It would be fair to describe Kris Boyd’s four-year tenure with the Texas Longhorns as up-and-down, but when the smoke cleared and the curtains closed, the three-year starter in the secondary went out on top. After arriving in Austin in 2015 as a four-star talent, the Gilmer product failed to earn even Big 12 honorable mention honors throughout his first three seasons at Texas.
Boyd, of course, saved his best for last.
Boasting a résumé that featured 67 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and an exceptional 17 passes defended, Boyd’s final season on the Forty Acres finished with honors as an All-Big 12 First-Team selection, and ultimately, projections as a legitimate NFL prospect.
Looking back, it’s now clear that Boyd became exactly what most anticipated he’d become when he signed to then Charlie Strong’s Longhorns as a U.S. Army All-American ranked within the top prospects 100 nationally, but the end of Boyd’s collegiate career may prove to be just the beginning of a lengthy career cashing checks.
To that end, as far the NFL is concerned, Boyd’s is seemingly equal parts upside and unpolished.
Physically, Boyd’s is nothing short of a phenomenal prospect, as evident by his praiseworthy testing efforts. At the NFL Combine, Boyd posted a 4.45 40-yard dash, which ranked eighth-fasted among all cornerbacks, and his 19 bench press reps headlined his position.
Elsewhere, Boyd registered a 36.5-inch vertical leap, a 4.08-second shuttle, and a 6.94-second three-cone drill; each of which is further evidence of his elite raw athleticism.
Boyd looks the part, too, standing at a stout 5’11, 201 pounds, which has earned him a reputation entering the draft as a big, physical prospect, and his playing style matches that description. That much becomes apparent often times as soon as the ball is snapped, as Boyd isn’t afraid to take risks and utilize his strong hands to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and crowd and body big receivers on into bump-and-run coverage. Those same active hands become an asset for Boyd when making a play on the ball, as he’s able to separate the ball from the receiver at the last moment in what would often otherwise be a completed catch.
That, when paired when Boyd’s understanding of how to take proper angles to play the pass, paved the way for a mind-boggling 34 passes defended throughout the previous two seasons, which was also a product of improved confidence, swagger, and maybe more notably, a short memory after mistakes.
“In a weird way, I think he’s become more mentally tough by playing against teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and West Virginia,” an AFC scout told NFL.com. He’s had ups and downs but I don’t think he carries the mistakes with him like he used to.”
Beyond the positives in his pass coverage prowess, Boyd was much-improved against the run last season, demonstrating the ability to read and react — even outside of his general area — adequate closing speed, and the physicality and willingness to deliver physical hits on the ball carrier. As a result, Boyd not only set a new career high in total tackles, but more than doubled his previous career total in tackles for loss with 4.5 in 2018.
With the good comes the bad, though, and most of the issues to that end can be found in Boyd’s mechanics, which, of course, can improve with coaching.
Boyd does boast impressive straight-line speed, but he also struggles at times to recover quickly enough if a speedy receiver beats him initially. Again, those issues can be found in the technique, as Boyd is inconsistent laterally when adjusting to a receiver, his hips aren’t the most fluid and, at times, appear tight and labored when transitioning into a full sprint, and his backpedal can be considered a bit sluggish and clunky.
Beyond the mechanics, the aggressiveness Boyd flashes around the line of scrimmage can become a detriment down the field, as he’s been prone to picking up pass interference calls. That became apparent during the Senior Bowl when Boyd was flagged for pass interference three times.
“Kris Boyd at this time looks like a very big project. He needs some great teaching on technique and lots of reps to improve on not panicking on the field,” Kendall noted following Boyd’s Senior Bowl showing. “He might need to prove his worth to a team early in his NFL career as a special teams ace to allow a team long enough to develop his skills. There is some talent to work with for sure, but he needs to put in a lot of work.”
When the entire package he presents is considered, Boyd is largely being projected as an early Day 3 pick, likely at the front end of the fourth round.
Though his raw athleticism is undeniable and was enough to thrive as a senior, Boyd remains fairly rough around the edges, which is understandable to an extent given that he learned under three separate cornerbacks coaches at Texas and didn’t enjoy guidance from the same source for two consecutive seasons until 2017-18 after the arrival of Jason Washington. For a franchise in need of a bit of confidence when considering Boyd, it can only help that he comes from a strong bloodline of cornerbacks, as his cousin, Curtis Brown, was an All-Big 12 defensive back at Texas before moving on to play three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, while another cousin, Bobby Taylor, enjoyed nearly 10 years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, which included a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2002.
With development throughout the next few seasons, Boyd’s undeniable upside should make him well worth the risk in the early fourth round range, and potentially even towards the tail end of the third round.