KR Jakeem Grant: Mighty Mouse is in the house


The Browns tried to make their special teams (ST) units good. Two kickers have been drafted in the last few years, bettors have come and gone, and the punt return game was supposed to have been resolved with JoJo Natson – who was injured more than he actually played.

Mike Preifer is a very good ST coach. It just doesn’t have the right parts to work with.

So for this year, kicker Cade York was drafted and two free agents were signed to help this group: P Corey Bojoquez plus KR Jakeem Grant, Sr.

People raved about York’s precision and Bojoquez’s leg strength. But could the best addition to ST’s roster this offseason be Grant, nicknamed ‘Mighty Mouse’?

Beginnings

Like many NFL players, Grant (5′-7″, 171 lbs) grew up in Texas. He went to Dr. John Horn High School in Mesquite, Texas, which was a new school that opened in 2000. Along with two other brothers, the Grant family participated in sports.

Grant stood out on the track team with blistering speed. He competed in the 4×100 plus 100 meters. He also played running back in college, but was replaced by a wide receiver in high school where he also returned kickoffs and punts. The Mesquite Horn football team made the playoffs during the four years Grant went to school there.

He was clocked in the 40 several times, but his best time was 4.25 (not a misprint). He squatted 435 pounds and did a vertical leap of 40 inches.

In his senior year at just 155 pounds, he was named First Team 5A All-State. He led Mesquite Horn in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was second in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

As a three-star recruit according to Rivals.comGrant had offers from Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Tulsa, Wake Forest, Louisiana Tech, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Colorado State.

He chose Tulsa, then in January opted out. He soon had visits with Texas Tech and Pittsburgh and announced shortly after that he would be attending Texas Tech.

Grant spent his first year in a redshirt in 2011. The 2012 season he was used a lot as he played in all 13 games as a receiver and also a kickoff return man. He had 32 receptions for 284 yards with 8.9 yards per reception. His six returns averaged 39.5 yards per return at which he scored two touchdowns.

His next two seasons he was a full-time starter with a combined 132 receptions for 1,734 yards with 10 touchdowns. Additionally, Grant had 42 kickoff returns for 915 yards and a combined average of 21.8 yards per return. Both of those years he was named Honorable Mention All-Big 12.

Texas Tech vs. Iowa State

Photo by David K ​​Purdy/Getty Images

In 2015, Grant was named to the Biletnikoff preseason watch list. He finished that season with a career-high 90 receptions for 1,268 yards with 10 touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns among his 39 returns for 1,017 yards and averaged 26.1 yards per return. By the end of his career at Texas Tech, Grant had set the school record for career distance covered plus career return touchdowns that remain school records today.

He was named second-team All-Big 12 plus second-team All-American.

His reconnaissance report on Focus on professional football:

“If nothing more, Grant deserves a shot in the NFL as a kick returner. He won’t be a No. 1 WR, but he has shown the ability to create big plays when he has the ball in his hands. His success in the league could ultimately come down to the creativity of the coach of the team that selects him, but at the very least, it should be exciting to see him on special teams.

He was invited to the Combine and clocked an official 40 time of 4.34. However, on his professional day, he was hand clocked at 4.13 within familiar limits.

2016 NFL Draft, Round 6, Pick No. 186

Even though Grant was drafted, being taken in the sixth round by the Miami Dolphins was a sore point for him. His camp expected him to leave much sooner.

Despite having a good training camp, he was buried on the depth board at wide receiver, but was the Dolphins’ punt and kickoff return man. In Week 5, the speedster paid with an electric 74-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. On the NFL Network show “NFL Now,” the comeback earned first place on a list of the “Top 5 Most Athletic Plays.”

Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

He played sparingly at the receiver position to catch passes on the receiver screen or execute the occasional throw sweep. The second leg is where he showed his worth.

In Miami, he returned 101 punts for 978 yards with three touchdowns. Grant also had 110 kickoff returns for 2,699 yards, two touchdowns and an average of 24.8 yards per return. But his role in attack was very small. In addition, he had fumbling issues.

In early October 2021, Grant was sent to the Chicago Bears for a sixth-round pick. He played 11 games for the Bears with 18 punt returns and 21 kickoff returns. He scored a touchdown on a sensational 97-yard return in Week 14 against the Green Bay Packers on a play in which he was initially surrounded by six Packer defensemen.

This return set a new Bears franchise record for the longest punt return for a touchdown and the 10th longest in NFL history.

Chicago used Grant more as a catcher during his short stint there. While scoring that long punt return against the Packers, in the same game he had 46 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. In Week 13, Grant had five catches for 62 yards and a score against Arizona.

Despite the short season with the Bears, he was named to the Pro Bowl and earned a second-team All-Pro nod, his second straight as a returning player.

Cleveland signed Grant in March to a three-year contract worth $13.8 million. He is 29 years old.

So what did the Browns get to Grant? He has instantaneous speed and reaches his top speed on his first steps, which usually eliminates most chasing angles. In other words, Cleveland just added a big dose of speed to the rematch.

Grant was the third-best punt returner in 2021 and the sixth-best kickoff man.

“We are thrilled with what Jakeem Grant brings to the offensive and special teams,” said head coach Kevin Stefanski. “He is a versatile and dynamic player who has great speed. He was one of the best returning players in the NFL and we are excited to use his skills.

Needless to say, the Browns struggled in the rematch. It was supposed to be rookie Demetric Felton in both positions, but he showed no consistency at either. Donovan Peoples-Jones had horrible punt numbers and speedster Anthony Schwartz simply had no college experience with either. Only RB D’Ernest Johnson found any type of success, but it was minimal.

Grant’s signing could become the best addition to this year’s roster. He is a proven commodity on both the punt and kickoff return with incredible speed.

There have been plenty of sensational returning men for the Browns over the decades: Josh Cribbs, Eric Metcalf, Leroy Kelly, Gerald McNeil, Dennis Northcutt, Bobby Mitchell, Dino Hall and Travis Benjamin.

Hopefully soon this database will contain Mighty Mouse.

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