Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd ended the 2017 with his two best performances. That sounds great, until you realize that until Week 16 he never caught more than two passes or achieved more than 17 yards in a game that year. Of course, his last play of the season helped send the Bills to the playoffs when he took a fourth down pass 49 yards for a touchdown. That play was responsible for a little over 20 percent of Boyd’s receiving yards in 2017 (225).
Boyd was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and he had a solid rookie season with 54 catches, 603 yards and touchdown. He had 81 targets on the season, but part of that was due to A.J. Green going down with an injury. Still, last season was a huge step back. He didn’t get as much playing time because he failed to beat out Brandon LaFell for the starting WR2 job. He was also even a healthy scratch in Week 2 when John Ross came back after missing Week 1 due to injury. Even the Bengals fourth round draft pick, Josh Malone cut into his snaps.
We can blame scheme, coaching decisions, a lack of opportunity and even Boyd himself for the down season, but just remember that Boyd has showed flashes of his potential and he was a second round pick. The play that ended the Ravens’ season is something he can absolutely build on. It will also help that he can have a fresh start with Bill Lazor’s newly installed offense.
When Boyd was drafted he wasn’t meant to be a huge play making receiver. He was added to the team as a replacement for Mohamed Sanu in the slot. Andy Dalton needs a sure-handed receiver in the slot to help convert on third down as well as being a hot-read for when pressure comes. It isn’t glamorous, but not having someone who could thrive in that role last season really showed as the Bengals struggled to convert third downs for most of the season. In 2016 Boyd caught a total of 33 first downs. Last year 14 of his 22 catches resulted in a first down. The production is still there.
Boyd needs to go out during the Bengals’ OTAs and leave last year behind as much as Ross does. 2017 was a horrendous season for most of the Bengals’ offensive players. However, Boyd needs to earn a much bigger role on the team this year. He has two years left on his rookie deal, and it won’t look good for him to go into his contract season still trying to earn a prominent role on this team. We’re talking about a second round draft pick. There’s no reason for him to be struggling to get more than 20 yards in a game. It’s time for Boyd to work hard this offseason and step up when called upon in 2018.
It is easy to envision him carving out serious playing time based on his ability to produce first downs alone, but the competition is steep as he will be competing with Ross, LaFell and Malone for snaps. The fact the Bengals also have a healthy Green and Tyler Eifert will also impact his ability to earn snaps. It feels like it is do or die time for Boyd as the former Pitt receiver enters his third season in the NFL. This should be Boyd’s year.