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WR Miles Boykin’s Low College Production Doesn’t Fit What Steelers Usually Look For In Draft

With the Pittsburgh Steelers trading away wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason the team is now expected to address the position during the 2019 NFL Draft. More specifically, they are expected to draft a wide receiver who could potentially play the X position that Brown mainly manned in the Steelers offense over the years. If indeed that’s the kind of wide receiver the Steelers are looking for, Miles Boykin out of Notre Dame could potentially be a target of theirs this year and quite possibly starting as early as the second-round.

Boykin, who gained a lot of notoriety during the pre-draft process this offseason after an outstanding scouting performance that included him running the 40-yard-dash in 4.42-seconds and recording a vertical jump of 43 1/2-inches to go along with an 11’08” broad jump, was essentially just a one-year producer at Notre Dame as he caught 59 of his 77 total career passes for 872 yards and 8 touchdowns during his final 2018 season at the school.

With Boykin essentially entering this year’s draft as a one-year wonder, it leads one to question if he showed enough in 2018 to warrant the Steelers spending a second or third-round selection on him. When you review the wide receivers the Steelers have drafted since 2000, the first season that general manager Kevin Colbert was with the organization, you’ll notice that Boykin’s total college production doesn’t necessarily meet that of previous players the team has drafted at that position.

In total, the Steelers have drafted 21 wide receivers dating back to 2000, Colbert’s first season in Pittsburgh, and all but two of those players, Martavis Bryant and Antwaan Randle El, caught at least 82 passes during their college careers. Randle El is an extreme outlier with his 7 college receptions at Indiana and that’s because he played quarterback. The fact that the Steelers ultimately selected him as a wide receiver in the second-round of the 2002 NFL Draft is still astounding and looking back at his long NFL career, one hell of a job was done projecting what he could potentially become at the position.

As for Bryant, who was chosen by the Steelers in the fourth-round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Clemson, like Boykin this year, he was essentially just a one-year producer in college as 42 of his 61 total receptions in college came during his final season at the school. Bryant, however, did register 23 receptions that gained 25 yards or more during his college career and was thus easily classified as a potential Z receiver who could stretch the field at the NFL level effectively.

For the sake of comparison, Boykin registered just 11 receptions during his college career at Notre Dame that resulted in gains of 25 yards or more. In his defense, however, he didn’t have as high of quality of quarterbacks throwing him the football during his final two seasons that Bryant had at Clemson. Additionally, Boykin mostly played the X receiver spot in his final season.

While the Steelers currently have a long-running reputation of being able to draft quality wide receivers under Colbert, they’ve certainly had their fair share of misses along the way and especially when it comes to players drafted within the first four rounds. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Limas Sweed, Markus Wheaton, Fred Gibson, Danny Farmer, Willie Reid and Sammy Coates were all chosen in the fourth round or higher. Of those six wide receivers I just listed, two of them, Gibson and Farmer, never registered as much as one reception with the Steelers while Sweed, Reid and Coates combined to catch 33 passes as Steelers with the latter of the three being responsible for 22 of them.

When it comes to the six wide receivers drafted after the fourth round by the Steelers since 2000, Brown was the only one who ever amounted to anything. It was obviously an astronomical hit for the Steelers with Brown, who caught an astounding 305 passes during his college career at Central Michigan. That’s four times the amount of catches Boykin registered during his career at Notre Dame.

In summation, while a Steelers selection of Boykin next weekend won’t come as a huge surprise based on the interest they’ve seemingly had him during the pre-draft process, such a selection would be an anomaly of sorts when it comes to his lack of overall production in college. If ultimately selected by the Steelers, Boykin will certainly make for an interesting case subject moving forward into his NFL career in Pittsburgh and thus really test the organizations ability to project potential success at a skill position.

YEAR RND # PICK # PLAYER COLLEGE REC REC YDS YPR TD
2010 6 195 Antonio Brown Central Michigan 305 3199 10.5 22
2010 3 82 Emmanuel Sanders SMU 285 3791 13.3 34
2013 3 79 Markus Wheaton Oregon St. 227 2994 13.2 16
2018 2 60 James Washington Oklahoma St. 226 4472 19.8 39
2017 2 62 JuJu Smith-Schuster USC 213 3092 14.5 25
2002 6 202 Lee Mays Texas-El Paso 200 2920 14.6 28
2005 4 131 Fred Gibson Georgia 161 2884 17.9 20
2000 4 103 Danny Farmer UCLA 159 3020 19 19
2007 7 227 Dallas Baker Florida 151 2236 14.8 21
2013 6 186 Justin Brown Oklahoma 146 1926 13.2 8
2016 7 229 Demarcus Ayers Houston 141 1686 12 9
2006 1 25 Santonio Holmes Ohio St. 140 2295 16.4 25
2000 1 8 Plaxico Burress Michigan St. 131 2155 16.5 20
2008 2 53 Limas Sweed Texas 124 1915 15.4 20
2009 3 84 Mike Wallace Mississippi 101 1910 18.9 15
2012 7 231 Toney Clemons Colorado 98 1268 12.9 11
2006 3 95 Willie Reid Florida St. 91 1046 11.5 3
2001 7 218 Chris Taylor Texas A&M 83 1316 15.9 7
2015 3 87 Sammie Coates Auburn 82 1757 21.4 13
2014 4 118 Martavis Bryant Clemson 61 1354 22.2 13
2002 2 62 Antwaan Randle El Indiana 7 90 12.9 1

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