Now that the 2012 NFL draft is in the can, it's time to take the Shutdown 50 scouting format forward and get a closer look at some of the surprising and fascinating selections from this year's draft -- the guys we missed in the original 50, but who could be impact players now or down the road. The latest entry: Brandon Boykin, the Georgia cornerback selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 28th pick in the fourth round (123rd overall).
Overview: Just before the draft, the Eagles traded disgruntled cornerback Asante Samuel to the Falcons for a seventh round pick. Samuel made the Pro Bowl three times in four years with the Eagles, but many fans were happy to see him go. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Marcus Hayes called Samuel "a fraud, wrapped in a mirage, inside an illusion," in a hyperbolic preach-to-the-base post-trade column that reflected the ultimate Philly bias: if you don't hit like a freight train, then you stink. And Samuel, for all his coverage skills, hit like a baby wipe.
Boykin will not replace Samuel in the starting lineup — that will be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's job — but he will get first dibs on the slot corner role. And Boykin, for all his athleticism, cannot tackle. Somebody get Marcus Hayes a scented candle.
Boykin played cornerback, returned kicks, and had a small role in the Georgia offense. According to the team website, he majored in magazines. Magazines? Writing for them? Selling them? Cutting pictures of celebrities from them? Or maybe he majored in ammunition supply shacks. Whatever he learned in college, Boykin must become a more reliable tackler to earn a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Strengths: Boykin can fly. He has recovery speed in the open field and can track the deep ball. He often runs down screens from behind and can make the touchdown-saving stop.
Boykin has three years of starting experience and is very aware in zone coverage. He frequently played "off" at Georgia and was good at reading and reacting to plays in front of him. He also moved to the slot at times and demonstrated quick reactions in underneath zones. He has potential as a route-jumper.
Boykin will be able to contribute in the return game and will be very dangerous with an interception in his hands.
Weaknesses: Oh, the tackling. Boykin lunges at the ankles of ballcarriers in the open field. His angles are bad. He gets wired to blocks. He is soft and tentative in run support. He can drag down receivers after the catch, but that is about it. He is small, and he plays small. His tackling issues may make it hard for him to contribute on special teams.
Boykin had some concentration drops on interceptions. Suspect hands and decision making may keep him from becoming an elite punt returner.
Conclusion: Boykin fits the mold of a classic slot cornerback and return man. Let him sit in short zones, and he will cherry-pick some interceptions and use his quickness to break up passes that looked like easy completions. As a standard starting cornerback, he will be stretched but not awful: his catch-up speed can prevent catastrophes, though there would surely be some "whoops" tackling moments.
The Eagles demonstrated a complete inability to use talents like Boykin properly last year: they put raw rookies on the field with minimal training camp experience. Boykin should have the chance to grow into a third or fourth cornerback gradually this year. He may eventually grow into something more if his tackling improves. It may be a good thing that Samuel is no longer there to mentor him, though the Eagles have other blazingly fast softies in their cornerback pipeline.
NFL Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles