The Buccaneers have invested serious draft capital and money into their stacked pass catching group. Mike Evans was the team’s 2014 first round pick. Chris Godwin was a third round selection. Both have performed at a number one wide receiver level. Both are being paid like it. Evans signed a 5-year, $82.5 million extension with the Bucs on March 9, 2018. Chris Godwin is playing out the year on a franchise tag, earning almost $16 million this season. Rob Gronkowski, one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, is on a $10 million contract this season.
But, if the Buccaneers are to make another deep playoff run, it might be on the back of unheralded Cyril Grayson, who has caught fire in the last two weeks following injuries to Evans and Godwin.
Grayson Didn’t Even Play College Football.
Grayson attended Archbishop Rummel in Metairie, LA, where he ran track. He became an All-American track star at LSU. He was a part of four separate championship 4×400 relay teams. By the time he was done, he was a seven-time All-American and one of the most accomplished track stars in the school’s history.
This led to an opportunity to show off his physical skills at LSU’s 2017 pro day despite not having played a down of college football. He had tried to join the football team at the start of the 2016 season, but NCAA rules prohibited him joining the team unless he was a scholarship recipient, and the Tigers had none available. So, two years later, he put on enough of a show at the Tigers’ pro day that he earned an undrafted free agent contract from the Seattle Seahawks following the 2017 draft.
From there, Grayson’s path to the NFL has been a well-traveled one. After failing to make the 53-man roster in Seattle in 2017, he was added and cut by the Colts before returning to Seattle and failing to make the 53-man roster the following season. The Texans and Bears both brought him on and kicked the tires on him the following 9 months, but he stuck with neither. The Saints brought him in, where he impressed with his speed, but he was ultimately let go.
From Cowboy to Buccaneer
After the Cowboys added Grayson to their practice squad on December 11, 2019, the Buccaneers plucked him and brought him in 6 days later. He had just obtained a substitute teaching certification after trying his hand at delivery service and Uber driving.
The Buccaneers would make sure that his nomadic path through the NFL would finally end in Tampa.
Though Grayson did not make the active roster in September 2020, the Buccaneers added him to the practice squad and protected him three times.
Grayson’s Blazing Speed is His Calling Card, but Not the Reason for His Success.
This one doesn’t take much insight to figure out, but Grayson’s demon speed is what bought himself an opportunity in the NFL. At LSU’s pro day, he clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash and posed the day’s best numbers in the 60-yard shuttle and the broad jump.
But that’s been just the half of it for Grayson. It wasn’t just his speed and athleticism that has made him into a successful NFL wideout. Many, MANY pure athletes with speed and little else have tried and failed in that regard.
It’s been his ability to learn highly complex NFL offenses. It’s his ability to run crisp, effective routes (for the first time since high school, no less) against the best defenders on the planet. That’s not a time and talent gap that many individuals can overcome, which is why you don’t hear about many (if really any) players with no college experience do anything of substance in the league. It’s extremely rare.
Grayson’s route on this out-and-up against the Panthers was a thing of beauty:
Favorite thing about Tampa Tom is he’ll embarrass you deep + outside even if you’re in 2-hi shells. A look alone won’t save you.
Did it when Cyril Grayson popped open on a violent double move vs CAR
Looked like one of AB’s win vs Jon Jones, but Grayson was also interfered with pic.twitter.com/hnjbGxianJ
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) January 5, 2022
Grayson Has a Legitimate Opportunity to Help the Buccaneer Offense This Season and Moving Forward.
Grayson has shown an ability to handle routes both from in the slot as well as on the outside. Against the Panthers, he led all receivers in snaps from the slot. Against the Jets, his game-winning 33-yard touchdown catch came lined up outside on a simple go route.
Tom Brady! with 15 seconds left Brady pulls off the comeback to Grayson with a 33-yard TD#Jets had a short FG as an option to go up 7, but they chose to go for it on 4th down and failed
Brady took the Bucs 93 yards without TOs. 40 TDs on the yearpic.twitter.com/aiYOZpH8G0
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 2, 2022
In other words, he’s versatile. He’s showing he can handle routes and responsibilities across the formation, which allows Evans, Gronkowski, and others to move around and log snaps from the inside. In turn, it helps keep the playbook intact and makes the offense less predictable.
Grayson’s speed also helps two fold. First, his deep threat ability will help to make up for the explosive play element lost with Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. Exhibit A: Grayson broke free and hauled in a wide open 50-yard score that would cap the Bucs’ (albeit temporary) comeback against the Saints back on Halloween.
He’s a runner, he’s a trackstar 🎶
Former All-American sprinter, Cyril Grayson, embarrasses the Saints DBs 😣
— Yahoo Sportsbook (@YahooSportsbook) October 31, 2021
Against Carolina, we saw how his speed can be an asset downfield in run blocking as well, as he provided an escort for the entire 55 yards of Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s touchdown run.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn goes 55 yards for the Touchdown. pic.twitter.com/Z8UNvaZqdh
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports2) December 26, 2021
The Little Things
And that’s a major effort play from number 15. Were it not for him charging down the field and getting in the way of Panthers’ safety Myles Hartfield, Vaughn very likely gets brought down around the 15 yard line. It was a very underrated effort by Grayson that led to a score.
Over the past few weeks, Grayson has shown – albeit with a limited sample size – that he can help this offense. Whether he’s asked to go deep or run a simple underneath route, whether it’s inside or out, he can make a play. He runs hard and blocks hard. He’s versatile. He’s what this makeshift receiver room might need to defend its crown this month. And once the 2022 season rolls around, Grayson should have an inside track for a spot on the roster behind Evans and Godwin (if he’s re-signed).
For the time being, the only delivery Grayson will be working to make is another Lombardi Trophy to One Buc Place.