The Philadelphia Eagles have received near-universal praise for their 2012 draft. They made smart picks on defense that largely fit the team’s needs and got good value on their selections.
Selecting DT Fletcher Cox and LB Mychal Kendricks should address some of Philadelphia’s biggest deficiencies on defense. As the first and second picks of the team, they will be expected to be ready to perform at a high-level immediately.
Drafting players who will be a success on any team is always a roll of the dice, particularly in later rounds. Which player drafted in a later round by the Eagles will be able to step up and make an immediate impact on the team?
My money is on 4th-round draft pick (123rd overall) corner Brandon Boykin (5’9, 183) from Miami. Projected to go much earlier in the draft, Philadelphia got a steal with this pick. In Boykin the Eagles received a tremendous athlete and versatile player that can play on the inside, outside, and can make returns. If Boykin performs well in Philadelphia’s secondary, it will help to address some of the woes of that area of defense last year. And if he has success as a returner, the Eagles will be getting some major bang for their buck.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks calls Boykin one of the best athletes in the draft, describing him as a “multidimensional weapon,” an intriguing possibility for the Eagles’ secondary. NFL Films’ Greg Cosell called Boykin one of the two best slot corners in the 2012 draft.
Not too shabby. But Boykin must now turn the praise into action.
In addition to playing corner as a Georgia Bulldog, Boykin’s overall athleticism is demonstrated by the fact that he also saw action as a kickoff returner, punt returner, running back, played QB in the Wildcat formation, and a holder.
Boykin has the ideal speed and fluidity for a corner, making backpedaling look easy. His small frame allows him to have excellent vertical leaping ability. One draft profile of Boykin describes him as
“a burner who will be able to stay with almost any receiver in the NFL, and excels at trailing wideouts throughout their routes. He is a cover corner who can also play well up-close despite his smaller size.”
Philadelphia brought in Todd Bowles from Miami in January to help the team address some of the struggles it had in the defensive backfield in the 2011 season. Just before the draft, the Eagles dumped Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel to get rid of the surplus of veterans the team had at the cornerback position. A new coach with proven success and a young talent that can play slot or on the outside should go far in helping the Eagles to better utilize the talents of veterans Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie, one of the most high profile areas of failure for the Eagles in 2011.
Finding a good fit for the slot is something the Eagles never quite figured out in 2011, making that one of the priorities for this year. Boykin will battle Joselio Hanson for the slot position, and I’m guessing that the Eagles are hoping that Boykin wins the battle over the 31-year old Hanson so that they can have some longer-term continuity in the position.
Boykin may also have an impact on the return game, an area where the Eagles also struggled last year. The Birds were 24th on kickoff returns and 27th on punt returns last year. Boykin tied an SEC record in his college career with four kickoff returns for touchdowns. He also had an amazing 92-yard punt return in last year’s Outback Bowl.
The combination of Boykin’s proven versatility and success at corner combined with the proven coaching success of Todd Bowles means that the Eagles may finally have found some relief to the secondary woes that plagued them in 2011. Boykin has the advantage of not being one of the team’s high profile picks. While intense scrutiny is applied to Cox, Kendricks, and QB Nick Foles, hopefully Boykin will quietly emerge as a dangerous weapon in the Eagles defensive arsenal for the 2012 season.