Where there is smoke there is fire
Tyler Boyd was a prolific pass catcher for three years at Pittsburgh. He finished as the all-time leading receiver at the school which says a lot given Larry Fitzgerald played there. Pitt’s offense went through Boyd, which has something to do with how prolific he was in college. He was the focal point of the offense and was utilized in the backfield, on screens, wildcat and was their kick returner. Anything to get the ball in his hands. He was picked up in the second round of this year’s draft by the Cincinnati Bengals who are revamping their WR corp and Boyd has been the highest profile (though not the only) WR brought in to fight for time across from AJ Green. Boyd is currently being picked 10th in rookie drafts on MFL and my contention is that is too high. Boyd is not worth a first round pick in rookie drafts this year. He is a below average athlete that will do certain things well, like make the contested catch and high-point the football, but his lack of athleticism will peg him to that role and most likely he will live and die as a WR2/3 in the NFL which is more like a low rookie round 2 to high round 3 value. Let me explain why I feel this way.
Tyler Boyd lacks athleticism
And as you’ll see in a moment, it’s not like he has a stand out trait and deficiencies elsewhere, he’s deficient everywhere. Let’s start with his body, he’s 6’1″ and 197 lbs. which is very tall and lanky. He lacks upper body strength to get NFL CBs off of him and he lacks the speed to run away from them. He ran a pedestrian 4.58 forty at the combine and given his size this calculates to an 89.5 speed score which is exceptionally bad for an NFL WR (over 100 is considered good). In looking at his Quad Score (check out Quad Score here if it’s new to you) he’s below average in every metric and below average in his total score. Here’s a table showing historic players that have scored similarly:
As you can see, most on this list are career underachievers. Robert Woods has yet to break out in Buffalo, Jared Abbrederis may well get cut this pre-season, Vincent Brown and Lavelle Hawkins both never lived up to expectations. In Quad Score, anything under zero is below average and you can see from Boyd’s speed, agility, leg power and arm strength scores that all are deficient compared to historic NFL WRs. If he had one positive attribute, at least you can say he may develop that attribute and find an offense that will exploit it, but at least coming into the NFL, Boyd has nothing to exploit. While he is a smooth route runner and has great hands, he will have trouble shaking NFL CBs and just does not have the long speed to do anything except work underneath.
There are a few things to like about Boyd. First, he was the focal point of the Pitt offense in 2015 and therefore is a bit of a swiss army knife. He’s been utilized in a lot of ways which means he’s practiced at playing out of the backfield, QBing the wildcat, running WR screens and he knows how to find the open spot in a zone. These benefits are not to be dismissed and while I would not consider taking Boyd at his current rookie ADP, he’s certainly not without his merits. In watching games against North Carolina, Iowa and Miami from 2015 on YouTube you can clearly see he makes the contested catch very well. He can dance on the sideline for the catch and he smoothly gets out of his cuts to find the open space. He uses his body very well on slants and screens too. So he’s versatile, there is no doubt about it.
I Wish I Saw More…
But, I wish I saw more ability to shake a CB down the field and in the middle. He often made the contested catch in college because he had to make the contested catch in college. He has trouble breaking away from tight coverage and in the three games I watched most of his catches were uncontested pitch and catch short balls. When you take a look at the game against North Carolina, you’ll see he basically uses one move at the line, a quick studder step that will be fairly ineffective in the NFL. He shows no ability to scrape by the defender and accelerate away. This will be problematic in the NFL at best, crippling at worst. The few balls thrown his way beyond 20 yards are contested and fall incomplete. He also shows little desire to block and his lack of upper body strength will also prevent him from succeeding in that area.
Dynasty Fantasy Bottom Line
Tyler Boyd has some traits that you love to see in and NFL WR. He is a good route runner that was heavily targeted by his team. He has great hands and will make the contested catch. There is no doubt he can make his mark to some extent with those traits. That said, the deck is stacked against him in terms of his lack of athleticism which is critical to success in the NFL. Boyd will get the benefit of the doubt having been drafted so high by Cincinnati though I really believe it’s going to be hard for him to carve out anything more than a specialty role as a possession receiver unless he gets stronger in the upper body and works hard on his speed and agility. Brandon LaFell and James Wright will start out in front of him in training camp and I doubt initially he will beat out either of them. He’ll most likely see the field as the year progresses but don’t expect much out of him his rookie season. If he does not impress this year, don’t be surprised if Cincy drafts over him next year or brings in a free agent to match with AJ Green. Speaking of Green, while he will make it easier for the WR on the other side of the field, being in position to make the play and actually making the play are two different things. I question whether Boyd will be able to make the play consistently enough to succeed in the NFL over a long period of time. Therefore, in my opinion he is not worth his current rookie ADP. If he fell to the third round I would consider him there.