Grant Calcaterra, SMU TE | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Less than two years after retiring, SMU TE Grant Calcaterra showcases a scouting report that has pro potential ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Grant Calcaterra entering the 2022 NFL Draft is something of a miracle in itself. The former Oklahoma turned SMU tight end medically retired in 2019, but less than three years later, he’s headed to the Senior Bowl with a place in the NFL within his grasp. It’s been a remarkable journey, but does it have a happy ending? Calcaterra’s NFL Draft scouting report showcases pro potential, but it’s not without obvious question marks.

Grant Calcaterra NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Tight End
  • School: SMU
  • Current Year: Graduate Senior
  • Height: 6’3 3/4″
  • Weight: 248
  • Wingspan: 81 1/4″
  • Arm: 33 7/8″
  • Hand: 9 7/8″

Grant Calcaterra Scouting Report

The tight end position in the modern-day NFL requires a rich tapestry of multiple attributes. Can you pass protect and run block? Can you be a security blanket in the middle of the field? Are you able to stretch the field vertically? Are you a go-to target in the back of the end zone? When evaluating prospects at the position, we have to find the answer to all these questions.

So, according to his NFL Draft scouting report, what are the answers to these questions for SMU tight end Calcaterra? Furthermore, in a deep pool of talented tight ends, where does the former Oklahoma star fit in this class? After all, he was once retired, an almost forgotten man. We’ll get to that a little later on.

First off, Calcaterra appears to possess NFL size at the tight end position. SMU lists their tight end at 6’5″ and 247 pounds. There may be some slight inflammation of measurements there, as 247Sports listed him at 6’3″ prior to his transfer to the Mustangs just last August. Nonetheless, he looks the part on the field.

While he has some blocking ability, Calcaterra’s biggest asset is as a pass catcher. He’s an excellent route runner with the ability to sell double moves with head fakes. In addition, he uses his hand technique and above-average athleticism to create separation. Calcaterra can break off his routes relatively well for his size. He also showcases intelligence to take sneak into soft spots in coverage.

An impressive pass catcher who exhibits willingness as a blocker

Calcaterra continues his impressiveness at the catch point. He plucks the ball out of the sky and cajoles it to the safety of his chest rather than relying on body catches. The SMU tight end showcases excellent ball tracking and body control. He also demonstrates spatial awareness in the back of the end zone or along the sideline. As a result of his strong hands, he is a safe target in the middle of the field.

While the Calcaterra won’t ever be deemed as an electric after-the-catch threat, he does have some ability here. He’s able to buy extra yards with good change of direction and lateral agility. Additionally, there were multiple examples of him maintaining balance after contact. As an athlete, he has decent speed for his size too.

While Calcaterra is far and away a better pass catcher than blocker, he does produce some nice reps in this regard. He attempts to square up and extend in the few examples of him being tasked to pass protect. As a run blocker, he’s extremely willing. Furthermore, he shows some ability in terms of attempting to take correct angles to open up running lanes.

So, where does Calcaterra fit in this tight end class? Before this season, he reportedly earned fourth-round grades from National Football Scouting. In a tight end class that is particularly impressive, I think his ceiling could be the fifth round. That said, if he can demonstrate some improvement in blocking technique at the Senior Bowl, he could ascend.

Areas for improvement

While Calcaterra’s scouting report shows that he possesses pro potential as a pass catcher, there are some limiting factors and areas for improvement. While he does have some excellent attributes, there are none that are elite. Meanwhile, there is a rather significant grey cloud that hangs over his stock that will require attention in the pre-draft process.

Let’s start there. Calcaterra’s multiple concussions that forced his medical retirement from football will be a big red flag for NFL teams. Even on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, it’s a risk of capital for a player with that level of injury history. Calcaterra will undoubtedly undergo rigorous medical testing during the process. He’s had multiple therapies to mitigate the risk, but it will still take a lot to reassure NFL teams.

Aside from his injury history, Calcaterra’s biggest area for improvement is in blocking and pass protection. As a run blocker, the SMU tight end routinely fails to make clean contact in the open field, and he’s often left grasping at thin air. In pass protection, he lacks the strength to make blocks and fails to anchor. As a result, he’s likely to be considered a pass-catching tight end only, limiting his overall value.

Calcaterra’s strength issues that are apparent as a blocker also comes to the fore in another aspect of his game. While he has excellent pass-catching ability, he isn’t always physical at the catch point in contested situations. You would like to see someone with his size and frame be more of a bully, particularly in red-zone situations.

Calcaterra’s Player Profile

One of a set of triplets with sporting and academic aspirations, Calcaterra made a name for himself as a sporting standout at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in California. A talented multi-sport athlete, he could have turned his hand to basketball or lacrosse at the collegiate level.

However, it was the football field where the young tight end was truly tantalizing. Earning early comparisons to Mark Andrews, he racked up an impressive 926 yards and 9 touchdowns from 48 receptions as a junior. Unsurprisingly, he was a hotly sought-after and valuable commodity in the 2017 recruiting class.

A four-star prospect who was ranked as high as the second-best tight end by some recruiting sites, Calcaterra amassed almost 20 offers. Those included opportunities to play in the SEC with Florida and Texas A&M. His academic standing was evidenced by an offer from Northwestern. However, he opted to take his talents to Oklahoma, committing to the Sooners in April 2016.

Despite the commitment, offers continued to pour in during his senior season. Calcaterra surpassed 900 receiving yards for the second consecutive year. In doing so, he earned first-team All-Trinity League honors. Additionally, he was invited to the Under Armour All-American Game. Despite late interest from Oregon, his commitment to Oklahoma never wavered.

Calcaterra’s college career begins at Oklahoma

At 6’4″ and 207 pounds coming out of high school, there was an expectation that the young tight end would redshirt his freshman season. However, showcasing an early ability to overcome expectations, Calcaterra made an appearance in every game of his true freshman campaign.

The Oklahoma tight end did more than simply make appearances. During the 2017 season, he tallied 162 yards from just 10 receptions. Meanwhile, having scored his first touchdown against UTEP, he added further scores against TCU and West Virginia. Calcaterra’s 3 touchdowns were the eighth-most by a true freshman in program history. His performances earned him an All-Big 12 honorable mention.

That accolade ascended into first-team recognition in his sophomore season. As Kyler Murray embarked on a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign, Calcaterra emerged as a pivotal weapon in the offense. The Oklahoma tight end had nine games with multiple catches and tallied 396 receiving yards. His 6 touchdowns in the 2018 season included 2 scores against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

After his standout sophomore campaign, Calcaterra earned NFL Draft hype heading into his junior season. However, after just three starts, 79 yards, and multiple concussions, the Oklahoma tight end announced his retirement from football towards the end of the 2019 season. He would pursue a career as a firefighter and had a job offer just before having a change of heart about his long-term future.

Calcaterra returns to football with SMU

“I am returning to football,” Calcaterra announced in August 2020. “This is something that I have been thinking about since the day I stepped away. I owed myself the time to reflect on the best decision for me. Ultimately, my love and passion for the game and my desire to accomplish my goals are my main reasons for my return.”

Calcaterra wouldn’t return to Oklahoma, however. Upon his return, he entered the transfer portal. He initially committed to Auburn in November 2020, but with a change of coaching staff, he opted to rescind his commitment. In January, he announced that he would play tight end for SMU in 2021, following former Oklahoma teammate Tanner Mordecai to Dallas.

Despite having a year out of the game and lingering injury question marks, Calcaterra earned fourth-round grades from both Blesto and National Football Scouting before the season. On his SMU debut, the Mustangs tight end showcased why with 51 yards and 2 touchdowns against Abilene Christian.

It paved the way for a career year. Calcaterra snagged a career-high 103 yards against Louisiana Tech and came up just 10 yards short of another century against Tulane. He finished the year with 465 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and second-team All-AAC honors.

Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Grant Calcaterra

Positives: Athletic pass-catching tight end who made a successful return to the field after missing almost two full seasons. Natural pass catcher who displays solid tight end speed and gets down the middle of the field. Extends his hands to snatch the ball out of the air, consistently makes the reception away from his frame, and sacrifices his body to come away with the difficult catch.

Tracks the pass in the air, possesses terrific eye/hand coordination, and uses his frame to shield away defenders and protect the pass. Comes away with some impossible receptions in the middle of a crowd. Plays with outstanding body control. Gives effort blocking, bends his knees, and plays with leverage. Keeps his feet moving in pass protection and stays square.

Negatives: Has a long history of concussions. Struggles making downfield receptions in contorted positions and lacks blocking strength.

Analysis: Calcaterra is a tall, smooth tight end with reliable hands and the ability to get down the field and split the seam. He must improve his blocking strength, and more than anything else, get a clean bill of health from teams based off his past injury history. If that happens, Calcaterra could produce as a move tight end at the next level.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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