Note: Since I no longer have access to the necessary college film to chart prospects and their Reception Perception samples, I’ll be taking RP data from the NFL level and using it to frame what we can expect from these incoming rookies and their best role as pro receivers. You can get access to Reception Perception data on the Top 50 NFL receivers in the 2019 Ultimate Draft Kit.
The big outside receivers haven’t made noise in the last few drafts. Especially in 2018, we watched as teams seemed to eschew the typical tall trees at the position to chase quicker, separation specialists.
With the modern NFL all about winning on offense by optimizing a quarterback’s assignments through the creation of open windows, it makes sense. These lumbering receivers who run routes outside the numbers and give a quarterback better odds at winning a jump ball just don’t fit with where the league is going.
Survival of the fittest in evolutionary science. Survival of the technicians at the wide receiver position. But that’s just it, simply because
The X-receiver is the most difficult position to play of all the wide receiver spots. This group of wideouts line up tethered to the line of scrimmage and don’t benefit from the freedom to motion pre-snap or slot reps. As my Reception Perception methodology shows, the X-receiver is going to run the vast majority of their routes against man coverage and see press at a higher rate than their peers.
The last two draft classes haven’t had many great prospects that translated to the X-receiver position. We’ve been blessed with a bevy of options for the slot, flanker or even a hybrid role. Here in 2019, it looks like the tide may be about to change.
One wide receiver who jumps out as an option to play the X-receiver spot, not just due to his size but to an impressive ability to release off the line of scrimmage, is Miles Boykin. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Notre Dame product has the frame to make scouts blush and the technique to make it matter.
Boykin enjoyed a strong final college season, leading Notre Dame with 872 yards and scoring eight touchdowns. If you’re scouted any of the Irish pass-catchers in recent drafts, you know they aren’t overflowing with production in the aerial attack. He continued to check with boxes in the pre-draft process by crushing the NFL Scouting Combine, notably clearing the 98th percentile in both the vertical and broad jump.
The stat sheet and the flash of the combine are nice points but what makes Boykin extremely appealing in this class is his ability as a route-runner. Scouting college receivers
Success vs. Coverage
Boykin knows he has a size advantage and is often the first aggressor at the line. He’s ready to thrust out an arm to dictate the terms of the route to the cornerback. Gaining leverage early in the pattern allows him to not only be in better position to earn separation vertically but also get cleanly into quick-hitting routes. A receiver with a 220-pound frame who can get open with tempo on a slant route is valuable. Miles Boykin is that receiver.
It’s not just with the upper body that Boykin releases from press coverage. He also is no stranger to working a step outside before cutting back inside to get open in the intermediate range. Boykin works his hands and quickness of the lower body in concert to slip free from defenders at the line. He’s advanced in this area.
Boykin is also more than adept at working off coverage too. As a size/speed mismatch, he’s a threat to go over the top on most routes. He shows an understanding of that advantage by keeping corners engaged in a possible deep route before quickly snapping outside on a breaking pattern. Such a move helps him create easy separations and wide windows on the sideline with out-routes.
Mile Boykin is an effortless mover on the field. With plenty of nuance to complement clear athleticism on the field, Boykin will be a serious separation threat at the next level.
While his route running is a major strength at his size, Boykin could stand to take his game to another level at the catch point. It’s not uncommon to see Boykin win contested catches but there’s room for growth here. Occasionally Boykin won’t fully extend his arms further from his frame to win balls in tight coverage. He still makes those plays in college but consistently extending for contested targets will only widen his already enviable catch radius. You will see Boykin do this in a handful of these situations so it’s not a matter of adding a new weapon to his arsenal, just taking it off the rack more routinely.
When searching for comparable players for Boykin, you’ll see Kenny Golladay’s name get thrown around. It makes sense, even when it comes to this minor flaw. Golladay is clearly a good 50/50 ball receiver with a hulking frame but still posted a poor 46.2 percent contested catch rate as a rookie in 2017. There was room for growth. In 2018, when we saw Golladay extend beyond his frame for tight window targets more often, he instantly took another step as a pro.
Golladay cleaned up a minor flaw, took leaps as a route runner and is now a clear target hog in his team’s offense. Miles Boykin shares similar traits, ones that are extremely valuable in receivers of his ilk. We could see him go in the same draft range as Golladay did in 2017 and reach relevance at a similar pace.
Every year we spend the pre-draft season turning over stones in search of upside sleeper receivers who will go outside the first round. The classic big X-receiver is usually squarely on our radar. Miles Boykin makes it easy for us this year. Be willing to put a chip on him as a receiver who finds a way to contribute as an outside starter. He clearly has the route skills to do it.