I once, not too long ago, took a moment to answer a question of my own.
Is Ryan Grant the most underrated player in the history of the game?
My short answer was simple. No.
But then I kept thinking.
Can Ryan Grant become the most underrated player in the history of the game?
Again, I thought no. But it got me searching for another answer.
Before 2007, you could go ask almost any NFL fan who Ryan Grant was, and they wouldn't be able to tell you. Maybe the only person who knew Ryan Grant was Ted Thompson, who traded a sixth round draft pick for him. At the time, Grant was on the Practice Squad of the New York Giants.
Grant didn't become a starter right away. He started out as the third string running back behind Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn for the first six games of the season. The Packers went 5-1 at the start of the season without Grant. This can be explained by the Packers not relying on the running game becasue they had a proven elite QB named Brett Favre.
In the seventh game of the season, Ryan Grant was thrown into the game in the second quarter. He had 104 yards on 22 attempts and the Packers went on to win 19-13 in OT against the Denver Broncos. From that point on, Grant dominated on the ground. He finished the season with 188 attempts and 956 yards, an outstanding 5.1 yards per carry average.
He could have finished the season with over 1000 yards, but he went down with an injury and was taken out of the last game. Still, he averaged 95.6 yards on the ground per game when he played as the feature running back. He had 8 touchdowns, all rushing. The Packers had a 8-2 record with Grant.
Now, do these numbers mean that Ryan Grant is one of the best backs in the league? Right now you might say no , but I believe it's debatable and he is a Top Ten RB. Does it mean he is the second Adrian Peterson in the NFC North? No, it does not. What does it mean?
There's an obvious explanation for Ryan Grant's 2007 breakout. He was a running back who came out of nowhere. He wasn't drafted, he was on a practice squad for two years, and he started out as the third string back in 2007. Almost no defensive coordinater can gameplan for a running back they probably didn't know existed.
Also, let's not forget they had to watch out for Brett Favre. Brett at the time had already solidified himself as one the best of all-time, so the coaches had to gameplan for the pass. This is how Grant ran wild for most of 2007.
In 2008, Ryan Grant dropped back down to reality. The Packers obviously had big expectations, loading him with 312 carries. He did rush for 1203 yards, but he only had five — one Receiving —touchdowns and a 3.9 yards per carry average. On the surface this doesn't look good, but dig deeper.
Grant missed most of training camp because of contract negotiations. He also battled a hamstring injury for most of the year, especially at the beginning of the season. Now, Grant did play poorly for most of the year, but he had his reasons.
Also, here's an interesting way to look at things.
When Ryan Grant slumped in 2008, he had Aaron Rodgers as his QB. Most of you are probably very confused right now. Aaron Rodgers? He's a stud, why are you using him in the sense that he's not? Well, because that's the way that he was looked at up until the 2008 season.
Rodgers was a first round draft pick, but that was it. And to make it worse, he was drafted three years before 2008, so it wasn't a fresh memory. Rodgers had never started a game before 2008, and he only had one good outing as a backup quarterback against the Dallas Cowboys.
So if your a defensive coordinator, are you going to heavily game plan for a 24-year-old QB who has never started an NFL game and has played poorly in his limited playing time? Or are you going to focus on the RB who broke out the season before with 8 TDs and a 5.1 yards per carry? The smart ones would go for the latter.
Now, I am not blaming Aaron Rodgers being a "rookie" in 2008 for Ryan Grant's poor season. What I am saying is that Packer fans have good things to look forward to in their RB.
During the 2009 season, Ryan Grant was healthy. He went to training camp and he was set with his contract. He had an above average QB in Aaron Rdogers; he suprisingly passed for over 4000 passing yards with 28 TD the year before. Grant was ready to run.
In 2009, Grant quietly set career highs in yards and touchdowns. He was given 288 attempts and he rushed for 1253 yards with 11 touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average.
Some people, including myself, were making the argument that Grant should have recieved the 2009 Pro Bowl nod over Deangelo Williams. Grant had more yards and more touchdowns than Williams. But, as I look at it, it was probably a good thing he didn't get the nod.
Getting the invitation would have increased Grant's prestige around the league. I am not naive enough to think the coordinaters are back to the "Whose Grant?" stage, but I do think that he's not considered a top back by most people yet. A Pro Bowl nod would have ruined the quietness of his achievements.
While Ryan Grant running the ball remains relatively quiet, Aaron Rodgers passing the ball remains constantly loud. Most people, including myself, are talking about Aaron Rodgers as a next Player Of The Decade candidate, and deservedly so. As of right now, he has the lowest interception percentage in NFL History to go along with the highest QB rating of all-time. He also started in the 2009 Pro Bowl, increasing acknowledgments of his achievements.
I want to go back at the question I asked myself in the beginning of this article. Can Ryan Grant become the most underrated player in the history of the NFL? I want to answer it right here. No, absolutely not. I want to rephrase that so it makes me say yes. Can Ryan Grant become one of the most underrated backs in the history of the NFL? Yes, he can.
This is the time where I make predictions. These statements are of my own opinion and are based on what I think might occur in the future. Many will disagree, and I respect your disagreements because everyone has their own opinions.
Ryan Grant is 27 at the moment. During the 2010 season he will turn 28. RB is one of the most demanding positions in the NFL physically. This is why you see great backs drastically falling in performance at an age which is still considered young for other positions.
For example, LaDainian Tomlinson was the best RB in the league for most of his career. He had a year with over 25 TDs and 100 recpetions. Yet, this year he had a career low in yards and yards per carry. This is because he turned 30 this year, which is old for a RB yet young for a QB, K, and P.
Still, some RB can still be successful at an older age. Thomas Jones had over 1300 yards this past season at an age of 32, and Ahman Green was solid in a smaller role on the Packers this year at the age of 34.
So, I'm going to predict that Ryan Grant stays relatively useful up until he's 32, and keeps up with starter's carries and produces with them up until age 30.
I am going to predict for the 2010 NFL season around 290 carries for about 1350 yards with near 11 TD for Grant. I will also predict an increased production out of Grant in the 2011 season with 295+ carries, 1400 yards with 12 TD.
Now, based on my personal predictions and his current numbers, I will make Ryan Grant's career totals list.
If he continued in 2012 to get about 280 carries and 1200 yards with 10 TD, along with third down back numbers in his later years, his career should look like this:
1890 attempts, 8330 yards, 4.4 ypc, 64 TD.
Those are pretty good numbers, especially considering he didn't become a feature back until he was 25.
Also based on my personal predictions and opinions — and a little Packer bias — I think Grant will have a couple Super Bowl rings to his name as well. Grant is privileged to be on the youngest team in the NFL, and those young players are very talented. Green Bay has the potential to contend for the Super Bowl for the next several seasons.
So, where am I at now? I've dug out the numbers and I've looked in between them. I've come out with a different look then what I originally saw.
Ryan Grant is one of the most underrated RB's in the NFL.
He can and will be consistently a top ten back in the league for the rest of his career.
He will be wearing multiple Super Bowl rings when he retires.
And finally, he will be looked back upon as one of the best RB's in Packer Franchise history.
To Fantasy Owners: Don't forget about Ryan Grant next year.