The Biggest Sleeper in the 2014 NFL Draft: Vanderbilt WR Chris Boyd
For more than two years, I have known he could play. In 2011, Chris Boyd was Vanderbilt’s best wide receiver (Yes, Jordan Matthews was on that same team). But 2011 was a long time ago and the devil is in the details– when I saw the words rape and dismissed I made a few assumptions– so I haven’t given him any thought in a while.
That changes today. There’s something here that the NFL Draft community needs to see.
Why was Boyd dismissed from the team?
According to this detailed report Boyd played a role in trying to cover up (but not perpetrate) the VERY poor choices of his teammates during the summer of 2013. Subsequently, he was dismissed from the team and didn’t play a snap for the 2013 ‘Dores. It sounds like they panicked and contacted him for advice. I’ve recently been a college student and spent three years coaching undergraduate leaders, so I know how they behave when things go wrong. Let’s hope that the fact that Boyd has been cooperating with the investigation shows that he has learned from his mistake.
Why should we care about Boyd as an NFL prospect?
Revisiting my claim that Boyd was Vanderbilt’s best wide receiver in 2011, consider this chart, which shows Boyd posting a better Dominator Rating (DR) and better Red Zone TD% than RotoViz darling Jordan Matthews.
|2011||Chris Boyd||Jordan Matthews|
Not too shabby, right? A 20 year old breakout WR from the SEC. I’m interested. Oh, and did I mention he is at least 6’3” and 205lbs? If that doesn’t scream Skeleton Key Breakthrough to you, then I don’t know what will.
As the 2012 season unfolded and Jordan Matthews became Jordan Matthews, Boyd experienced a dramatic shift in targets and a modest drop in DR, but remained a strong player. Boyd and Matthews were equally efficient but Matthews saw 70% more targets, which, logically, helped him produce a DR that was about 70% better.
|2012||Chris Boyd||Jordan Matthews|
In trying to understand the shift in targets, you could probably craft several narratives. You could say that, since Boyd was the dominant TD producer in 2011, teams rolled their coverages toward him in 2012 to thwart his TD opportunities, which led to Matthews having more targets. You could probably also say that Matthews is just the better receiver so they threw him the ball more, with Boyd being more suited to red zone work. I’m not sure what I think. I’m also not sure it matters.
Scoring points; would that be something you’d be interested in?
What I do know is that Boyd is a phenomenal red zone option. That makes sense considering his big frame. For his career, he caught touchdowns on 41% of his red zone targets (anything above 30% is solid). That TD rate puts him in the top 3% of all receivers dating back to 2006 (min 15 RZ targets). And so you don’t think that Boyd piled on the points against lesser competition– I’m looking at you, Odell Beckham Jr— I created this chart, which shows how frequently he and other notable SEC receivers fared against conference foes in over their college career. No cupcakes. Just SEC competition. Guys on this chart are all 6’1″ or taller and weigh more than 195lbs.
Chris Boyd SEC TD%
|WR||Draft||Pick||C Conf G||C Conf G w/ TD||C Conf TD %|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||2014||TBD||26||2||8%|
Boyd is in the top 10 of this list. Note that everyone here was (or will be) drafted and most of the 31 were in the top 200 picks. Chris Boyd is currently “projected” to go undrafted, ranking #56 among draft-eligible wide receiver. Holy discount, Batman.
Who are Boyd’s (optimistic) comparisons?
To create a list of Chris Boyd comparables, I sorted through all 19, 20, and 21 year old SEC breakouts, in addition to all other 20 year old breakouts from the last eight years. The names I settled on represent the best-case scenario for Boyd, but I don’t think they’re too far fetched. The biggest difference is where he might be drafted, which could significantly diminish his opportunity to get playing time.
Chris Boyd Comparables
|WR||Draft||Overall||NFL Team||College||Conf.||Rookie Age||B.o.A.||Breakout DR||Ht||Wt|
|Rueben Randle||2012||63||Giants||Louisiana State||SEC||21.7||20||.41||75||210|
|Eric Decker||2010||87||Broncos||Minnesota||Big Ten||23.8||20||.33||75||217|
Da’Rick Rogers is an especially interesting name on this list since he followed an almost identical path as Chris Boyd. Rogers broke through at age 20 during the 2011 season (same as Boyd) then left his SEC team and spent a year away from major college football. Rogers then tumbled through the draft before being scooped up by Buffalo, cut again, and signed by the Colts. Despite all that, Rogers is now looking like a solid sophomore contender. A.J. Green has obviously worked out quite nicely. My undyling love and soon-to-be very rich man, Eric Decker, also seems like an apt comparison given the lengthy frame and comparable breakout profiles. Oh, and then there’s Rueben Randle whose bandwagon has been gaining tremendous speed since last summer.
Digging deeper into these comparisons, note that Boyd’s career productivity is within striking distance of these more notable names. Green and Decker created the most separation, but they also had an age 22 college season, in which they dominated, to pad their stats. Who knows what Boyd could have done in 2013.
Chris Boyd Comparables Cont.
|WR||C Rec/g||C yds/g||C TD/g||C RZ Tgt||C RZTD%|
What are smart GMs thinking about this situation?
Kendall Weir of Hamilton College published a fascinating study which explains that players who had a run-in with the law during their college career provide above-average returns to the teams that draft them. For fantasy football purposes, Boyd will almost certainly slip through the cracks in your dynasty draft. In the pre-combine RotoViz Rookie Mock Draft, Boyd went undrafted. On my board, he is ahead of guys like Jared Abbrederis, Shaq Evans, Ryan Grant and Robert Herron. Time will tell, but I could also see myself liking him more than Cody Hoffman and Paul Richardson.
Where does Chris Boyd go from here?
We recently learned that Chris Boyd received an invitation to the NFL Combine. Given all the time he’s had to prepare, he should follow Da’Rick Rogers‘ move and perform every single workout. If you’re keeping score at home, here is what a “win” at the combine would look like for Boyd:
Weight: 210 lbs +
40 time: 4.55 or less
Bench: 14 reps+
Vertical Jump: 35″+
Broad Jump: 125″+
3 cone: 7 seconds or less
Agility: 4.3 seconds or less
Seriously, I expect you to tweet at me as Boyd’s combine results are posted. We are in this together. These numbers are going to tell us whether or not we’ve unearthed the biggest sleeper in the 2014 NFL Draft.
One Last Thing
For fun, I’ve created the following table to help you compare Chris Boyd to other SEC WRs from 2011-2012. Note that these are conference only stats. The “F” next to a name means that it was a player’s final season. Maybe my eyes are fuzzy, but doesn’t Boyd compare favorably with Justin Hunter, Rueben Randle, Alshon Jeffery and Cordarrelle Patterson, all of whom went in the top 64 picks? And Dorial Green-Beckham too. Wait, that can’t be right.
Or can it?
Chris Boyd SEC Only Production Comparables
|WR||Season||Age||SEC Rec/G||SEC Yds/G||SEC Yds/Rec||SEC TD/G||Draft Pick|