Oct 1, 2011; Fort Collins, CO, USA; San Jose State Spartans wide receiver Noel Grigsby (23) runs against the Colorado State Rams during the fourth quarter at Hughes Stadium. The Spartans beat the Rams, 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Noel Grigsby, WR San Jose State


San Jose State’s 2012 season was a revelation on a number of fronts.  They had one of the top quarterbacks in the country, became more of a factor in the NFL Draft, and had a number of players break out that contributed to an 11-2 record, a top 25 finish, and a bowl victory over Bowling Green.  In 2013, the Spartans are hoping to be able to win the WAC and should have a larger presence in this year’s NFL Draft.

One of the players that had their coming out party in 2012 and is looking to continue with another big year in 2013 is Noel Grigsby, the Spartans top wide receiver.  Grigsby was productive in his first two years in San Jose but had far and away his best season in 2012 and it coincided with their best season as a team.  He was able to catch 82 passes for 1,307 yards and 9 touchdowns.  With the loss of their talented tight end Ryan Otten to the NFL, Grigsby may have even more opportunities to make plays this year.

Grigsby is a slightly undersized receiver who has been the #1 target in the Spartans spread attack and has been a mix of a guy who can move the chains and extend drives to a deep threat and playmaker.  In addition to simply looking to continue adding muscle and getting bigger for the NFL Draft, Grigsby can improve after the catch, prove he can go over the middle, and just iron out some technical details to his game.  Right now, Grigsby appears to be a day three prospect who might be able to surprise in the post season draft process.

Vitals & Build

Grigsby is listed at 5’11” 175lbs with a lean build.  He has excellent body control and great feet.  Grigsby has above average speed and the ability to accelerate well.  It would definitely help him to continue gaining muscle and eclipse the 180lb mark.  He appears to have the frame to do it easily and then some, so it will be interesting to see how big he is during the draft process.

Route Running & Technique

Grigsby’s stance could improve and he has a tendency to bounce slightly when the ball is snapped.  He has shown he can be a good route runner with a combination of good feet, clean cuts, and selling fakes.  Grigsby is routinely running routes on the outside in the form of go routes, posts, and then comebacks, curls, and dig type routes.  Despite the fact he is not usually running a diverse route tree, he is able to create separation with some good technique and savvy.

There are situations where Grigsby is asked to run a curl type route that are usually a set amount of yardage, but he will run it until he gets the defensive back to turn to defend the go before making the cut to come back for the curl enabling him to be wide open.  He will also use an extra step to the outside to sell a post route that can enable him to sell go or flag before cutting back into the post route.

Despite his size, Grigsby has shown that he is surprisingly able to box out defensive backs to make catches.  Whether in the end zone or just preventing a guy from making a play on the ball near the sideline, Grigsby does an impressive job of putting his body in between the defender and the ball.  It remains to be seen if he can do it from a bulk standpoint in the NFL, but from body control and positioning, he does an excellent job.

To this point, Grigsby has not done much in terms of attacking the middle of the defense, so there might be questions about him doing it and as a result, it could impact his ability to be looked at for a potential option in the slot as it relates to attacking the middle of the field, but could be a slot attacking towards the outside.

Hands

Grigsby has impressive hands and a huge catch radius.  He has demonstrated the ability to snag the ball out of the air cleanly and has been able to contort his body to make impressive catches behind him as well as low or high.  Not only does he have impressive hands, but he also tracks the ball extremely well and is able to focus on the ball in traffic or while absorbing contact.  He is also able to adjust to the ball quickly in the air in situations where he has little time to find it.  Grigsby is a reliable receiver when it comes to catching the football on the plays he should and will make more than a few of the ones that would be excusable if he did not.  Grigsby also has great awareness of where he is on the field, whether it is near the sideline or the end line in the end zone and can toe tap when he makes catches or position himself to where he can make a catch.

Run After Catch

Grigsby has the speed and athleticism to extend catches and make bigger plays but is often coming back to the football and make catches, so he needs to find ways to make guys miss and pick up extra yardage or he will basically only be extending plays that are going down the field anyway.  He has not shown to be an overly creative runner after the catch and is usually just trying to find a lane and continue running down the field.  This is another area where Grigsby can continue working and improving, especially in the Spartans spread offense.

System Fit

At this point, Grigsby profiles as an outside possession receiver who can stretch the field a little bit as well.  To this point, he has not shown much in terms of playing in the slot, which does not mean he cannot do it, but has simply not been asked to do it much and if he lines up in there, he is still working to the outside of the field.  A combination of great hands and effective route running makes him a reliable target to create separation and extend drives.

It is possible that because of the offense he played in that teams that are running more of a spread out look could be more interested in Grigsby, but there is no reason he could not compete for a spot on a team that runs a more conventional offense as an outside receiver.

2013 Schedule

Thu, Aug. 29 vs. Sacramento State
Sat, Sept. 7 at Stanford
Sat, Sept. 21 at Minnesota
Fri, Sept. 27 vs. Utah State
Sat, Oct. 5 at Hawaii
Sat, Oct. 12 at Colorado State
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. Wyoming
Sat, Nov. 2 at UNLV
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. San Diego State
Sat, Nov. 16 at Nevada
Fri, Nov. 22 vs. Navy
Fri, Nov. 29 vs. Fresno State

Notable Games

Grigsby had a big game against Stanford last year and will need to have another one if they are going to come back and beat them in Palo Alto this year.  Utah State was the other blemish on San Jose State’s record from last year and a bittersweet game for Grigsby as he had his biggest game statistically against them.  That game ultimately decided the WAC and Utah State won the conference, so they will be hoping to come back and beat them this year en route to a championship of their own.  The regular season finale against Fresno State appears to have the makings of a shootout between David Fales and Derek Carr, so it could be an opportunity for Grigsby to put up a huge game.

NFL Comparison

At this point, Grigsby resembles Jordan Norwood who has been in and out of the rotation as a receiver with the Cleveland Browns.  Coming out of Penn State, Norwood was almost identical to Grigsby in terms of his size and build and he had incredible hands.  Norwood was able to participate in the College Skills Challenge that ESPN does every ear with various events for players.  Most of it is pretty useless, but in an event that featured receivers surrounded by four JUGS machines firing footballs at them, receivers were tasked with quickly catching the ball and shifting to the next machine; a difficult undertaking.  Norwood not only made it look easy, but was so comfortable in the event that it looked old hat for him and he blew away the rest of the field.  Ultimately, Norwood went undrafted, but has flashed ability in the NFL and always seems like he is on the cusp of being able to have an effective contributor.  It has not happened to this point, but he has been able to stay in the NFL for several years.  Grigsby is similar in a number of ways but has had more of an opportunity in San Jose State’s offense to be a big time playmaker and still has time to continue adding strength and improving his draft stock, so he projects as a player who will be drafted with more potential for the future.

Draft Projection

As it stands now, Grigsby looks like someone who will be a factor on day three of the draft.  Much like his teammates last year, Grigsby could make a big statement in the postseason All-Star games competing against top of the line talent.  To this point, no one has been able to stop Grigsby, even a team like Stanford, but there will always be doubters to guys who play in the WAC and other conferences along those lines, especially in a spread type offense.  If he can show well in the East-West Shrine Game or Senior Bowl, it could have a substantial impact on where he gets drafted.  The bottom line with Grigsby is that he has a skillset that teams ultimately need; he can get open and he can catch the football.  The measurables and everything else get tossed aside on third and eight when they need a guy who can open and moves the chains.  Guys like that can outlast a number of players who are drafted ahead of them in the NFL.  Regardless of where Grigsby is drafted, he has the ability to stick around the NFL for a while and could be a starter down the road.

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