We spoke with Anson Whaley of Cardiac Hill, SB Nation's Pittsburgh Panthers blog to learn more about the Bengals' second round Draft pick, Tyler Boyd. Boyd broke records at Pitt, is a competitive player and is someone who Whaley believes will make no only an immediate impact in the NFL, but an impact for years to come.
Cincy Jungle: What was Boyd best known for at Pitt?
Anson Whaley: By the time Boyd's career finished, his calling card was really his ability to step in wherever necessary. He did it all from catching 91 passes this year (while shattering the school record for career receptions), to lining up as a running back in the backfield, to returning kicks. He was extremely valuable for Pitt this season and that was especially true with the Panthers breaking in a new quarterback this season and also losing All-American candidate running back James Conner, who went down with an MCL injury in the season opener. It's difficult to imagine where the team would have been without him. I think when we look back on his career, he'll be seen as not only a special talent, but an important 'glue' guy that helped the team break out a little to reach eight wins this year.
CJ: Do you see him as someone who could make an immediate impact in the NFL?
AW: Absolutely, and I think that's partially due to his skill set. Even if Boyd doesn't go on to a huge season as a receiver, I can see him making an impact on special teams as a return man, as an occasional running back, or utilized in trick plays. Obviously there's an opportunity for him to step up with the Bengals needing some help at receiver, so his impact there shouldn't be limited, either. With everything he does, I think it would be very difficult to keep him off the field.
CJ: Did he play on special teams? If so, at which positions and how frequently?
AW: Boyd was a big contributor on special teams during his years at Pitt. He returned a total of 73 punts and kickoffs, returning one punt for a touchdown as a freshman. He had a slightly lesser load back there this season than in years past due a little bit to teams not wanting to let him make returns and also to some other guys emerging back there for Pitt, but he is a very capable returner on both punts and kickoffs in all three of his seasons.
CJ: Do you think he projects more as a slot receiver or someone who will play on the outside?
AW: He ran a lot of shorter routes for Pitt this season only because that's what they needed to move the chains with an inexperienced quarterback. But even though he's not a speedburner, he's a viable top threat on the outside just because of his hands and leaping ability. More times than not, it would seem he'd come down with 50/50 balls and while the secondary talent he sees in the NFL will be much better, I think he has the skill set to develop into a No. 1 guy down the line playing on the outside.
CJ: What are his strengths?
AW: First, there's his versatility as well as his ability to come down with jump balls. His productivity was also something else that Marvin Lewis mentioned after the Bengals drafted him and that's something that shouldn't be overlooked. He was used quite a bit in his three years at Pitt and I think that his ability to work hard and do so much will help him going forward. Finally, his route-running and hands have been touted by some among the best in this year's class. While he performed pretty poorly in the timed/measured drills at the Combine, he stood out well in catching passes at the event. He is a very dependable wideout if the ball is anywhere near him.
Another thing folks have to keep in mind is that Boyd played with three different quarterbacks in three seasons at Pitt. The fact that he was able to work with all of them and produce consistently says something about his ability to adapt while playing only three seasons, and had three different quarterbacks, that's just a tremendous achievement.
CJ: Any weaknesses?
AW: As mentioned, Boyd isn't the fastest guy in the world. He had pretty underwhelming 40-yard dash times at the NFL Combine with a best time of 4.58 seconds. He improved on that at Pitt's Pro Day a little, running somewhere in the neighborhood of a 4.45 to 4.52 for scouts present. But he never looked like an extremely fast guy on the field and those times sort of confirmed that. His talent has always been enough to carry him so far, so I don't think it's a huge issue. But that's probably the biggest concern on him at this point.
CJ: Did he have any major injuries at Pitt?
AW: Nope, injuries were not a concern. I don't think he missed any games at Pitt due to injury.
CJ: Any red flags?
AW: The biggest one was probably the DUI he was charged with in the offseason. He reportedly had a few drinks while underage before getting pulled over and that resulted in some disciplinary action by the team and a one-game suspension as he missed the opener this past year. But outside of that, Boyd has been a model citizen and hasn't had any issues going forward. He's talked about learning from the experience and has given the usual answers you'd expect, so I don't take too much from that. But when you look at his entire career here, he's a guy that's been a team leader and has steered clear of trouble.
One thing I heard a little bit more this season was his on-field demeanor in terms of looking frustrated. I did notice that a few times but I'm not sure that's a character flaw as much as it is a guy who just really wanted to win. I don't personally see any glaring red flags with his attitude, etc.
CJ: When were you thinking you'd see him Drafted?
AW: Heading into the year, I thought a first-round selection was possible. But that was before Pitt lost Conner in the backfield and replaced their starting quarterback a few weeks into the year. By the end of the season, all indications pointed to him being a second or third round guy, so I was glad to see him sneak into the second. While he had 91 catches this year, I think his yardage total (926) hurt him. It was the first year he didn't top 1,000 yards and his yardage-per-catch (10.2) and touchdowns (six) were also career-lows. I think there would have been more first round talk if he had more overwhelming stats, but that coupled with his slow 40-yard dash time pretty much ruled out a first-round selection.
CJ: Are there a lot of angry Pitt fans who don't want him in Cincinnati?
AW: Haha, well between him going there and tight end J.P. Holtz signing with the Cleveland Browns, I think that those two guys are making it harder for Steelers fans to root for them. All kidding aside, I think most fans would tell you that they still want those guys to succeed - just not the two weeks against the Steelers.
CJ: Anything else you think Bengals fans would like to know about Boyd?
AW: I'm surely a little biased here, but I think Boyd is one of those guys that could be a minor steal. He has legit first-round talent and was often the best player on the field in many of Pitt's games during his career. I remember watching him debut against Florida State in Pitt's first ACC game. The Panthers were completely throttled, but despite being a true freshman, he was one of the few guys that did anything for Pitt that night. Talking to Florida State fans at the game, they were very impressed by what he did - and that came after Jameis Winston's monster game. If Boyd did not go on to become a 1,000-yard receiver and play for 8-10 years, I'd be pretty surprised. That may not come in Cincinnati right away while A.J. Green is around but Boyd is a playmaker. Given the Bengals' needs at receiver, he was the perfect pick.