One name that hasn't appeared on the Mock Monitor but repeatedly comes up in conversation with Falcons fans is Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin. Locals to Atlanta couldn't help but see and hear about the 5-foot-9, 182-pound Bulldogs corner and they like what they've seen.
This week, we once again turn to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the website's lead NFL Draft scout for help in our spotlight, for some help in understanding where Boykin fits into the eyes of scouts.
The Fayetteville, Ga. native closed out his impressive and highlight-filled career at Georgia with a strong senior campaign. Voted a team defensive captain, he had 48 tackles, nine tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He was also a talented kick returner while at Georgia, finishing as the school's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and is second on the SEC's all-time list.
Boykin is a uniquely talented player and one of his records is equally unique. He's the only player in SEC history to have three plays of at least 100 yards in his career. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns of 100 yards each as a sophomore and added another in 2010.
While he's smaller than ideal, scouts love his elite-level speed and quickness and his physical play as a corner, but Miller sees Boykin as a zone corner and he's concerned with whether the Georgia star will be a fit in Atlanta's defense under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
"Boykin carries a solid second round grade, and would be a nice addition in Atlanta should the team lose Brent Grimes to free agency," Miller said. "However, like Grimes, Boykin isn't a great fit in the Nolan scheme which generally requires bigger, stronger cornerbacks who can handle players at the point of attack. Currently, that is an area where Boykin's struggles. His inability to control the line of scrimmage makes him a better fit in the slot covering smaller, faster wide receivers."
Miller mentions Grimes, one of Atlanta's current starters at corner, another athletically gifted player that plays larger than his stature. Grimes faces free agency this season and it remains to be seen whether Atlanta will be able to bring him back into the fold for 2012.
After years of watching the consistent athletic feats of Grimes, Boykin is naturally a player Falcons fans would fall in love with. He was the Paul Hornung Award winner for 2011, named to the nation's most versatile player. Many believe he has 4.4 speed in the 40, but following a strong week of Senior Bowl practice, Boykin injured his leg and was unable to participate in drills at the recent NFL Combine.
Miller considers Boykin to be one of the few defensive prospects from Georgia this season, but is concerned about the injury. He sees a solid all-around corner with the quickness and athleticism to make up for his lack of size, but is doubtful about his ability as a press cover corner in man schemes, a scheme Nolan could employ some while in Atlanta, based on his history.
Ultimately, Miller believes better options in the draft for Atlanta would be Casey Hayward of Vanderbilt or Alfonzo Dennard of Nebraska because of their bigger size.
The final memory of Boykin as a Bulldog is a strong one and paints the picture behind the reason for the Hornung Award and shows why the corner may have the ability to overcome his size and be a valuable player in multiple ways in the NFL. As the Outback Bowl MVP, Boykin set a the Outback Bowl record with a 92-yard kickoff return and added seven tackles and a safety. He also spent time on offense, catching a 13-yard touchdown pass.