Memphis SMU Football

SMU tight end Kylen Granson advances the ball after a catch against Memphis in Dallas on Oct. 3, 2020.

Nearly all of Kylen Granson’s willpower seemed to be devoted to one task — keeping himself from rolling his eyes in front of the virtually assembled media.

Somewhere along the line in the predraft process, the SMU tight end picked up a reputation for drops. It became enough of an issue it was raised on national television after he was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of last week’s NFL draft. And it naturally made its way into the ensuing media availability.

Granson almost certainly knew the question was coming, and he knows the source of the red flag.

“That was one game,” he said. “That was a fluke game for me. Ever since that game, drops haven’t been a thing. They weren’t a thing before that.”

The game was a high-profile showdown against Cincinnati — one of the tapes more likely to be drawn by evaluators doing their homework on Granson. But if they stopped there — or didn’t do enough follow-up digging — it might have been easy to get the wrong impression.

Indianapolis college scouting coordinator Anthony Coughlan couldn’t stifle a laugh when the question of drops was raised during his media availability, and assistant director of college scouting Matt Terpening confirmed Granson’s defense.

“You watch the Senior Bowl practices during the week, he caught the ball great,” Terpening said. “… the hands are excellent. The pro day, he caught the ball clean. At the Senior Bowl, we were fine with his hands. It’s not an issue at all.”

That’s a sign of the amount of work that went into Granson’s selection and the confidence the Colts have in the pick.

A former wide receiver, Granson stands just 6-foot-1 and weighs 240 pounds. But he posted elite testing numbers for a tight end with a 4.64-second 40-yard dash, a 36.5-inch vertical leap and a 6.93-second three-cone drill.

That speed, explosion and agility is evident on film. As Indianapolis got the chance to talk with Granson, the team also came away impressed with his intelligence and competitive drive.

Put together, it makes for a player that seems like a perfect fit for the field-stretching role head coach Frank Reich coveted throughout the offseason.

“When you watch the tape, you see he is explosive,” Reich said. “He has explosive speed. He has quickness – foot and body quickness. He’s also dynamic with the football in his hand as a tight end – which that can be a great element for our offense. We like to think we know what we’re doing when we’re using that position, but I think he’ll complement the other guys well.

“(He’s) very versatile. We can put him in the backfield. This is a highly intelligent player. That (tight end) room is a very productive room, and they need to complement each other, and I think he adds an important piece to our offense.”

Mo Alie-Cox has developed into a bulldozer in the open field, looking for contact at any opportunity. Jack Doyle remains a solid route runner and consistent threat on third down and in the red zone.

The Colts are looking for big plays from Granson.

After two years as a wide receiver at Rice, Granson caught 43 passes for 721 yards and nine touchdowns in his first year as a tight end in 2019 at SMU. He followed that up last season with 35 receptions for 536 yards and five scores in two fewer games in 2020.

The Mustangs moved Granson all around the field, even lining him up at fullback on occasion – a role general manager Chris Ballard suggested he could replicate in Indianapolis.

“He’s a little bit undersized, but he’s a total mismatch tight end,” Terpening said. “His college tape – they play him out in space, he plays in the slot and his main trait that really drew him to us was his speed. This kid’s got big-time speed. He can get down the seam, (make) really big plays. He’s got excellent hands, and he’s got route instincts and route feel, and I think he had 15 touchdowns the last two years.

“That was probably the biggest thing to me was his big-play ability, working the middle of the field and then when he caught the ball, he has RAC (run after catch), and he has speed to make big plays.”

Granson was born in the northern Indiana town of DeMotte, so this is something of a homecoming for him. He moved to Texas at an early age and was a high school teammate of quarterback Sam Ehlinger – the Colts’ sixth-round draft pick. That only adds to his comfort level with the franchise.

Reich is known as a tight end-friendly head coach, and his offenses have a history of being very productive at the position.

Granson has the tools to be the next in line.

“Tight ends, you gotta be renaissance men,” Granson said. “You gotta be smart. So that along with my packages — my athleticism, being able to be the big-play maker — I feel like it was just the perfect sell to him.”

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THB sports editor George Bremer has covered the Indianapolis Colts since 2010. He occasionally sports a beard that can rival Andrew Luck's, but he lacks arm strength and durability.