Photo courtesy of Vladimir Cherry/SMU athletics
With pick No. 127 in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts have drafted SMU tight end Kylen Granson.
What exactly are the Colts getting out of the 6-foot-2, 235-pound tight end from Austin, Tex.?
Let’s break down the pick.
Granson at Rice
Kylen Granson was a consensus 2-star in the class of 2016 coming out of Westlake High School in Austin.
In the summer of 2015, Granson started picking up steam on the recruiting trail. A stud on the field and in the classroom, he held offers from Harvard, Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Columbia, among others.
Ultimately, he opted to stay closer to home. He chose Rice, a ‘Southern Ivy’ and his lone FBS offer.
In two seasons as a wide receiver at Rice, Granson had 622 receiving yards on 51 receptions in 18 games played.
After the 2017 season, the wide receiver entered the transfer portal. Ultimately, Granson would do what many other Texas-based transfers have done in the last few years, and chose to transfer to SMU for his final two seasons of eligibility.
Granson at SMU
Due to transfer rules, Granson sat for the 2018 season. But a year off might have been exactly what he needed. In that time, he added between 15 and 25 pounds and transitioned to tight end.
In 23 games with SMU, he had 1,257 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns on 78 receptions. Only Rashee Rice was targeted by quarterback Shane Buechele more for SMU in 2020.
While the counting numbers are obviously higher with SMU, one number that sticks out is the yards per reception increase.
With Rice, Granson averaged 12.2 yards per reception. But with SMU, that went up to 16.1 yards per reception. A nearly 4-yard increase is great evidence to the fact that Granson has found his most productive role as a flex tight end.
Granson is Taken With Pick 127
Athleticism and upside are both words often used to describe Granson as a prospect.
He is essentially a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. Thankfully for Granson, that’s becoming increasingly valuable in the NFL these last couple of years.
Outside of Kyle Pitts, it could be argued that there is no one better after the catch in this year’s draft.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Granson is great after the catch. His ability to kick into a second gear is impressive.
The combination of size and speed is the new wave of NFL tight ends.
He’s also very fluid. Not many guys his size move as fluidly as he does. Just look at the picture below; he’s comfortably changing direction at around a 50-degree angle.
Blocking is not his strong suit. Although, if he’s playing in the slot a lot, then he’s solid enough as a blocker to suffice from that spot. On screen passes or pick routes, he’d be a great choice either to get the ball in space or to be the one blocking. So, a point towards his versatility in the pros column.
As a run of the mill, inline tight end, Granson would be considered to be a pretty good route runner. But as a flex tight end, he has room for improvement. The main area here where he could improve is when he breaks on a route.
If he could get just 10% more crisp on routes, especially at the first down marker, he will be a valuable target for new quarterback Carson Wentz and the Colts’ offense.
He had some drop issues. Some potentially good news for the Colts is that most of his drops were when he was wide open, and the windows are smaller in the NFL. Drops coming when open show that he might even be thinking about the yards after the catch before making the catch.
Where Does Granson Fit?
Spotrac has seven tight ends already listed for the Colts, but only two of them are under contract beyond the 2021 season. And both of them are only under contract through 2022.
In looking at the depth chart, Granson has the opportunity to develop for a year or two before taking on a larger role. By that point, Jack Doyle will be 32 years old, and almost definitely in the back half of his career. Mo Alie-Cox is only under contract for the next season, so the Colts will need to determine if they want to extend the then-28-year-old.
By 2022 or 2023, Granson will have the opportunity to prove his merit as a flex tight end. It’s unlikely he’ll see the field much in 2021, but with injuries and/or some quick development, he might just get to see the field early.
Also, none of his weaknesses immediately disqualify him from seeing the field in the event of depth scarcity.
All in all, this is a solid fourth-round pick for the Colts. Wentz loves targeting tight ends, and Granson fits the mold very well. Give Granson a little time to develop, and he’ll find the field as a larger body that can play in the slot and create mismatches for the offense.
To all of the Colts’ fans out there, just watch how often he gets open against defensive backs. Also, note that the second video is entirely from the 2019 season.