By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Heading into the 2015 season, there was real excitement for the skill position talent at Pittsburgh. Running back James Connor and wide receiver Tyler Boyd were dynamic play-makers since coming to the Panthers.
In Boyd’s first game for Pittsburgh in 2013, he gave Florida State some real problems in coverage, and that was a Seminoles team that ended up going undefeated and winning a National Championship. That outing set the tone for him to break a lot of Larry Fitzgerald’s freshman records. Boyd caught 85 passes for 1,174 yards with seven touchdowns in 2013. He also ran for a score and returned a punt for a touchdown. In 2014, Boyd notched 78 receptions for 1,126 yards and eight touchdowns.
Boyd looked poised for another big season as a junior, but Connor went out for the season with a knee injury. Defenses sent a lot of double coverage Boyd’s direction and kept him from producing a lot of big plays downfield. He still totaled 91 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns. The junior had 40 carries for 349 yards, too.
For the NFL, Boyd is a well-balanced receiver. He isn’t a burner, but has enough speed to get separation with a burst to rip off yards after the catch. Boyd is a quick route-runner who gets space from cornerbacks coming out of his breaks. He is a physical runner and is dangerous after the catch. He tracks the bell extremely well, makes acrobatic catches and outfights defensive backs for 50-50 balls. Generally, Boyd has reliable hands, but he can have some brief spells of drops in bunches.
Boyd is a versatile athlete who could also chip in on some carries out of the backfield like he did for Pittsburgh. He is not an explosively fast wideout, and he doesn’t have mismatch size. Thus, Boyd isn’t viewed as a first-round receiver.
Overall, Boyd is an underrated prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft class. He could end up being a really nice value pick on the second day. Boyd could be a very good No. 2 receiver, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he exceeds expectations in the NFL. Boyd is a pure football player who could be a nice chain-moving weapon. In the 2016 NFL Draft, Boyd could be a second-round pick and he shouldn’t get out of the third round.
Player Comparison: Keenan Allen. Boyd really reminds me of Allen. Both them are quick, gritty receivers who are good route-runners with enough quickness to get separation. Neither of them is overly fast or physical, but both are well-developed tough players who know how to get open and produce yards after the catch. Allen was a third-round pick, and Boyd could go on Day 2 as well.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Diego, Houston, New York Giants, Detroit and Minnesota
In Ohio, the Browns are desperate for play-makers, and Boyd could be a nice addition for Hue Jackson if Cleveland can land him at the top of the third round. The Bengals lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency, so Cincinnati could target Boyd as a potential replacement in the second round. He would be a perfect fit for what Jones and Sanu brought to the Bengals.
In the AFC West, San Diego needs a young receiver to replace Malcolm Floyd while Kansas City could use more weapons to go with Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs would have to take Boyd in the second round, while the Chargers could maybe land him early in the third.
New Orleans needs a replacement for Marques Colston. The Texans need a complement for DeAndre Hopkins. The Giants have to get a complement for Odell Beckham Jr. as well. Boyd could be in play in the second or third round for New York.
Detroit lost Calvin Johnson to retirement, and signing Marvin Jones alone won’t replace what Johnson produced. The Lions could consider Boyd on Day 2. The Vikings moved on from Mike Wallace and could use a receiver to go with Stefon Diggs.
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