Wide receiver has suddenly become a bloated position in Washington. The recognized starters appear to be in place in the form of incumbent Pierre Garcon and veterans DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.
But as many as 10 players are vying to filling out the depth chart behind that trio. Among them is fifth-round pick Ryan Grant.
The ex-Tulane ace is not the most physically imposing wideout at only 6'0" and 197 pounds. That lack of size could cause him problems in the new offense, as ESPN.com scribe John Keim has noted:
Being able to defeat press man coverage will be a challenge, though if he’s in the slot he can at least buy himself a little more space to try and win the route. His lack of speed hurts him here, too, as corners won’t be afraid to play him tight. The lack of strength also will hurt his blocking. Despite his route-running ability, he did not always create great separation because of his speed (this was definitely an issue for teams). He dropped too many passes during our one day watching him in the rookie minicamp, but has shown the ability to make excellent catches.
Meager physicality may cast a bad light on Grant, especially considering how much Gruden favors big-bodied receivers. However, Grant's slight frame and limited athleticism won't necessarily doom his chances of succeeding in D.C.
Gruden may have trusted tall pass-catchers like A.J. Green and Marvin Jones when he ran the offense for the Cincinnati Bengals, but he also had 5'7", 180-pound Andrew Hawkins working from the slot.
A credible slot receiver is something Washington's passing game has been missing for too long. Grant has the qualities for that job—qualities that convinced Gruden to draft him, per Keim:
The Redskins like Grant because he offers some versatility, able to run routes from outside or inside. But his ability to break quickly and catch in traffic will give him a chance inside. He’s not a big-play threat on the outside. But he is a savvy route runner against zone coverages, understanding where to settle. He’s also competitive, which always helps.
However, Grant faces a lot of competition to make this key role his own. After all, the team did sign five undrafted receivers, including Jerry Rice Jr. Yet Grant's excellent hands can give him the edge in this intense competition.
NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki credited Grant with "one of the best pair of hands in the draft." The offense has been plagued by too many drops in recent seasons and needs a catcher as sure-handed as Grant.
Gruden has to find a dependable, underneath outlet for Robert Griffin III, a quarterback who tends to obsess about going long, even if it means forcing the ball. Grant can be that player after surviving a lengthy and crowded competition this offseason.