REWIND – Reviewing My Very Deep Sleeper Series from 2018 (S3, E14 Tyler Boyd)
My wildly popular ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ series was brought back by FantasyPros for its fourth season. In celebration, and preparation, and review – I’m going to post last year’s series, 17 articles in all, daily with new commentary for 2019.
My concept of the VDS series was to take a look at a dozen or so players who were way off the grid (like way off the grid/very deep ADPs or not even showing in top 100-150+ positionally on FantasyPros) for the upcoming fantasy season and try and make a case for them as shocking breakouts that year. I hoped if just one panned out each year that would be pretty amazing…these are like taking half court shots in basketball.
Well, we have had that one-a-season success and then some. The VDS series gave birth to Tyrell Williams eons before most people knew who he was. Given-up-for-dead Tyler Boyd was a sweet hit from our VDS series last preseason. A number of players have emerged from the VDS series…even if it was a year or two later. My goal is to educate on the player, at a minimum, and then hope 1-2 of them really pop at some point.
Let’s look back at the 2018 season, in the order they were published…and I’ll add some commentary from ‘the now’ as I’ve re-read it.
After a few flirtations with usefulness among the 2018 VDS group, up to this point, now we got our one big payoff hoped for (Boyd) in a year of searching for needles in the haystack (and another to come in few reports…but Boyd was our best pop among the 2018 class for sure). The #111 ranked WR at the time of the 2018 VDS report, all but forgotten, Boyd finished #18 in PPR PPG (10 or more games played) last season. That’s a hell of a pull. It was no fluke season, as Boyd now trades with respect and fantasy hope for 2019 as well.
This one was worth the price of admission. Here’s what we pitched about this time a year ago:
It seems like a million years ago when Tyler Boyd was a second-round draft pick and a darling sleeper wide receiver from his class. We easily forget he was a high draft pick, and we also believe, today, he has been a joke in the NFL/for fantasy. I mean, who’s taking him seriously? Not the fantasy football experts – he’s currently the 111th ranked WR for PPR for 2018 on the FantasyPros consensus rankings. The analysts have written him off; the NFL fan base at large has forgotten him.
I know I kinda wrote him off too. I was a fan of his work when I scouted him for the NFL Draft. A player who had three great seasons for the University of Pittsburgh with hands that had people calling him another Larry Fitzgerald (Pitt alum). Boyd caught 85 passes for 1,174 yards and 7 TDs as a freshman. He also ran for a TD and returned a punt for a score as well. He was a star day one in college and never stopped starring.
In three seasons at Pitt, Boyd finished as #4 all-time ACC in receptions and #7 all-time ACC in receiving yards. He was not only a high-end producer as a receiver, but he ran the ball quite a bit, before that really became as in vogue for a wide receiver to do. As a wildcat QB and jet sweep type weapon, Boyd had 63 career rushes for 520 yards (8.3 yards per carry). He also returned kicks (#1 in the ACC in KR average with 27.6 yards per return) and punts, plus completed 75% of his four passing attempts as well. He did it all. He was the centerpiece of the Pitt offense in a three-year stretch where their offense/QB play was pretty weak overall – but Boyd shone brightly regardless.
So, what happened? How did this multi-dimensional college star, higher-end NFL Draft prospect just disappear from our collective radars in just two seasons?
It feels like Boyd has been a zero for two NFL seasons, but part of our collective writing him off/chasing other fruitful things is forgetting he had a pretty nice rookie NFL season. In 2016, as a rotational #4 WR/sometimes spot starter, Boyd caught 3.4 passes per game on 5.1 targets per game (67% catch rate). In Week 2 of his rookie season, he caught 6 passes for 78 yards on 8 targets and he was being picked up/played as a flex hopeful the following week. From Week 11 through Week 14 in his rookie season, he caught 5.5 passes per game on 7.3 targets per game. Boyd was showing promise his rookie season.
In 2017, his sophomore campaign in the NFL, everything went wrong…
He dealt with a legal issue (charges later dropped) on a vehicular accident involving alcohol and drug paraphernalia in a car he was purported to be in with others. The Bengals made wide receiver John Ross a top 10 draft pick, and it seemed to be a message to Boyd, to some degree, for lesser playing time/targets. He had a poor training camp on top of that and battled injuries on and off throughout his second NFL season. All the good he built in 2016 was thrown into the trash in 2017, and all the fantasy world moved on to the next best shiny objects that caught our attention.
2018 is starting out to be the opposite of 2017 for Tyler Boyd, a bounce-back moment is developing. He’s having a fantastic training camp, by all accounts of camp observers. It must be going well, good enough for the Bengals to preemptively release two-year starter Brandon LaFell recently. Boyd was listed as the starting #3 WR/slot in the recent depth chart release. LaFell was well respected and a team leader – his release was out of respect because they knew he was going to be a backup. Boyd’s ascension this year is a big push behind that LaFell move.
Obviously, A.J. Green is the top option for Andy Dalton. You might fear John Ross as the Bengals #2 WR getting more attention than Boyd, but he’s a different kind of receiver, a deep ball guy only – and a high probability for injury and drops. After Green, the real workhorse receiving option, assuming Tyler Eifert is once again hurt, will be the very reliable, emerging Tyler Boyd – with whom Dalton has now three years/26 games experience (John Ross has logged all of three NFL games). Boyd’s potentially on course to catch 4-6 passes a game this season and be a legit WR3 (with WR2 upside hopes) option in PPR this season – a bargain compared to his current WR10 valuation today.
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