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How underutilized is Miles Boykin?

A closer look at the confounding wide receiver

In the third round of the 2019 draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected a wide receiver out of Notre Dame by the name of Miles Boykin. With the Ravens’ first pick, WR Marquise Brown, sidelined for training camp and the preseason due to a lingering lisfranc injury, Boykin was the star of camp and seemed like he may be a budding draft steal.

Since then, things have not been so rosy for Boykin.

Although his first NFL reception was a touchdown, he never received more than three targets in any game during his rookie season. He also failed to exceed 55 yards in a game and only tallied two more scores throughout the year. Still, even with his unimpressive numbers, there was still hope to be had for the rookie who managed to work his way onto the field consistently due to his prowess as a blocker. He was, after all, a rookie playing behind veterans in Willie Snead IV and Seth Roberts, and a fellow rookie who was the first receiver taken in the same draft.

However, increased snaps in his sophomore season did not lead to the leap in production for which many fans had hoped.

Boykin was on the field for over 100 more offensive snaps in 2020, but only managed 68 more yards and one more touchdown. With less competition ahead of him and a year of experience under his belt, many were hoping for the young receiver to take the next step. Sadly, it appears he may have taken a step back if anything.

To put these numbers into context, let’s look at all of the receivers drafted since 2019:

28 wide receivers were drafted in 2019 and another 35 were selected in the 2020 draft, bringing the total to 63. Of those 63, six have never recorded an offensive snap in the NFL. Of the remaining 57, Boykin has out-snapped all but seven on offense. Despite those high snap counts, though, he ranks only 26th in total targets with 55 in two years. That leads to a target share of 5.67%, which, when adjusting for only players who have tallied 100 or more offensive snaps, puts him at 45th out of 47 qualifying players. Even rookies Devin Duvernay (26tgt, 347snp, 7.49%) and James Proche (3tgt, 25snp, 12%) were targeted on a more consistent basis than Boykin.

In fact, there are only two other qualifying receivers who had a target share under 8% on 600 or more snaps: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (4.78%), who himself has had a tumultuous start to his young career, and rookie Gabriel Davis (62tgt, 797snp, 7.78%). Even harder to swallow is the fact that his former teammate at Notre Dame and current rival on the Steelers, Chase Claypool, has twice as many targets at 109 (12th) and almost triple the target share at 15.75% (2nd) despite being on the field for 278 less snaps (22nd) due to being a rookie in 2020. The Steelers pass-heavy—or pass-only—offense plays a big role in those numbers, but it still shows how heavily under-utilized Boykin has been as a receiver. A better comparison may be fellow 2019 draftee, Mecole Hardman, who has logged the same number of snaps as Boykin, but has seen the ball 48 more times, giving him a 10.62% target share (26th).

Stats alone won’t tell the full story here, which will take a more in-depth film study—stay tuned—to paint the full picture of why Boykin has had so much trouble finding his footing in an NFL offense. It doesn’t help that Ravens receivers see the ball less than any other such unit in the league, but when rookies who had the misfortune of a COVID-afflicted offseason and your fellow draft mate in Marquise Brown (171tgt (6th), 1365snp (6th), 12.53% (16th)) are all getting more opportunities, there is clearly something else going on.

Boykin did end up scoring all four of his 2020 touchdowns after the signing of Dez Bryant, so hopefully that’s a sign that he understands he has to step up his game and will do so this offseason. The Ravens will almost certainly be adding a more dangerous veteran receiver in the next month, so it would be good if Boykin responds the same way a second time. If not, 2021 could be more “break” than “make” for the young receiver. Let’s root for the latter.

(And for anyone curious about the full rundown of these numbers, click here)