Every so often, a Bengals rookie makes a major impact in his first year with the team. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton are among the Bengals’ draft picks who followed the path of becoming day one starters who haven’t missed a beat since joining the team.
Last offseason, the Bengals lost their No. 2 and 3 wide receivers, making the position one of the biggest needs (if not the biggest need) of the year. The Bengals were almost certainly planning to draft a receiver in the first round of the draft, but after four receivers flew off the board before the No. 24 overall pick — three between picks 21-23 alone — the team opted to wait until the second round to draft a player at the position.
That player is Tyler Boyd who immediately became a key contributor in his rookie year as the Bengals’ slot receiver. Boyd finished the year playing all 16 games (2 starts), and had 54 receptions for 603 yards and 1 touchdown. He also added 58 yards on the ground on four rushing attempts. Boyd had a solid rookie year, and not much more could have been expected of him.
The Bengals receiver has been making the rounds this offseason, attending some events in Houston during Super Bowl week and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl a few weeks prior in California. He seems confident in his year one production and what he was able to contribute to the Bengals in 2016.
“I feel like it was a real solid year for me,” Boyd told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of his rookie season. “I put up a good amount of numbers to help my team win. We didn’t do too much of that, but it is what it is. I feel like all around I had a good season.”
The 6-9-1 2016 season for the Bengals is far from what the team has grown accustomed to during the last half decade. Boyd was part of the worst Bengals’ season in quite some time, but hopefully, he’ll also be a contributor to many standout Bengals teams in the years to come.
“It was great learning from veterans,” Boyd said. “Just coming into a place where one of the best receivers is already at, and just being able to be guided along the road with him, that helps me and allows myself to just go out there and play.”
Boyd is originally from Clairton, Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes south of Pittsburgh, the site of the Bengals’ biggest rival. That’s also where Boyd played college football for the Pittsburgh Panthers and had a solid college career in which he broke a few school records, some of which formerly belonged to Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. This year, another potential star-in-the-making could emerge from Pittsburgh in the form of running back James Conner.
Boyd has spoken with Conner and the former Pitt duo are both training in Orange County, PA this winter. Conner declared for the Draft a year early after a remarkable college career at Pittsburgh. On top of his football ability, the 21-year-old, who will turn 22 before the start of the 2017 NFL season, is widely known for to his battle with cancer. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year, Conner announced he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma a few months after going down with a season-ending knee injury at the start of the 2015 season. That injury is now regarded as a blessing in disguise as it helped lead to his diagnosis, treatment, recovery and quick return to football.
“I kind of sat back a little bit and let him make his decision,” Boyd said of Conner’s choice to declare a year early for the NFL. “But I still gave him pointers, told him to take his time. If he thought the time was right, then why not?”
Maybe the former Panthers teammates will reunite in Cincinnati as the Bengals could very likely seek out a running back in this year’s Draft. He’s currently expected to be an early Day 3 pick.