As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.
A local prospect and one of the top receivers in a loaded class. Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd.
#23, Tyler Boyd — WR, Pittsburgh, 6’2”, 200, Junior
-Great route runner that knows how to find space against defenses
-Soft, strong hands, rarely body catches
-Great feel for what defenses are trying to do to him
-Heavily targeted at Pitt, a workhorse receiver who doesn’t seem to get tired
-Gears down quickly at top of stem on stop and comeback routes
-Not afraid to go across the middle to make plays
-Versatile enough to line up all over the field
-Effective out of the slot, on the boundary and out of the backfield
-Does a great job of going up and getting the football in traffic
-Has a knack for making tough catches with defender draped all over him
-Outstanding body control
-Extended catch radius allows him to make tough catches outside of his frame
-Strong footwork off the line to avoid contact in press
-Not a physical, willing blocker
-Doesn’t create a ton of separation at the top of his stem
-Not an explosive, quick-twitch athlete
-Average long speed that won’t allow him to pull away from defenders
-Able to break tackles, but has limited shake in the open field
-Has major issues with ball security in the return game, needs to clean up way he handles the football
-Must learn how to use body better to shield defenders away from football in stead of relying solely on strong hands
-Finished his collegiate career as Pitt’s all-time leader in both receptions (254) and receiving yards (3,361)
-Named a first-team All-ACC wide receiver by the coaches and media for the second consecutive year
-Finished his junior year with 91 catches for 926 yards (10.2 avg.) and six touchdowns in 12 games
-Was Pitt’s second-leading rusher with 349 yards on 40 carries (8.7 avg.)
-Led the ACC and ranked seventh nationally with 7.6 receptions per game
-One of the state’s most highly recruited players following a prolific career at perennial power Clairton High
-Finished his career ranking among the most productive performers in Western Pennsylvania history
-Set a WPIAL record with 117 career touchdowns
-Finished as the fifth-leading rusher in WPIAL annals with 5,755 yards
-Rated the No. 6 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 8 by Scout
-Arrested for DUI in June 2015, suspended for Youngstown State game in ‘15
Unlike Baylor’s Corey Coleman, Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd isn’t an explosive athlete or a burner that just blows you away on film, but what Boyd has over Coleman is the crafty route running, great hands and incredible body control in the air, which makes Boyd one of my top receivers in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Early on when watching film you can see just how crafty Boyd is. He has the presence of a veteran receiver who knows how to work open against defenses and can sense when and where to sit down against a zone defense to show the quarterback his numbers.
While at Pitt, Boyd was dealt a tough hand in terms of the lack of talent at quarterback, but he never made it an issue for him, surpassing the great Larry Fitzgerald as the all-time leader in receptions and yards at Pitt.
That’s not bad company to be part of for the junior receiver, who decided to leave school early after another monster year at Pitt.
Just how big of year did Boyd have with the likes of Nate Peterman and Chad Voytik throwing him the football? He hauled in 91 catches for 926 yards while averaging nearly eight receptions per game as one of the lone threats on a Pitt offense that lost star running back James Connor early.
Pitt was able to get the ball to Boyd in a number of ways, whether it was through swing routes, hitch and dig routes, screens, reverses, jet sweeps and handoffs out of the backfield.
Although Boyd isn’t a burner or a quick-twitch athlete, he’s very fluid in space and moves the chain quite often when he gets the ball in his hands.
He’s the perfect compliment of a short-to-intermediate receiver that isn’t afraid to go across the middle to make a play, while also possessing enough speed and great body control to go and get the ball down the field.
Take a look at these two clips against Duke and Louisville from 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Both times Boyd is heavily covered by two defenders and goes up to get the ball with his vice-grip strong hands to pull it down for the big play.
He might not be a big-time leaper that jumps out at you on the tape, but he has great body control to be able to rise and torque his body in the air to make the tough catch between two defenders.
Each catch looks similar in terms of splitting the safety and going up to get the football, but this also shows issues with him being unable to create a ton of separation at the top of his stem.
However, he’s able to make some incredible catches through contact, which will bode well at the next level.
Take a look at these two clips against Houston (’14) and North Carolina (’15).
The corner is right on his hip and rips at the ball once it hits Boyd’s hands, but he’s able to hang on for the first down each time.
He has soft hands, but once he gets his hands around the pigskin he’s going to hold onto the football for yet another reception.
While Boyd will get knocked for his struggles at creating enough separation at the top of his stems, he’s a really good route runner who knows how to work himself open enough to show the quarterback his numbers.
Take a look at this route against Iowa’s Desmond King, who was a likely first-round pick this year before deciding to head back to school.
There are the quick feet off the line and then the two quick jab steps to throw King off of his game, allowing Boyd to work back towards the sideline for the easy first down.
He’s made a living off of routes like this in the short and intermediate areas of the field, which is where I think he’ll excel the most in the NFL.
He can line up anywhere on the field. Like I said, he won’t be a serious deep threat or a run-after-the-catch threat who can hit the homerun by breaking tackles, but there are times where he flashes game-breaking speed like he does here against the Tar Heels in 2014.
He has the quick stutter off the line and then plants his foot to drive inside on the slant route.
From there, Boyd is able to pull away from his defender after the catch, showing plenty of long speed to score against North Carolina.
On top of that, Boyd has a knack for making big plays across the middle while being unafraid of taking a big shot, much like he does here against Miami’s Deon Bush, who is regarded as one of the biggest hitters at safety in this year’s draft class.
I love that in a college receiver. In fact, I love almost everything about Boyd’s game, other than his struggles to make plays after the catch.
He reminds me a lot of San Diego’s Keenan Allen, whom I am a big fan of. Boyd is going to be a consistent receiver in the NFL who moves the chains with regularity. There are questions about his ability to be a true No. 1 receiver at the next level, but based on his work ethic and the amount of touches he received at Pitt, he’ll be just fine.
Projection: Mid-Late 1st
Games Watched: at UNC (’14), vs. Virginia Tech (’14), vs. Duke (’14), vs. Georgia Tech (’14), at Miami (’14), vs. Iowa (’14), vs. Houston (’14), vs. UNC (’15), at Iowa (’15), at Syracuse (’15), vs. Miami (’15), vs. Louisville (’15)