Why Jarrett Boykin can adequately replace injured Packers receivers
Jarrett Boykin is not Randall Cobb. That's not to say he isn't as good a player or can't be as useful to fantasy owners as the injured Green Bay star. Time will tell if he's as good a receiver as is Cobb, and he can certainly be an asset in fantasy leagues. The point, though, is that they're two completely different players.
Cobb is a deadly slot receiver. He did for the Packers last year what Victor Cruz did for the Giants in 2011. Cobb is 5-foot-10, 192 pounds and does most of his damage in the middle of the field. According to Pro Football Focus, 19 of Cobb's 29 receptions before fracturing his fibula were in between the numbers. Boykin is not going to recreate that, nor would the Packers ever ask him to do so. That's because Boykin is 6-foot-2, 218 pounds. He's not the fast, shifty, precise route runner that makes Cobb so great. He's more like Jordy Nelson and James Jones, at his best being physical outside the numbers. That also means his skill set, while prized, is somewhat duplicative in this offense.
Luckily for his fantasy owners, Jones sat out practice on Thursday and is doubtful for Sunday's game with the Vikings. Boykin played the Jones role opposite Nelson last week, and caught eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Pro Football Focus ranks the Vikings' pass coverage 26th in the league. They've allowed the ninth most fantasy points per game to receivers and have surrendered 14 passing touchdowns. Only two teams have allowed more, and the Vikings have already had their bye. This is a terrible pass defense, and you will want to start Boykin this week.
Let's take a look at a few key plays from Green Bay's 31-13 win over Cleveland last week that show how Boykin can be a facsimile of Jones for Aaron Rodgers.
This first play is a staple of most NFL playbooks, but Rodgers and the Packers have turned it into an art form. While all the best quarterbacks in the league can throw the back-shoulder route out of necessity, no one is better at it than Rodgers. Nelson and Jones have made a killing on that ball thanks to Rodgers' precision. In this first play, we can see Boykin take advantage of his quarterback's strengths, as well.
It's 3rd and 7, and the Packers have the ball at their own 47-yard-line. Boykin is the single receiver to the right of the formation. The Cleveland safeties are in a deep zone, each responsible for one half of the field. Boykin breaks his route at the top, coming back to the ball. Rodgers puts it on that back shoulder, and the 6-foot-2 Boykin is able to elevate to make the catch and pick up the first down.
Now let's skip all the way ahead to the fourth quarter. At this point, the game is still in doubt. The Packers lead 17-6, and have a 2nd and 9 on the Cleveland 40-yard-line. Green Bay shows a run look, with Eddie Lacy in an offset I-formation. Boykin is to Rodgers' left. Here's what the play looks like at the snap.
Rodgers shows playaction, and the line blocks as if it's a run play, holding the safeties. The lone deep safety shades toward Nelson when he sees it's a pass. That leaves Boykin with man coverage. He sells the post, then runs a corner route, burning Buster Skrine.
How about those yards after the catch? Here's Boykin seemingly surrounded at the 20-yard-line. Somehow, he gets this ball down to the 1, setting up a touchdown pass from Rodgers to Nelson that effectively iced the game.
Finally, let's examine Boykin's first career touchdown reception. It's 2nd and 5 at the Cleveland 20-yard-line. The Packers are again showing run in an offset I, and have loaded up the left side of the formation. In fact, Boykin is the only eligible receiver to the right. That gets him singled up on Skrine, a matchup he has won time and time again.
Boykin isn't Rodgers' first read on this play, but he again torches Skrine with the post-corner. By time Rodgers gets back to him, he's all alone at the 5-yard-line.
I'd be remiss if I did not point out Boykin's power in getting this ball into the end zone. Skrine squares him up at the 3-yard-line and appears to have leverage. Boykin is able to muscle through the corner and stretch the ball across the goal line. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that were James Jones.
It remains to be seen what sort of role Boykin will play when Jones returns. No doubt the Packers will get him on the field, but he does not fit with Nelson and Jones as seamlessly as does Cobb. That's something to worry about next week, though. For now, make sure you have Boykin active on Sunday. He's in line for a big night in Minnesota.
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BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- RGIII finally looking like himself
SI STAFF: Player Rankings -- Gronkowski rewards his owners
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies -- Have some faith in Vick
BELLER, FLOOD: Roundtable -- Which injury situation will hurt the most?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- James stepping up for Martin-less Buccaneers
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Wilson gifted strong matchups in coming weeks
BELLER: Early Week 8 advice -- Boykin surprises for the Packers