Corey Grant is without an NFL team heading into the 2020 season, under three years out from a performance that saw the former Jacksonville Jaguars running back finish with the highest single-game Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade among all running backs in 2017.
Undrafted out of Auburn in 2015, Grant never progressed beyond the role of backup in his time with the Jaguars, which was ended by a Lisfranc injury in 2018.
However, in a Week 15 meeting between the Jaguars and Texans back in 2017, Grant delivered a display that should further the argument that productive running backs who are valuable to the offense are not difficult to find.
In the latest from our OSM Back to the Future series, we look back at Grant’s dynamic fourth-quarter showing.[sv slug=”mocksim”]
Grant leaves it late
OSM uses the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to assess a player’s influence on his offense’s production by looking at the factors only he could control.
Grant received a grade of 44.27, indicating an elite level of performance after finishing with 69 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, all of which came in the fourth quarter when the Jaguars were in complete command of a 45-7 blowout.
Despite his late entrance to the game, Grant’s rushing yards were the most of any player in the game, and his impressive OSM score was likely heavily impacted by a scoring drive that saw him account for all the Jaguars’ yardage before finding the end zone on an eight-yard run.
It was a drive on which Grant did an excellent job of using his physical gifts to take advantage of a Texans defense that had long since ended its resistance.
Speed, vision & agility
Coming out of college in 2015, Grant received a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.33. RAS is a composite metric on a 0 to 10 scale based on the average of all of the percentile for each of the metrics the player completed either at the Combine or pro day.
He earned a great explosion grade and an elite speed grade, having lit up the track with a 40-yard dash time of 4.28 seconds, with the acceleration he demonstrated in the pre-draft process critical to his performance against the Texans.
Grant also showcased impressive agility in the short shuttle, and that came to the fore on the second carry of his scoring drive as he displayed fluid movement skills in cutting back through the hole and changing direction at the second level to pick up 13 yards.
The speed he showed in the 40 was critical on the next play as Grant got around Jadeveon Clowney after bouncing his run to the left and broke through the second level of the defense for a 20-yard gain.
Vision, agility, and burst were all involved as Grant punctuated the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run that saw him spot and surge through a small crease between the left tackle and the tight end.
Grant then padded his stats on the game’s final drive with an 11-yard carry that saw him take advantage of blocking from fullback Tommy Bohanon to move the sticks.
While his display was not key to the Jaguars claiming victory over the Texans, Grant – having outgained teammates Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon – undoubtedly had the most significant impact on Jacksonville’s rushing production.
His efficiency in the fourth quarter of the blowout win is little more than a footnote in arguably the finest season in the history of the Jaguars franchise. While Grant, who was cut by the Green Bay Packers before the start of last season, appears unlikely to work his way back on to an active roster, his was a performance that lends further credence to a popular school of thought about team building pertaining to running backs.
The perennial running back debate
It has been a contrasting couple of weeks for running backs in the NFL, with rushing champion Derrick Henry inking a four-year, $50 million contract extension with the Tennessee Titans before the deadline for franchise players to be signed to new deals.
On the other end of the spectrum, Raheem Mostert – star of the San Francisco 49ers’ run to the Super Bowl last season – requested a trade after what his agent called “months of unproductive talks” with the Niners over “fairly adjusting his contract.”
Mostert is in a difficult spot playing in an offense that excels at maximizing production for running backs. The success the 49ers have had on the ground with numerous undrafted backs provides significant support to the idea that teams can easily find productive running backs without having to draft them high or pay them substantial amounts.
Grant’s top-ranked performance is not one that should stick in the mind of even the most committed of NFL observers, but it is one that adds weight to the notion that spending premium capital on running backs is unnecessary. Only one running back was taken in the first round this year, and teams will grow ever more reluctant to use such high picks on the position the more undrafted free agents like Grant continue to deliver influential contributions.