When rookies face a combination of being a high draft pick while also landing on a team with an immediate need, it sometimes leads to disastrous results. If, somehow, the team didn't make the right decision or the player isn't a good scheme fit, "bust" becomes a commonly-used phrase, often too quickly.
Even though the Cincinnati Bengals have one of the NFL's deepest rosters, offseason attrition forced them to re-invest in the wide receiver position in both the draft and free agency. While the team was touting veteran Brandon LaFell as the No. 2 receiver in 2016, many thought second round pick Tyler Boyd would still be a solid weapon in the offense.
Fast forward to training camp and two preseason games, and Boyd has looked like one of the best players on the field. In a short period of time, he's made a bunch of plays in practice, exhibited high football I.Q. and has helped the team out in a number of different ways. Heading into the third week of the preseason, Boyd looks like he'll be contributing at a high level early on for the Bengals.
Noting his quick progress and high expectations with his draft designation, has Boyd been the most impressive player in Bengals training camp thus far?
Big Plays at Practice:
Even though full-pad and contact practices are limited, you can spot someone who continuously makes plays in drills and scrimmages. Sure, there is nothing that can truly emulate NFL actual game speed, but Boyd has showcased quite a few nice traits in the early parts of summer.
.@TPike16 said Tyler Boyd is "smooth" pic.twitter.com/iH0eQkJHpS— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 10, 2016
tyler boyd's speed is undeniable #bengals #vikings https://t.co/pOaZIvVBH6— sarah (@sarahpamerica) August 10, 2016
Tyler Boyd has just as much target opportunity as Sterling Shepard yet he's going something like 8 rounds later https://t.co/yYoFgrVFfO— Matt Oxford (@mattoxford) August 8, 2016
Andy to Tyler Boyd #Bengals pic.twitter.com/LiDMNsZlvL— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) August 8, 2016
There are many others we could show you, but the bottom line is, Boyd is making plays against both rookies and veterans in camp. Both Cincy Jungle staff on site and other beat writers are noting him as a guy who wows crowds on a daily basis.
Preseason Weeks 1 and 2:
In the first two preseason games, Tyler Boyd has five total touches. While it seems low for a guy getting a decent amount of work, he's averaging a whopping 21.6 yards per touch. Breaking down those five touches, he has two punt returns for 30 yards and three receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
What's great to see in this preseason is Boyd already shrugging off some of his draft knocks. Though the question of his ability to consistently separate from NFL defensive backs hasn't yet been disputed, his ability to make plays on deep passes has definitely brought some pundits to look back at his college tape to see what they may have missed.
His tracking of the ball and being in the place the quarterback expects him to be are two critical aspects for regular season success. Too many times rookie wide receivers aren't on the same page as their veteran quarterbacks for various reasons, but that hasn't seemed to be the case with Boyd and the team's top two quarterbacks. While we don't want to be presumptuous, we're expecting to see more nice plays from him over the next two preseason games.
Honestly, health is the key, as it often is with any NFL team. The Bengals have had a substantial amount of injuries during camp, ranging from serious to minor, but Boyd, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have all managed to avoid the bug (knock on wood, right?). While Boyd's health is obviously paramount to his regular season success, the health of the starting quarterback and No. 1 wideout will also give him an opportunity to be very successful.
While the media has had certain attractions to rookies like Sterling Shepard and others, if the Bengals' offense resembles its 2015 form, Boyd could have a legitimate bid for a Rookie of the Year campaign.