Watch a 5-8 (-ish), 175-pound ballcarrier channel his inner Barry and Walter—on the same play.
Good football players come in all shapes and sizes. The three things that most have in common are toughness, effort, and creativity.
Arizona slot receiver and part-time running back Samajie Grant has these three qualities and pound-for-pound, he’s one of the most entertaining players I’ve watched in this class of skill prospects.
Grant had 45 receptions as a slot receiver last year, but my first exposure to Grant was this November matchup with Colorado where he was called upon to be the starting running back. Although CU drubbed Arizona, Grant accounted for 14 of its first 17 points and delivered an invaluable assist for the final touchdown.
What fascinates me most about Grant in relation to analysis and projection of prospects is the delicate line between talent and role. When analysts and scouts grade players, they have to choose a position category. When they do, that assigned spot—be it RB or WR— shapes the perspective that evaluators have about a player’s skills.
It’s why players like Danny Woodhead and Tyreek Hill fall through the cracks on draft day. Teams with imagination and flexible thinking capitalize on the conventional thinking that influences organizations to shy away.
The conventional organizational perspective on these players fits one or all of these thoughts:
- They don’t know how to create a productive role for this type of player.
- They fear that the prospect is a true gadget player—a term for a limited talent disguised by his exciting college career as an athlete.
- They stuck in “either/or” thinking with assigning a position to the prospect.
At this point, I haven’t seen enough of Grant to truly gauge his value as a receiver so let’s presume for now that he’s a much better runner. If so, he’s not a conventional back.
Even if he somehow reports to his Pro Day at 5’9″ 195 and can keep that weight on him, we’re talking that he’s at best comparable to Clinton Portis as a rookie struggling to maintain that weight, which the Broncos felt—as talented as he was— was too light for a feature back.
If Grant is as small as he looks, an evaluator has to consider the current (or majority) reality of the league, the possibilities beyond that reality, and a realistic happy medium between the two.
The current reality indicates that Grant earning top-12 status as a ballcarrier in this class is ludicrous. If he’s below 190 pounds, there are only a handful of small players during the past 30 years of football that have earned a pivotal role on an NFL offense.
But when these exceptions occur, it’s often due to a team having a fluid role that blurs the lines between traditional position expectations and these players often perform as top prospects in hindsight. It means that if Grant finds a team that can maximize the skills you’ll see below, his value will transcend any conservative grading formula that turns its nose up at a smaller player that doesn’t fit the square hole.
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