What Landry leaves behind
Dealing star wideout Jarvis LandryJarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns in the offseason left the Miami Dolphins with a massive target hole in its receiving corps. The team signed free agents Albert Wilson (Kansas City Chiefs) and Danny Amendola (New England Patriots) in an attempt to shore up its offense. Holdovers DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills appear to be the players with the most to gain from this move. However, the player lined up to best fill Landry’s shoes is the diminutive speedster, Jakeem Grant.
In PPR Standard scoring, Landry finished the 2017 season as the fourth highest scoring wide receiver, helped largely by his league-leading 112 receptions and 161 targets, good for third in the league. His lack of yards hampered his potential scoring, as Landry finished with 987 yards and a measly 8.8 yards per catch (YPC). Landry was the only receiver in the top 12 fantasy receivers not to top 1000 receiving yards. In non-PPR leagues, Landry drops to 14th in scoring. According to playerprofiler.com, Landry averaged just 0.45 fantasy points per route run (PPR), which lagged far behind league leader Antonio Brown’s 0.60. For comparison, Jakeem Grant averaged 0.54 points per route run in limited usage. This suggests that Grant can achieve fantasy relevance, even as a number two or three receiver.
Grant stands at only 5’6”, so even the undersized Landry towers over him. What Grant lacks in height, he makes up for in speed. A video from his Texas Tech pro day in 2016 appears to show him blazing an unofficial 4.12 second 40 yard dash, which would tie for the fastest time in history. This quickness matches up favorably with Stills, the current burner in Miami, and blows away Landry’s 4.77 seconds at the 2014 NFL Combine. Grant utilizes this speed to outrun defenders and turn short catches into big gains. Nearly 70% of his total yardage in 2017 was in yards after the catch (YAC) and he averaged over 15.6 YPC, albeit in a small sample size.
Preview of what’s to come
Offensive efficiency as assessed by airyards.com offers further evidence of Jakeem Grant’s potential. The first number that jumps out is his average depth of target (aDOT): 10.0 yards. Jarvis Landry’s aDOT was 6.20, considerably lower than Grant’s, which makes sense considering he is not considered a deep threat and was often the hot receiver for Jay Cutler. One-third of Grant’s targets came within two yards of the line of scrimmage, but he also saw approximately one-quarter of his targets 20 yards or more downfield.
Playerprofiler.com shows Grant’s average yard per pass route last year was 2.36 (Julio Jones led the league last season, with an average YPR of 3.20). The data reveals that the majority of his routes were near the line of scrimmage, but Cutler had a habit of targeting him when he was downfield. Grant’s bread-and-butter is turning short passes into big gains. For example, during the week 16 game against Kansas City, Grant caught a short slant, bulldozed four defenders, and outraced Marcus Peters 65 yards to the end zone. New additions Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola, brought in specifically to facilitate screens, have slightly lower YPR of 1.77 and 1.74 yards, respectively, indicating that Gase would like to lean on shorter passes in the future to enhance the Dolphins’ offense.
The discrepancy between his routes and his targets isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it shows that Grant is rather versatile in the passing game. He took advantage of his rare opportunities on the field, and Gase has shown that he is willing to spread him out around the offense. Again, his height sometimes pigeonholes him into the role of a “gadget” player, and the Dolphins must overcome their fear of his size for him to become truly productive.
Beyond screens and slants, Jakeem Grant has a special talent in the deep game, showcasing his speed and leaping ability in his rare opportunities down the field. In the fourth preseason game prior to the 2017 season against Minnesota, Grant hauled in four receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown, averaging a mind-boggling 35.3 YPC. Even though he played against a secondary composed primarily of backups, Grant proved that he has the skills to toast any defensive backs. In Miami’s week 14 upset over the Patriots, Grant snagged a 25-yard touchdown by out-leaping Malcolm Butler for a high ball from Cutler.
Although he is frequently the shortest person on the field, Grant uses his jumping ability to match up with much larger defenders. Look no further than his days at Texas Tech for a better profile of his receiving abilities, including a 10-catch, 125-yard, 3-TD domination against LSU in 2015. Most of that production coming against 2017 second-team All-Pro rookie Tre’Davious White. Grant blew past White for a 46-yard score in the first quarter, hauling in a deep bomb from current Chiefs starter, Patrick Mahomes.
Talent aside, 2018 is Grant’s year to explode onto the scene because he should be much more heavily involved in Miami’s offense. On the field for just under 15% of the Dolphin’s offensive plays in 2017 according to playerprofiler.com, Jakeem Grant was severely underutilized last season for his skill set. This can mainly be attributed to the team’s over-reliance on Jarvis Landry, who played 93.8% of Miami’s offensive snaps and hogged approximately 30% of the targets.
Gase began to experiment with giving Grant increased playing time in week 5 against Tennessee when the oft-injured Parker left with an injury after one series. Grant had his highest utilization of the season, at 60.3%, yet was targeted just twice and had only one reception for -1 yards. Conversely, Landry had 10 targets and a touchdown. Part of that can be blamed on Cutler’s poor play at quarterback and habitual use of Landry as a security blanket. Without the overdependence on Landry, Gase, an outspoken fan of Grant’s, will likely endeavor to get Grant more involved.
The retooled receiving corps is not a sure thing. Fourth-year receiver DeVante Parker has yet to show the physical dominance that was projected when he was drafted in 2015. Danny Amendola has played a full 16 games twice over nine seasons and has never surpassed 700 receiving yards. Parker and Amendola are perennial candidates to miss extended time with injury, and the latter hasn’t proven to be a receiver capable of commanding a large share of targets, six years removed from his last 100-target season. If Amendola doesn’t produce in 2018, Miami has an easy out with $0 in dead cap after this season, and the team has made no indication they wish to keep Parker beyond his four-year rookie deal.
Albert Wilson was an undrafted talent who has never caught more than 42 balls in a season during his four-year career. Wilson has had opportunities, surpassing a 50% snap share in 2016 and playing nearly two-thirds of the Chiefs’ offensive plays last season, but has never produced at an elite, or simply above average, level. Even Leonte Carroo, a player many teams were high on in the 2016 draft, has severely underperformed with a snap share over three times the amount of Grant’s. Jakeem Grant has shown dynamic flashes in what limited playing time he has amassed so far that greatly exceed any potential Amendola, Wilson, and Carroo have exhibited. If DeVante Parker fails to stay healthy, the #2 spot in the Dolphins’ receiving corps is Grant’s to lose.
Fantasy sleepers come in all shapes and sizes, and I would endeavor to spend a late-round flier on Jakeem Grant. If the Miami Dolphins are looking for a player to step up in the absence of Jarvis Landry, the answer has been in front of them the whole time. If just slightly below their line of sight. Thanks to a combination of speed, explosiveness, and an anticipated uptick in usage, Jakeem Grant is perfectly poised for a breakout season in 2018.
Thank you for reading. Tell me what you think of Grant in our comments below. You can also find me at @DFF_Graphics on Twitter.