One’s a mauling run blocker who could start right away. The other’s a versatile receiver who could hit another level of production in a more open NFL offense.
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With the 2016 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 teams to finish the process of getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. To that end, Doug Farrar has assembled his own Big Board, with his top 50 players.
The SI 50 uses tape study to define the best prospects in this class and explain why they’re slotted where they are. As we enter the first round, it’s time to review the most powerful offensive lineman in this draft class and a receiver who can do just about everything at a high level.
32. Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
Height: 6' 5" Weight: 321
Bio: Garnett won the 2015 Outland Trophy, presented to the nation’s best interior lineman, and he played a big part in Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey's breakout season, in which he led the nation in yards from scrimmage with 2,664. After being heavily recruited out of high school, Garnett got his first start in his freshman season and became one of the key parts of a line that has been one of the best in the college game over the last half-decade. As stars like David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin and Andrus Peat moved on to the NFL, Garnett became the face of that front five.
A highly intelligent player, Garnett was a hit at the podium during his media availability at the combine.
“I feel like my strengths are my ability to finish blocks and my ability to get into blocks,” he said there. “That was something I really prided myself on—my ability to down-block, my pulling ability, my ability to get on blocks and really finish people. That’s something that teams are really interested in, my aggressiveness. Something I need to work on, conversely, is not being too aggressive in pass pro situations. I want to just lock on somebody and finish them. Maybe I can just grab them and then finish them.”
Garnett has a good handle on the things that make him great, as well as the parts of his play that will require some work. He’s absolutely right, though: The team that selects him in the draft will do so because they want a guard who loves to dominate and finish.
Strengths: Big, wide-bodied mauler who loves to fire out in run-blocking. Understands leverage in the run game and has a practiced ability to get his hands on a defender’s chest and rock him back. Once his second foot is down when he’s firing out, it’s rare for the defender to be able to recover. Loves to rag-doll opponents and shake them right out of their assignments; uses his strong hands very well in this regard. In short-yardage situations, comes off the snap low and nasty with a will to clear a path up to a full yard forward on one strike. Uses his body well to wall off defenders, even when he’s off-balance—has the pure upper-body strength to make up for some technique issues. Can put them on their backs when he has pulling momentum. Makes it very hard for defensive linemen to adjust their hands and regain leverage. Uses his long arms very well to strike out and keep defenders at bay, making it tough to get in his area. Quick enough off the snap to occasionally take a guy right to the ground and end the discussion right there. Has an obviously dominant mindset in run-blocking. He loves to assert his physical authority. Impressed at the combine with his hustle and agility.
Weaknesses: Garnett’s footwork on the move is very much a work in progress—he tends to high-step and waddle when he’s pulling, and he could stand to be more efficient with his body movements overall. Will occasionally flat-out whiff a block when asked to take on quicker linebackers at the second level. At times when pulling, doesn’t seem to have a plan beyond “find someone in a different-colored jersey and push them around.” Not an accurate second-level blocker at this time; he lunges too often in space and will throw himself at defenders when he’d be better off maintaining the block. Does too much jersey-clutching outside the approved area and might get extra flags for that when he hits the NFL. More of a man-based mauler than a zone expert at this time—will need some time with more advanced blocking concepts and may not be an ideal fit for teams requiring leaner, quicker blockers. Slow to adjust to stunts and twists.
Conclusion: There’s nothing fancy about Garnett’s game—he’s a physical marvel whose tape is just plain fun to watch. There are times when you’ll have to rewind certain plays because you’re not quite sure you just saw a very good college defensive lineman get owned like Garnett just owned him. His best fit will be with a run-heavy team that prefers power/counter/trap schemes to quick zone and second-level stuff. He has the smarts and skills to develop into a complete blocker, but he’ll start right away in the right system because he shines in the run game, and that will always be a prized skill in the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Trai Turner, Panthers (third round, 2014, LSU)
31. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 197
Bio: It took Boyd no time at all to make his name with the Panthers. He started 10 games in his first year on campus and broke Larry Fitzgerald’s freshman records with 85 catches (also an ACC freshman record) and 1,174 yards, and the next year he became the first player in conference history with 1,000-yard seasons in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Boyd leaves Pitt as the school’s all-time leading receiver with 254 catches for 3,361 yards and 21 touchdowns. He finished his college career with 520 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on 63 carries, numbers he padded after Pitt’s coaches had him spend more time as a pure running back last season. Boyd remained prolific despite Pitt’s uneven (at best) results in the passing game, and a different starting quarterback (Tom Savage, Chad Voytik, Nathan Peterman) in each of his three seasons.
“I’m an athlete,” he said in February. “I believe my ability is suited best to do it all, you know? From the return game and the receiver game to the jet sweeps or pitches or anything. I believe I’m a hardcore athlete. I’m a leaner and taller guy—inside or outside, my routes are crisp. I know how to work both positions, so I feel like I have an edge over the guy that is going be challenging me in the slot because I’d be taller and a little more physical. I believe that is where I can create most of my mismatches.”
One of the most versatile receivers in this class, Boyd has a bright future, and he could be even more valuable when he puts some finishing touches on his game.
Strengths: Smooth, gliding runner with pick-up speed on carries, reverses and after the catch. Can attack a defense in multiple ways: both as an inside and outside receiver, and on screens or sweeps. Has an innate feel for holes and zones in a defense and can blast through with speed and toughness. For his size, he’s surprisingly unafraid of contact—he’ll take linebackers and safeties head-on. Has the extra gear to get behind defenders and turn any catch into a big gain, as long as he has time to accelerate. Has a really nice jump cut to get past initial contact around the line of scrimmage. Fearless target when he has defenders converging on him on crossing routes. Has a knack for timing his jumps to grab the ball. Aggressive hands-catcher who will fight to bring the ball in. Sinks into breaks very nicely and uses angles well to create openings.
As a runner, Boyd follows his blocks patiently and knows when to turn on the jets. Works hard to create as much yardage after the catch as possible. Dependable, durable, high-volume player who was targeted at least 124 times in each of his three college seasons. Has the potential to be far more productive in the NFL than he was in a fairly limited passing attack at Pitt. Wide catch radius with a willingness to come back and hunt down poorly-thrown passes. Return ability is an intriguing part of the package with Boyd—he averaged 24.4 yards per kick return on 46 attempts and scored two punt return touchdowns on 27 attempts at Pitt. Competitive, fiery temperament in a positive way.
Weaknesses: Boyd is not yet a full route-tree receiver. He was limited to a lot of deep routes, quick screens and slants at Pitt, and he looks sluggish on quick-breaking routes like digs and comebacks at times. Needs to be quicker in his cuts with better body coordination. Faster on the field than in a straight line, and creates separation from defenders more with timing than raw speed. Struggles with ball security and drops at times—could stand to be more careful with the ball in general. Boyd is tough for his frame, especially given how often he was used as a running back, but he is thin, and one wonders how much of that gliding speed he would lose if he bulked up. Willing to get his nose in there as a blocker, but needs work on technique. DUI charge from ’15 will be a bit of a red flag, though Boyd explains it well.
Conclusion: Boyd’s slender frame and relative lack of top-end speed may have some NFL teams thinking of him as a stat collector as opposed to a true impact athlete, and that would be a mistake. When you project his skills into an advanced passing attack and put him with coaches who will fill out his route tree, it’s easy to believe he’ll find a way to replicate his amazing numbers at the next level. Boyd might not be an obvious No. 1 receiver, but he has a lot of the tools common to the most consistently productive players at his position.
Pro Comparison: Jarvis Landry, Dolphins (second round, 2014, LSU)