Cyril Grayson is the most fascinating player on the Buccaneers. It's true. This is a deep-depth wide receiver, thrust onto the field after injuries and in-game team abandonment at the position, who did not play college football.
He was a student at LSU but only ran track for the Tigers during his time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Zero snaps on a football field there. He wasn't even part of the team due to NCAA scholarship limitations. Grayson did experience a decorated career on the track, however, as a seven-time All-American and four-time national champion. Dude can fly.
Grayson decided to focus on football after his track days were over and calmly ran 4.33 at the LSU Pro Day in 2017. HELLO. His workout was rightfully tweeted by the school's track and field account.
Of course, the athleticism-adoring Seahawks signed him as an undrafted free agent. Grayson only had a brief stint on Seattle's practice squad and has since bounced around the league with stops in Indianapolis, another in Seattle, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, and presently, Tampa Bay.
He's been on the Buccaneers roster since 2019, actually, and made his first regular-season reception that year, in Week 17. Given the remarkable talent and high-end depth at receiver in Tampa Bay, there was no shame in Grayson not emerging as a viable pass-catching option in 2020. In fact, Grayson's ability to stick with the Buccaneers despite the presence of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, and Jaelon Darden is a testament to the raw talent he possesses and how valued speed is in the NFL.
The practice-squad call up is fresh off the most productive contest of his professional career, a six-grab, 81-yard performance against the Jets in Week 17 that included the game-winning touchdown with under a minute to go. He had 81 yards on three receptions against the Panthers the day after Christmas, too.
How in the world has Grayson emerged from non-football playing obscurity to become a productive member of Tom Brady's passing offense? While he's still raw, Grayson has proven to have learned some nuances of playing receiver in the NFL.
I'll start simple. On this outside screen reception against the Panthers (top of the screen), watch Grayson immediately read linebacker Shaq Thompson, who was flowing toward the play from the inside. Grayson attempted to continue Thompson's momentum toward the sideline by jab-stepping in that direction before cutting back toward the middle of the field.
While Thompson ultimately made the tackle, the juke toward the perimeter gave Grayson more room to accumulate yards on that play. It would've been very instinctive for a fast track guy to simply hit the lane created for him by the two blockers outside each of his shoulders, but that would've likely led to a less successful play for the Buccaneers.
Also against Carolina, Grayson (top of the screen) smartly sold a double move for what amounted to a 62-yard gain. If you hadn't read that sentence and just watched the play below, tell me you wouldn't have believed Grayson was running a classic out route.
Nice, right? Also, the fact Grayson didn't cruise into the end zone should serve as a reminder that all NFL cornerbacks are fast. Really fast. And, heck, the cornerback who tackled him, rookie Keith Taylor, "only" ran 4.54 at the Washington Pro Day in 2021.
I've saved the best for last, the finest display of receiver intricacy Grayson has shown to date. It came on a 20-yard completion against the Jets on Sunday. Watch how Grayson subtly faked to the inside like he was breaking his route stem toward the post before accelerating into the cornerback's blind spot -- which is vital when running routes.
The inside move and presence into the defender's blind-spot provided him ample space when he slammed on the breaks for Brady to hit him on a long throw from the hashmark on the other side of the field. Grayson was actually able to wait for the ball to arrive.
Sure, the Jets playing soft zone late in the game with a lead likely aided this completion, too. But seeing the nuanced route-running tactics from Grayson there indicates he's grasped there's much more to playing receiver than running fast.
Unsurprisingly, Grayson is not ultra-polished. At his size, he's unlikely to become a monster in contested-catch scenarios. But Grayson, on his sixth team in five seasons, has exhibited enough development as a receiver to go from undrafted track star to pass-game contributor on an offense run by Brady.