Can Tyler Boyd Be a Decent Fantasy Football Option in 2016?
After losing both Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions) and Mohamed Sanu (Atlanta Falcons) to free agency this offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals attacked their need at the wide receiver position by drafting former University of Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Boyd, a three-year starter with the Panthers, finished his collegiate career as Pittsburgh’s all-time leader in both receptions (254) and receiving yards (3,361) despite forgoing his senior season to enter the draft. Also, given his experience as a running back and return man, Boyd earned the second-most all-purpose yards (5,243), finishing behind Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett.
To his credit, Boyd produced at a high level despite having inconsistent play at the quarterback position, as he dealt with three different starting quarterbacks during his three-year tenure at Pittsburgh.
At 6’1”, 197 pounds, Boyd best projects as a possession receiver in the NFL given his underwhelming athleticism and quickness, as he doesn’t have the necessary top-speed to get behind NFL defenses and he struggles to create separation out of his cuts due to his lack of elite quickness. At the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, Boyd ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, leaped just 34 inches in the vertical jump, and put the bar up just 11 times on the bench press, per NFL.com.
In addition to the concerns surrounding his measurables, Boyd has made some poor decisions off the field that likely forced NFL teams to consider going in another direction during the draft. In the summer prior to his junior season, Boyd was arrested for a DUI after he confessed to having two shots prior to entering his vehicle despite being just 20 years old. Boyd received a 12-month probation and was suspended from team activities for a month due to the incident.
His sub-par measurables and off-the-field concerns obviously had a negative effect on his draft stock, but fortunately for Boyd, his play on the field is what will earn him snaps at the next level.
“[Boyd is] Ultra-competitive,” according to NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein. “Known for powerful hands that clamp instantly onto the ball and finish heavily contested catcher. Has over-the-middle toughness. Plays with outstanding body control and has ability to gyrate and contort in midair in order to make acrobatic catches look easy. Brimming with confidence. Targeted 124 times or more in each of his three seasons. Able to create window through route polish. Sits in space and slows routes when necessary to prevent safety from crowding him in the deep middle.”
With that being said, Boyd will have to rely on his route-running ability and strong hands to continue to produce in the NFL, but his competitive fire and toughness will be what keeps him in the mix with the Bengals.
In Cincinnati, Boyd will more than likely compete with veteran receiver Brandon LaFell and 2014 seventh-round pick James Wright for snaps at outside receiver opposite of A.J. Green. LaFell has struggled to mirror the production he had with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl run in 2014, while Wright has just five receptions for 91 yards in his two-year career.
In a starting role, Boyd could replace Jones as Andy Dalton's number-three option behind Green and tight end Tyler Eifert. In 2015, Jones brought in 65 of his 103 targets for 816 yards and 4 touchdowns.
If Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese decides to take advantage of his versatility, Boyd could see a number of snaps both outside and from within the slot, as he's proven that he can excel both as a utility player and when lined up as a traditional wide receiver outside the hashes. Either way, the lack of wide receiver talent currently on the roster will force Zampese to thrust Boyd into a significant role early in his career, which in turn, should push Boyd’s potential (in terms of fantasy production) through the roof.
On the other hand, Boyd will suffer from seeing relatively no red zone targets behind Green and Eifert -- he will have a hard time finding his way into the end zone early in his career. But he certainly still has upside as a volume pass-catcher in both standard and PPR leagues.
The ceiling might not be tremendous because of the touchdown production, but Boyd is capable of turning his late-round average draft cost into something productive this season.