This is absolutely the same comparison that I use over and over and over. Good, try hard, smart player, a guy you want on the team, but not a guy you want penciled in as a starter.
First, I like Grant. I like Grant as a #4 or #5 receiver who pitches in here and there, does some dirty work, and gets a few catches. Or has the occasional start due to injury. I didn't want to see him cut.
However. He's physically limited. That's a fact. He's not big. He's not strong. And he's not Fast. At least when you compare him to starting WRs in the NFL.
He runs great routes, is smart, tries hard, and gives maximum effort. All of these things are great.
But not 1 DC on any of the other 31 teams goes into a game planning session saying, "Damn, we need to figure out how to account for Ryan Grant." He scares nobody. And herein lies the problem: That allows defenses to collapse, and shrink the field.
Last year, with DJax, teams had to defend ALL of the field. They had to respect his speed, and that forced teams to put help over on his side, generally with a safety. Even if he wasn't doubled on every play, the safety HAD to peak and see what the hell he was doing, because if he just took off, the safety HAD to go with him.
That speed along almost pulls 2 guys on the defense out of the play. It opens up underneath stuff and, most critically, the middle of the field for Crowder and Reed.
When you have Ryan Grant on the outside, you allow the defense to play you straight up, and that effects the guys in the middle, and the running game. All of a sudden, there are more people around Crowder and Reed. If you don't think the absense of outside talent hasn't taken a tole on the inside receivers production, you're nuts. Crowder AND Reed's numbers are down this year. The QB is the same, they are the same, and the OL is the same. What changed? That probably has something to do with it, don't you think?
Ryan Grant should NOT be a starting WR in the NFL. But he IS a legitimate WR in the NFL.
The fact that Ryan Grant IS essentially a starter isn't even remotely his "fault." He's making the most of his opportunity, and more power to him for that.
IF Pryor and Doctson were actually ready and playing well, then you have the size and speed on the outside to do damage, open up the inside routes and dictate, to some extent, coverage. But neither seems to be able to run routes or consistently know what the hell they are doing. Which is somewhat understandable from a guy who just converted to WR, and a guy who has been hurt basically since he was drafted.
Now, I totally understand that DJax was a 1 trick pony. And he was oft hurt, and kindof an ass, took plays off, and didn't really block anybody ever in the run game.. And I understand not re-signing him. I also understand that Garcon was paid maybe twice as much as he is worth by the 49ers. But in losing those two, you lost your deep threat that extended the defense, and the consistent, hard-nosed route runner with good speed that could take advantage of it. They HOPED that Pryor would fill the void. He hasn't. Shrug.
I blame the FO for not realizing that 1) Replacing DJax and Garcon with nothing more than hope was a good idea (hope that Pryor was further along in his development and that Doctson would be healthy and contribute right away), and 2) not understanding that with unknowns on the outside, you HAD to get a more physically gifted and better RB than Kelley in FA. By ignoring BOTH of these things at the same time, they've essentially gutted the explosiveness and consistency of the offense. Solving either side would have been significant.