+Either has awesome instincts or psychic powers
+Football IQ makes him the Luke Kuechly/Sean Lee of safeties
+Feel for the game is just terrific
+Plays very hard
+Great in zone coverage
+Solid ball skills
-Quickness is solid, but no long speed to speak of
-Man coverage is a problem, not tall enough for tight ends or athletic enough for slot receivers
I love Oregon safety John Boyett. His instincts are off the charts. He is so instinctive that it gives the illusion that he has range. See, there are two parts to the art of being in good position: figuring out where to be and having the athleticism to get there quickly. John Boyett is so phenomenal at part one that he appears to have part two to the casual fan. His instincts help him figure out where the plays headed usually a second faster than the average safety, and that little head start makes him look like Ed Reed to the average fan.
Boyett has mediocre measurables. He has below average height at 5’10, mediocre bulk at 204lbs (not that it matters given his strength), and a below average 4.64 40 yard dash, according to NFLDraftScout.com. He wasn’t healthy enough to run at the combine, but he did an impressive 27 bench reps at 225lbs, an insane number given his size (easily tops among defensive backs, would be 4th among linebackers). He does have short arms, though, at 30 1/2 inches.
Boyett has terrific stats. He only played one game in 2012, before having surgery on both (yikes) of his patellar tendons, but, in 2011, his numbers were insane. One of the only safeties I’ve seen break 100 tackles (108), he also had 3.5 TFL’s and an interception. One interception sounds pretty mediocre, but he had 5 as a sophomore, to go along with 78 tackles, and does have solid hands overall. He also had 90 tackes and 3 interceptions as a freshman. A safety with 250+ career tackles in only 3 seasons is hard to find.
Boyett is solid in coverage. I’ll start off with the bad; he has almost no future in man coverage, since he’s about 6 inches shorter than the average tight end and isn’t athletic enough for slot receivers, the latter probably being a better, though still not ideal, matchup. His instincts make up for any deficiency he has in zone. In cover two, he sees the field as well as any safety I’ve ever seen. He can read the quarterbacks eyes and see the field in front of him watching routes develop and diagnosing plays. His lack of speed doesn’t matter because he sees the play happening and figures out where he needs to be so quickly. He starts moving where he knows the ball will go before other safeties can tell if the play is a run or pass. His ability to recognize screens and make plays in the backfield is second to none. His football IQ is off the charts. Although he won’t win any jump balls, he’s very effective against deep routes because he constantly punches the ball out of the hands of receivers and uses his terrific strength to get into good position to make a play. He also knows how to be physical without drawing penalties in coverage. He can read the eyes of quarterbacks and receivers with ease and can jump routes because of it. This ability gives him a chance in man coverage against slot receivers, even though he isn’t very fast, although man coverage tight ends will probably never be possible just because of the height advantage all tight ends have on him. Running backs are a possibility because of his ability to diagnose screens and the fact that he never misses a tackle, though safeties usually aren’t in good position to cover running backs unless they line up in the box.
Boyett is phenomenal against the run. He has no flaw in this area. People say he lacks range, but this doesn’t matter he always knows exactly where the ball will go. Again, because he recognizes plays so quickly (the guy must love film), he starts moving to the ball quicker than other safeties, so it’s kind of like having a head start in the race to the football, so, even though he isn’t particularly athletic, he covers far more ground than many other, more athletic safeties. Beyond that, he has the strength of a linebacker, but still has the fluidity and body control of your average safety, so it’s very difficult to use quickness to freeze him up and evade him in the open field, yet, at the same time, it’s nearly impossible to use strength to basically run him over, because his strength is phenomenal to the point that you rarely even see him yield a yard after contact. These are rare qualities in a safety.
I say this in every scouting report I write about a player with injury issues, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a doctor. I am in no way qualified to make a prediction regarding how Boyett will recover from the surgeries he had on two partial tears of each patellar tendon. The only thing I know about the patellar tendon is its location in the body. If I thought he’d be 100% healthy upon returning, I’d say he is worthy of a late first round pick. But I have no idea, and I’m not going to speculate on what he’ll be like upon his return. I’ll drop his grade what I think is a reasonable amount because of the injury, but I can’t say much more than that regarding his durability issues.
I love Boyett. Absolutely love him. His instincts are absolutely ridiculous and well go a very long way into making him a terrific player in the NFL, assuming he recovers from his injuries.
NFL Comparison: A slow Troy Polamalu, with injury issues. Without a doubt.
Grade: 77 (worthy of an early 3rd round pick)
Projection: 33 (will be a late 7th round pick, depending on what team doctors say)