the ground game
  • Grant's yards per carry increased from 2008 to 2009 as he added a hefty half-yard (from 3.9 to 4.4) last season along with seven touchdowns
  • While Green Bay has added some talent behind Grant, there is no real threat to Grant's stranglehold on the feature RB role with the Packers. Barring any injury issues, Grant should see 20-30 touches in every 2010 contest

Negatives

  • Green Bay has many, many weapons in the passing game, starting off with their Pro Bowl signal caller Aaron Rodgers. Ryan Grant and the ground game can easily be overlooked if Rodgers and company get off on a major roll in any contest
  • Building on the passing game notion, it has to be mentioned that if there is any reason that Green Bay replaces Ryan Grant on the field it is in passing situations. For 2009, Grant was the Packers' most targeted back, but only by four over understudy Brandon Jackson, who actually outpaced Jackson in 2008 by close to a 2 to 1 margin (Jackson 39 targets, Grant 22)
  • Rookie addition James Starks has looked good so far in OTAs since being drafted in April. With the NFL becoming more and more of a committee approach at running back the newest addition may start to take away some of Grant's workload
  • The Packers have several playmakers on defense, but as Arizona illustrated in the playoffs last January, Green Bay can be scored upon and give up lots of points. Shootouts favor the passing game, not a running back

Final thoughts

There are not too many feature backs left in today's NFL. Most of them are clear first round fantasy selections, but there are a few choice options that tend to slip into the second or third round of drafts. With Grant's current ADP of 20, a team outside of the Top 4 draft spots can take the best player available after the "Big 4" of Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew go off the board and then come right back to Grant for their RB1 in Round 2. Grant has been a solid option for two years running, finishing in the Top 10 last year and as a strong RB2 in 2008 (held back by few touchdowns that year). The Packers have a high powered offense led first and foremost by the passing attack which also opens up big holes for the ground game.

Grant is just 27 years old (he turns 28 in December) and does not suffer from overuse. He has averaged under 20 touches a game for the past two years yet has been productive over that stretch. Rookie addition James Starks along with Brandon Jackson should only take away minimal snaps from Grant throughout the coming season - most likely in passing situations - but the bulk of the work will fall upon Grant for the third consecutive year. Grant is not a flashy, sexy pick but he is a solid option as one of the few feature tailbacks that should be available in the second round of drafts this year.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Holy Schneikes said:

I'll predict he will be undervalued. AGAIN. It's amazing really. Sometimes a guy gets a fantasy "rep", and almost no matter what he does he can't shake it.

I'll repeat a portion of what I said in this thread from March.

Seems like I read all the time how Green Bay is looking to replace him, and no one would even CONSIDER him in the first round of a fantasy draft. Folks just seem to be really down on his talent level in general.

But I'm not sure all of that makes much sense.

Grant was one of the most effective runners in the NFL last year, running against one of the toughest running strength of schedules. Can you really do that without any talent?

According to DVOA (which I know isn't perfect, but is fairly revealing IMO), Grant was 13% more effective than the average back in the same circumstances. Johnson, with his record breaking year, was about 15% more effective to give you a feel for where that stands. He carried a 4.44 average, had ZERO fumbles on the year, is relatively cheap, and at 27 years old is just entering his prime. He had 6 TDs in his last 4 regular season games, and then was VERY effective despite limited carries in his one playoff game.

Looking back a little bit, you notice that he's had 1200+ yards for two years in a row, and had 900 yards in his rookie year with only 7 starts. He was hurt in 2008, and his production suffered. But he was still out there and was still reasonably effective. Do you know how many backs had 1200+ rushing in both of the last two years? Three; ADP, Thomas Jones, and Ryan Grant.

Why exactly would Green Bay be going out of their way to replace this guy? Is RB REALLY their biggest need? I just don't get the general perception on Grant.

I'm not saying he's the best RB in the NFL or even top 3 or 4, but I do think he's at LEAST an average starting RB talent in a pretty good situation and I don't think his current fantasy value (particularly in dynasty) reflects that. A lot of folks are waiting for him to get replaced, and I'm not sure that's going to happen any time soon.

Then a followup here:

QUOTE (flranger @ Mar 5 2010, 01:16 PM)

I don't think he has the talent. Just a product of being in a decent offense. Easily replaced, and I mean easily.

This is the exact perception I am talking about. Why do you think that? I've just shown that he has better than average production compared to his peers in the same circumstances (that's what DVOA measures). And if you look at the other backs on his team, he is significantly better than everyone else on the roster, despite all of them likely have more favorable opportunities (3rd downs etc).

Then, on one side people are put off by the "passing offense", and on the other folks seem convinced that his numbers are inflated by being on a "decent offense". Being on a good offense helps, but I'm not convinced you could just plug in any old backup RB off the street and have him run for 4.44 and 1200 yards behind that line.

What do you think is lacking in his game? We can all agree that he doesn't seem to offer much in the passing game, but that's not his role. As a runner, what is he missing? Vision? Speed? Elusiveness? Tackle-breaking? I contend that opinions of him suffer from a lack of one particular overwhelming skill. When folks think of Chris Johnson they think speed. When folks think of Steven Jackson, they think balance and power. When they think of Deangelo Williams, they think shifty. But with Grant, he doesn't seem to be great at any one thing, but he has enough of ALL of those traits to make a really solid skill package. He's not outrageously fast, but he can break a big play (he ran a surprising mid 4.4 at his combine) . He doesn't break many ankles, but he generally seems to get a few more yards than you might expect. He doesn't dominate defenders with a vicious stiff-arm like Peterson might do, but he doesn't go down particularly easily either.

I'm just looking for a little more than "he isn't talented", when most of his results so far in his career suggest otherwise.

rzrback77 said:

The Packers have a dynamic QB and several excellent receiving options. Ryan Grant is an undrafted RB and not very highly regarded. Those two facts combine to make Grant one of the lower drafted RBs that gets the lion's share of the carries.

First a review of the Packer team stats over the past three seasons.

07 - 383 completions 578 passes 66.2% 4463 yds 7.7 ypa 30 TDs 15 ints 386 rushes 1590 yds 4.12 ypc 13 TDs
08 - 343 completions 541 passes 63.4% 4044 yds 7.5 ypa 28 TDs 13 ints 436 rushes 1805 yds 4.14 ypc 11 TDs
09 - 357 completions 553 passes 64.6% 4492 yds 8.1 ypa 30 TDs 8 ints 439 rushes 1873 yds 4.27 ypc 20 TDs

The thing that stands out is very good passing numbers and better than thought rushing statistics. I think that the offensive line should be better than in recent seasons and I see little to discourage optimism in the Packers offense. I also see that Ryan Grant's effectiveness is more likely to improve than not. His number of carries over the last three seasons are 188 (48.7%) in 07, 312 (71.6%) in 08, and 282 (64.2%) in 09. I expect him to continue to get 65% of the rushing attempts. His TDs really took off last season after averaging only 6 per year in his first two years, went up to eleven. I agree with an earlier poster who suggested the high number of Rodgers TD runs could be deflected to Grant.

The most surprising fact that I discovered in my review of Ryan Grant's outlook was that his current ADP is 20 overall and RB11. I expected him to be lower. I think that he does offer value, but not as much as I anticipated, which was more like RB 15. A quick review of the FBG Staff rankings finds that twelve of the staff rank Grant as RB 11 or higher, with only five ranking him lower and two of those were at 12 and 13. I see another season very much like the year he had last year and being a value pick, particularly when he slides below his ADP.

Footballguys Staff Writer Anthony Borbely said:

In 2008, when Grant struggled, he was a holdout and when he returned, he injured his hamstring. He did not play until late in preseason and was really never right all year. Even though there are exceptions to this, I normally think it's wise to avoid RBs who either hold out or get hurt in camp or preseason.

Last year seems to me to be the most accurate judge of Grant. He is what he is...a solid move-the-chains RB who is not overly great at anything, but is pretty solid in most aspects of the game. He is a player who is probably more appreciated by the team than by fans because he is not overly talented or spectacular. But I think Grant is one of the safest players in drafts. He is durable, plays in a powerhouse offense, and has no competition for touches. I see numbers similar to last year with a few less TDs.

Rushing: 295/1295/8 TDs
Receiving: 23/180/1

Basically, 1500 or so yards and close to 10 TDs...not too shabby. Because of his lack of eye-popping talent, players like Grant will slide sometimes in drafts because people will take chances on players in the same tier with more upside...but also more risk. Grant is not a sexy pick, but he is safe and I see very little downside.


Ryan Grant projections

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