A sixth-round selection by the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jakeem Grant was primarily used on special teams last season and will once again need to perform as one of the team’s top return specialists to secure a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Despite being labeled as a wide receiver on the official depth chart, Grant received just one target his rookie season – a drop – and earned just one touch on the offensive side of the ball – a one-yard carry.
The combination of Grant’s size, 5’7” 172 pounds, and limited ability as a route runner/pure pass catcher, matched with the number of skill players the Dolphins were already featuring, the bulk of Grant’s work came on special teams in the return game.
Grant’s 8.3 yards per punt return was good enough for 12th in the NFL while he was also one of just seven players in the league to record a punt-return touchdown. On kickoff returns, Grant averaged 23.1 yards per return on 19 attempts.
The lone Dolphins’ kickoff return touchdown was recorded by Kenyan Drake who averaged more than seven yards per return than Grant at 30.5 yards per attempt on 13 returns.
With Drake proving to be more than capable at kickoff return duty, while Jarvis Landry had made several impact plays on punt return throughout his career in Miami, Grant is definitely not a lock to be on the roster come week one.
On top of the fact that Miami has alternative options at both kick and punt return is the issue Grant has fielding the ball. Grant fumbled four times on returns last season which is undoubtedly too many when considering the fact that a kickoff or punt return opportunity means the offense is about to get the ball, and a turnover on special teams typically leads to good field position for the opposing team.
As the case for nearly half the current roster, training camp and preseason will be very important for Grant.
He’ll need to prove that fielding the ball is no longer an issue and that he can be reliable as both a kick and punt returner since, if he does make the final roster, his opportunities on the offensive side of the ball will be limited at best.
Along with playing behind several capable options at receiver in 2016, another reason Grant played just 19 offensive snaps last season was because when opposing teams’ defenses saw him on the field they were tipped off that there was a decent chance it may be a gimmick play or screen to try to get the ball in Grants hands early and let him make a play after the catch.
In order for Grant to become more impactful on offense, he’ll need to develop more as an actual receiver – similar to what Tyreek Hill was able to do for Kansas City – so there isn’t a specific focus on him when he does come onto the field.
Odds of making roster
Grant is a great example of a “how many ways can you contribute” type of player. While several players have a defined role that makes them guaranteed roster guys, Grant is the type of player who’ll need to carve out a niche on special teams while also proving that he can contribute in a variety of ways.
The current stable of Dolphins receivers features 12 players and will likely make up five or six spots on the final roster. Locks to make the team include DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Landry; in all likelihood leaving the remaining nine players to battle for three spots.
Grant’s main competition for a spot on the final roster is likely to come from Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford, Drew Morgan and Rashawn Scott.
Since the team invested a sixth-round pick in Grant last year, and the fact that he does have elite speed and play-making ability when the ball is in his hands, I give Grant a 75-percent chance of making the team’s final roster.