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Tyler Boyd needs right role to be fantasy relevant

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Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

Boyd's hype train was picking up major speed after two standout seasons to start his collegiate career, but a more average junior season (albeit in a struggling offense) and a subpar combine showing have some questioning if the Pittsburgh product's NFL ceiling is as high as they originally thought. I went to the tape to see what might be in store for Boyd as a fantasy prospect in 2016.

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Boyd's NFL.com draft profile

Strengths

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:


     » Large, powerful hands
     » Savvy head/body fakes on double moves
     » Can use body to box out cornerbacks in contested situations
     » Tracks the ball well and makes good adjustments

Boyd was used all over the field for Pittsburgh in 2015, lining up in the backfield, slot, wide and even taking a few wildcat snaps in the shotgun. Boyd is a versatile player and special teams contributor as well, earning second-team All-ACC honors as a returner in 2014. His versatility is impressive for a guy his size, as receivers typically deployed in this fashion aren't 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds.

One of Boyd's strongest assets are his large, powerful hands. He appears to envelop the ball when it comes into his range, and won quite a few contested catches. While Boyd lacks true deep speed, he did show the ability to pull of a nice double move thanks to head and body fakes, giving himself plenty of separation in the process.

Weaknesses


     » Lacks explosiveness and quick-twitch athleticism
     » Struggled to out-leap defenders and high-point passes
     » Rounds too many routes and struggles to create separation
     » Minimal wiggle/elusiveness in the open field

Despite being used as an offensive Swiss Army Knife in 2015, Boyd didn't show the typical flair for someone in that role. He rarely shook tacklers in the open field, and often didn't have the necessary speed to truly exploit the plays that were designed for him (such as the pseudo-jet sweep they did with him what seemed like several times per game). This lack of quick-twitch ability also showed up in his route-running, where he struggled to create consistent separation. Matt Harmon's Reception Perception numbers confirm what my eyes saw on tape -- Boyd often has a hard time getting open. Now, thankfully his big body and strong hands can bail him out when it comes to contested catches, but it's hard to not be concerned. Lastly, while Boyd showed a knack for tracking and snaring deep balls, if asked to out-leap a defender he sometimes struggled to get up and over them. His vertical leap at the combine ranked 23rd out of the tested receivers, and puts him in the 30th percentile, per mockdraftable.com.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Cincinnati Bengals
     » Atlanta Falcons
     » Buffalo Bills

Boyd can certainly fill a role for an NFL team, but I just hope for his sake (and his fantasy potential) that he lands on a team with a true No. 1 (and maybe No. 2) receiver. My feelings were echoed by some talented folks in the dynasty fantasy community, Nick Whalen and George Kritikos, when we discussed Boyd on Twitter recently. As such, Boyd landing in either Cincinnati or Atlanta where he could learn from and work alongside A.J. Green or Julio Jones would do wonders for his fantasy potential. The Bills make for an interesting landing spot as well, with Chris Hogan potentially leaving in free agency, the team could use a reliable chain-moving possession receiver opposite Sammy Watkins; that's a role Boyd could do well in.

Early fantasy draft projection

While not a flashy athlete, Boyd could find his way into a decent role on the right team. However, his lack of explosiveness and refined route-running would kill his fantasy value if he landed in a low-volume passing attack like Minnesota or Kansas City, or if he was asked to be more than a No. 3 wide receiver out of the gate. Plenty of fans and analysts will look to his past college production as a sign of future success, but I have concerns that his game will translate to the NFL level. His struggles at creating separation could be magnified against bigger, more athletic NFL corners. Dynasty players in need of a wide receiver could look to target Boyd towards the end of the first round, while redraft players will probably want to refrain from calling his name on draft day for now.

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-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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