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Tyler Boyd is my new top ranked wide receiver in college football, and I suppose I should tell you why.
Boyd wasn’t fully on my radar until about two weeks ago. I hadn’t watched much of him and simply based on conference and height/weight, he wasn’t the most appealing of the bunch. All that considered, he was still highly ranked because of his freshman year accomplishments, including 85 receptions for 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns, And those were just the receiving numbers. He also had 11 carries for 108 yards and a score. If you’ve followed any of the sample size articles I’ve written, you know that represents his potential for future success. He also added a 54-yard punt return touchdown and these are all great signs that his ability after the catch with translate to the next level.
But what about his ability as a receiver? This is actually what I’m most excited about. Let’s take a look at some plays from the 2013 season.
My goodness! With a defender draped on him, Boyd makes a spectacular diving catch. The first thing he does is track the ball in air, identifying where it’s going. He then puts himself in the perfect position to make the catch, while boxing out the defender at the same time. Finally, Boyd uses his subtle athleticism and amazing ball skills and hand/eye coordination to… I won’t even say, “go up and get it.” It’s more of a lunge where he fully extends at the last moment. These are rarely refined skills for any college receiver, never mind a true freshman
Boyd may never be an elite athlete, but I don’t think he’ll need to be. His best asset is setting up for things before they happen, both after the catch and when tracking passes in the air. Watch as he’s setting up for the catch out the backfield, even when his eyes are on the ball, he’s positioning himself to make the first defender miss, and that is just what happens. Boyd doesn’t win with strength and power; he beats you with elusive agility and subtle movements. As you can see with the second defender, he sets him up with a double move, again setting things up before they actually happen. Those types of attributes aren’t uncommon, but they’re usually seen in much quicker, smaller players, like Desean Jackson or Paul Richardson.
This is when my mouth started to drop. These three plays are shocking. His game is so refined. There’s not much I can really explain here… it’s simply greatness. As soon as the ball touches his hands, he never bobbles the ball or has any indecisiveness.
This is my favorite play. Everything is succinct and timed perfectly. Again, he keeps perfect leverage with the defender as he’s tracking the ball, and then at the last moment, makes an incredible leaping catch. While it’s silly to compare a freshman to Larry Fitzgerald, that’s the type of plays Fitzgerald is known for.
The first player I thought of when watching Boyd was a fellow named Brandon Lloyd. Their ball skills are very similar and while Lloyd’s NFL career lacked consistency and end of career numbers, he was always known for his spectacular ability when the ball was in the air. Again, I saw flashes of Fitzgerald, but wouldn’t go as far to say they’re similar prospects. The biggest question mark I have is how much will he bulk up? He appears to have the frame to add another ten or 15 pounds, but you just never know.
The player I think Boyd will most closely resemble in draft position is Michael Floyd, basically a top 15 pick. While they have very different games, they both have top end, but not quite elite, skill sets.
Overall, I’m shocked at the lack of hype. While there seems to be a common respect for his ability, I’m not sure people are fully acknowledging just how incredible Boyd’s 2013 season was. Barring a significant injury, I think 2014 will be the year Boyd begins his push to become a top 15 pick. I know waiting isn’t always fun, and you’ll have to wait at least two more seasons before Boyd will show up on an NFL roster, but much like the case of Todd Gurley after his freshman year, patience is a virtue.
As always, let me know what you think in the comments, even if you think I’m crazy!