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From Prospect To Pro: Comparing Noel Grigsby To Deion Branch

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Noel Grigsby already owns the San Jose State records for career receptions and receiving yards. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images).
Noel Grigsby already owns the San Jose State records for career receptions and receiving yards. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images).

In the last few years, there’s been an influx of flashy, playmaking receivers. Lightning-fast receivers over six feet tall like Julio Jones, A.J. Green and, of course, Calvin Johnson have dominated the league with their big touchdown plays and extravagant catches. Smaller players like Percy Harvin, Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson have also made their mark with quickness and long runs after a catch. These players all have in common the ability to take the ball the distance each and every time they have it. With the excitement they bring, you’d think they were the only type of wide receivers in the game. We sometimes forget the reliable, possession receiver. Anquan Boldin and Reggie Wayne are talented with the ball, but they have made a living off their reliability and consistency.

Noel Grigsby is an under-the-radar wideout from San Jose State. He’s the Spartans all-time leader in receptions (227) and receiving yards (3,015). He had a career year in 2012 with 82 catches, 1,307 yards and 9 TDs. In this his senior season, he could really elevate his draft stock.

When watching Grigsby, I immediately connect him with long-time New England receiver Deion Branch (5-foot-9, 195 pounds). Grigsby (5-11, 175)  can play wide or in the slot and specializes in quick outs to the sideline and 10-yard hooks in the flats. One of the greatest parts of his game is his ability to stay with the play and keep running and trying to get open when the quarterback is in trouble. There were several plays last year where Grigsby improvised to get open as David Fales scrambled away from defenders and got the ball to Grigsby.

Like Branch, Grigsby is a security blanket for the quarterback, which is essentially what a possession receiver is. Branch is a two-time Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl MVP. He was never a speedy playmaking receiver. Rather, he was the guy Tom Brady would go to when the play broke down. Whether Branch was the first option or the fourth option on a given play, he was open. In his prime, he was quick in his cuts, like Grigsby, and always knew where the first down marker was. You can probably count on two hands the number of drops Grigsby has had in his college career, and Branch was the same way. Very rarely does either receiver drop a pass. Grigsby plays in basically the same offense at San Jose State as Branch did with New England, and they both run very similar types of routes. They don’t usually run deep posts or flies; that isn’t the game of the possession receiver. Branch and Grigsby are masters of the first down. They are sure-handed, smart receivers who can do anything you need them to do.

Grigsby is the quintessential possession receiver, a player every team in the NFL needs. He won’t jump out right away at you, he won’t blow you away with his speed, but he will become a reliable option in the pass-driven NFL. Don’t expect him to come off the draft board on the first day, and don’t be surprised if he’s still available on the last day. I believe he will be drafted late in the 4th round, where he will be a low-risk, high-reward pick. His game suits the NFL perfectly and though he won’t break records in total yards or touchdowns, he will be the favorite receiver of a lucky quarterback.