One of the most important positions on the field in the NFL today in the nickel cornerback position. The outside receivers aren’t extremely limited in their route running and the route tree, but they are more limited than the slot receiver. The slot receiver can challenge a zone, both vertically and horizontally, outstrip man-to-man coverage, and be quite a handful to cover. If you look at one of the most terrific nickel corners in the game today, Green Bay’s Charles Woodson, he routinely shuts down the slot receiver in man-to-man coverage. Sure, even he gets beat sometimes, but more often than not he makes a play on the ball by deflecting the pass or creating a turnover.
Brandon Boykin is not a former Heisman Winner that Woodson is, but he holds many of the same qualities. The Falcons have had a miserable time covering the slot receiver; one of the worst performers in the 2010 playoff game against Green Bay was Chris Owens, who was covering the slot receiver and got shredded all night long. Boykin would be able to hold his own in coverage. He is not great in zone coverage, but with Mike Nolan expected to use more elements of the 3-4, and take chances to create turnovers, I would be shocked if there were not a lot more man coverage on opposing receivers in 2012. That happens to be a forte of Boykin’s.
There is another element of the game that is often forgotten, but would certainly help the Falcons if they decided they would add Boykin. Eric Weems was our best returner on special teams, especially on kickoffs, and made a huge difference in many games, especially late and in close ballgames. Unfortunately, Weems was lost in free-agency to the Bears this month. However his loss would be made null and void through addition of Boykin. He proved time and again, that he can give his team excellent field position to start a possession, as well as the speed and elusiveness to return a punt for a touchdown, as evidenced by his return for a touchdown, as well as trick play touchdown against Boise State in the first game of the 2011 season. No doubt this is not a good enough reason to take Boykin in the 2nd or 3rd round, but it is certainly an aspect that helps.
Boykin does have some defincies, however. Like I said earlier, he is not good with recognition in zone coverage, is undersized and short, isn’t outstanding in run-support, and suffered a broken leg in this year’s Senior Bowl. Is he a slight health risk, especially if you are going to have him on defense as well as on special teams? Sure. But is he a worthy, solid play-maker, who is a decent character guy? Absolutely. Besides, increasing depth at the corner position is never a bad thing.
Your thoughts on Brandon Boykin?