Mid Season Report Card: Which Bengals Receiver is at the top of the "class?"
After AJ Green's training camp injury, and the injury to John Ross earlier in the season; a new door has opened up for two young receivers. We take a look at those two receivers, as well as Tyler Boyd in this "Mid Season Report Card."
We will use 3 categories, on a scale of 10 to grade the receivers play through their first 8 games:
- Route Running: How much separation do they create in small areas? Are they able to maintain the separation that the defense has given them? Are they able to win versus press cover defenders? (an example of a 10 would be Amari Cooper or Davante Adams)
- Hands: Are they consistent? Are they able to secure catches in traffic? Are they able to catch off target throws (catch radius)? Can they catch contested balls? (an example of a 10 would be Deandre Hopkins or Larry Fitzgerald)
- YAC (yards after catch): Are they able to make the first defender miss? Are they getting tackled in the open field? (an example of a 10 would be Tyreek Hill or JuJu Smith-Schuster)
Tyler Boyd (4th season, University of Pittsburgh)
Yards per Reception
Route Running: 8.0
Boyd often does a nice job winning when he gets off coverage, maintaining the separation provided by the defender's alignment. He is able to threaten with his vertical stem until he has to made a sudden break to his route.
His best route came against Arizona in a heroic effort to try to get the Bengals their first win. Late in the game he ran a post route versus a press cover defender with safety help. He was able to stack the defender, and give the safety just enough of a head and shoulder lean to manipulate him to the outside prior to breaking to his post.
With only two drops on 83 targets, the number speak for themselves; however, Boyd has made some difficult catches this year. One he made against the Rams highlights his ability to make contested catches. However, he does struggle a bit through traffic over the middle.
Yards After Catch ( YAC): 7.5
Here, not only does Boyd show his ability to separate versus low defenders; his YAC ability is also on display. While he may not be as explosive as Tyreek Hill (who really is?), he still is able to maximize his YAC by consistently getting vertical immediately after the catch. He does lack that ability to score at will; while he is effective after the catch, defenses don't hold their breath when he's in the open field.
8.0 (route running) + 7.5 (hands) + 7.5 (YAC) = 23/30
Tyler Boyd has been graded out to a B through the first 8 games of the season (the highest of any Bengals receiver). He has been the most productive receiver for the Bengals, and it would be nice to see him get more work in the red zone as he is an effective route runner out of the slot. At 6'2, he has the length to make plays on the ball in the air when the field gets condensed. Expect to see an increase in production with the return of AJ Green, as Boyd has been seeing the opponents top corner often (he drew Marlon Humphrey versus Baltimore).
Alex Erickson (4th year, University of Wisconsin)
Yards per Reception
Route Running: 7.0
Alex Erickson is primarily used inside as a slot receiver. He, like Boyd, does a nice job versus off coverage; however is a bit less polished than Boyd.
He struggles a bit with route detail, such as finishing negative out of his break to maintain separation from his over defender, getting his head out of his break to locate the ball earlier, attacking leverage (etc.) You'll see here, it results in the defender being able to undercut, and break up the route.
Erickson has the same number of drops as Boyd, on less than half of the targets. He has had some third down drops this year which hurt the Bengals. The one that leaps out is a 3rd down conversion versus the Jaguars. While the ball was slightly behind him, it's a drop. He also had a costly drop on an inside fade; a perfectly placed ball by Dalton. (see video below)
However, it's not all bad. He shows his ability to catch in traffic here. We need to see it be more consistent (see video below)
Yards After Catch (YAC): 8.0
With John Ross sidelined, Erickson is certainly the best receiver the Bengals have in regards to yards after catch. He is able to catch in breaking routes and get vertical immediately, as well as break the first potential tackle.
7.0 (route running) + 6.0 (hands) + 8.0 (YAC) = 21/30
Erickson grades out to a B, just like Boyd. However, Boyd was at 23/30 while Erickson was at 21. Erickson is a solid inside receiver who possesses enough speed to threaten vertical. His ability to run after the catch is a large part of his game, and with the return of AJ Green and the emergence of Auden Tate, there should be more room underneath for Erickson to find space.
Yards per Catch
Route Running: 6.5
Tate is a raw, athletic freak. He is 6'5 and nearly 230 pounds, and is more explosive than you think. He has made some strides as a route runner this season, and similar to Erickson, he needs to improve on route detail. He's always a threat to win vertically due to his size and explosiveness. Any time the ball is in the air you like your chances with Tate. One thing he does well besides climb the ladder, is drop his weight at the top of his route. This is difficult to do for bigger receivers (unless your name is Julio Jones).
While Tate does have the most drops out of this trio with three, his ability to make circus catches is off the charts. Most of his targets are often contested as they are lower percentage throws deeper down the field. In this video, we see a bit of his catch radius, and contested catch ability. His future is extremely bright.
Yards After Catch (YAC): 6.0
Tate has not demonstrated much after the catch this season, but the potential is there. He is a large receiver who moves well enough to be a tough guy to bring down. Due to lack of production in the YAC department, Tate gets the lowest YAC score out of the three receivers being graded.
6.5 (route running) + 8.5 (hands) + 6.0 (YAC) = 21/30
Auden Tate grades out equal to Erickson with 21, equalling a B. Just like the film shows, there hasn't been a tremendous separation between the three receivers. Tate does most of his damage with his ability to make plays on any ball. His catch radius is off the charts
Boyd has been the most productive of the three receivers, but has also played the most snaps by far. It will be exciting to see this receiver group at four deep when AJ Green returns. They start with a tough match-up, and will be tested early with a home game versus Baltimore; who just beat up on an undefeated New England team.