It took a little bit for the Colts to draft an offensive player in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they finally pulled the trigger with tight end Kylen Granson in the fourth round. While the pick was scrutinized by some in the draft community, I think this could be the best value pick of the draft for the team.
I have done some film work on Granson already, but today I'm doing something a bit different with this piece. In this article, I will show clips of how the Colts have used their tight ends under Frank Reich (with annotated route concepts) and compare those concepts to how SMU used Kylen Granson. This way, you all will be able to easily see just how he translates into this offense in 2021 and beyond.
Intermediate Out-Breaking Routes
The Colts love using their tight ends on isolation routes with linebackers. The key, though, in these routes is leverage. One of the ways that the Colts attack leverage is with out breaking routes. If the Colts have a favorable match-up with a linebacker playing inside leverage on one of their tight ends, they will draw up a play concept to attack that outside space.
In the video below, Frank Reich drew up a beautiful call for tight end Trey Burton against linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. The outside receiver clears out on the play and the underneath receivers cross on the interior as checkdowns. The key on the play with Burton's out-breaking route is a stair-step technique.
The stair-step technique is a route running move used to create separation with your body. The receiver or tight end will lean on the defender to flip the defender's hips, before quickly breaking off and creating an opening. In the second clip of this video, SMU Tight End Kylen Granson does a stair-step to create separation on a similar route combination.
Two similar route combinations with similar results on the play. I expect Frank Reich to utilize Granson quite a bit on these type of play designs.
An important position in the Colts' offense is the sniffer tight end. The sniffer is a position that is basically a hybrid fullback/tight end, that features the player being lined up slightly in the backfield off the line. The Colts use this position quite a bit in the run game on their wham and trap type of plays.
With the prominence of the position in this offense, the Colts have been able to work some leak play concepts off of it. A leak play is a play-action pass where the sniffer/tight end would look to crack the backside defensive end as normal. As they approach the defensive end, they quickly break off the block and shoot out into the flat.
In the video below, you can see how the Colts and SMU used their sniffer tight ends in leak play concepts. Granson should add a new element to this play with his speed and ability after the catch.
Prior to drafting Kylen Granson, the Colts didn't have a vertical shot tight end on the roster. Mo Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle are outstanding players but both are more underneath, blocking tight ends. A player like Granson can open up more of the offense down the field and create more chunk plays.
In the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills, Frank Reich drew up a gorgeous quarters beater to get Jack Doyle wide open down the field for a score. I diagram the play below as the combination of the deep post and an out-and-up leads to a wide open score.
With Granson's route running and speed, this play could be used more as a schemed shot play in the offense. In the video, I show a similar example of when SMU used the same play concept. Granson's quarterback is unable to hit him on the play but I see the potential in this play design with Granson in the offense.
Isolated Redzone Weapon
There were plenty of examples that I could have used to illustrate Granson as a redzone threat for the Colts. However, I thought the best way to showcase this would be by comparing him to Eric Ebron. While Ebron left this team on a bit of a sour note, his 16 touchdowns in two seasons were incredible and are comparable to what Granson did in his final two collegiate seasons (14 touchdowns).
One way that the Colts were able to use Ebron and be so effective with him in the redzone was with a simple smash concept route. The Colts would line Ebron up in the slot and have him do a relatively simple corner route against the linebacker/safety in coverage. This route proved to be deadly as defenders simply couldn't compete with him at the catch point.
While Granson isn't as skilled in jump ball situations, he is a much better route runner than Ebron. I could see this concept coming back to the Colts' offense as a way to isolate their new athletic tight end with players who can't cover his combination of size and quickness.
I absolutely loved the Kylen Granson pick in this past draft. He may not be a complete tight end but he is the perfect fit in the Colts' offense with how they use their Y tight end. These clips above are just some of the ways they can utilize him and doesn't even note middle of the field concepts (crossers will be big for him as well).
While he may not be super impactful as a rookie, I am very optimistic about his future in this offense. He's a talented player who can thrive in this offensive system.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.