With Michael Campanaro now in the honky-tonk land of Nashville, the Ravens are searching for their new special teams returner.
While undrafted rookies always have an uphill climb, especially this year after Baltimore made a whopping 12 draft picks, one player to keep an eye on is Rutgers' Janarion Grant.
Grant’s top competition for the job comes from Tim White, who was impressive last summer before suffering a season-ending finger injury.
Asked about how the returner competition is shaping up so far, Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg first spoke of his excitement about White. The second player mentioned was Grant.
“Janarion Grant is a young man that I thought had exceptional college tape,” Rosburg said. “He came in as a tryout player in our rookie minicamp and earned a roster spot because of those things and his skills as a receiver.”
Grant was one of the best returners in college football before an ankle injury derailed his career and sent his draft stock tumbling.
Four games into his senior year, Grant had scored eight return touchdowns (five on kickoffs, three punts) in 39 games. He was averaging an eye-popping 32.5 yards per kickoff return and 16 yards per punt return.
Things got even better when his baby daughter was born Sept. 21, 2017, just days before he was poised to set Rutgers’ school record for career kick return yards.
That’s when Grant’s ankle was stepped on out of bounds by Iowa cornerback Desmond King, ending his season. Grant was able to come back for one more year, but he was slow to recover from the injury and his production dropped significantly.
“It hurt me deeply,” Grant said. “I was just thinking about a whole lot. I know once you get injured, you’re going to have NFL general managers wondering if you’re going to come back the same. I went undrafted, but I have a lot to prove and I’m going to show everybody.”
Grant’s calling card is his speed. When he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds at his pro day, it didn’t help convince evaluators that he was all the way back.
The Ravens brought Grant in as a tryout, and his on-field speed and knack for playmaking was immediately evident. Despite his 5-foot-10, 177-pound frame, he’s stood out as both a receiver and returner. He plays fearless and has unique lateral agility to make plays with the ball in his hands.
“I don’t have any problems at all now. It’s just football,” Grant said. “Speed and vision, that’s what you’re going to see out of me. When I get the ball in my hands, I’m looking to score every time.”
If Grant is going to make the 53-man roster, he’s going to have to continue to show that he’s more than just a returner, much like White did before his injury last year. White may have the leg up now, but it will be one of the more interesting competitions this summer.
“Coach Rosburg says he loves me a lot,” Grant said. “He’s been looking at me, watching me and thinks I can do great things for the Ravens. I know I can as well. I just have to go out there and show them I can. I need to show them that I can better myself and better the team.”