#1 best-selling author Mark Schofield reveals his list of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft. Schofield, who wrote 17 Drives – a chronicle of the 2015 college football season – has ranked Trevone Boykin as his 8th ranked prospect. Click here to look at all of his work on the 2016 QB class.
A standout, dual-threat quarterback in high school, as well as a star sprinter on the track and field team, Trevone Boykin enrolled at Texas Christian University and quickly saw action at quarterback his redshirt freshman season. When starting quarterback Casey Pachall was suspended, Boykin started the remaining nine games of the year, completing 57% of his passes for 2,054 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. When Pachall returned to the team the next year, he and Boykin split time at the position, with Boykin starting six games at QB, and another contest at wide receiver. In addition to throwing for 1,198 yards and seven touchdowns, he caught 26 passes for 204 yards, including 11 in his one start against West Virginia, for more than 100 yards.
The QB position became his in 2014, and Boykin made the most of his opportunity. He completed 61% of his throws for 3,901 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while guiding the Horned Frogs to a 12-1 record that culminated in a victory against Mississippi in the Peach Bowl. His strong junior campaign, coupled with the amount of talent returning to Fort Worth for the 2015 season, saw him mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and put TCU in the discussion for a national championship.
Life, however, often has different ideas. After starting the season hot, winning their first eight games (during which Boykin put up prodigious numbers) the Horned Frogs stumbled in a loss to Oklahoma State. The QB struggled during that contest, throwing four interceptions in the defeat. The following week against Kansas he suffered an ankle injury that kept him on the shelf against Oklahoma, another game that TCU lost. Boykin returned to action for the season finale against Baylor and guided the Horned Frogs to a double-overtime win, and looked to finish his collegiate career with a strong performance against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. However, just a few nights before the game he was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant after he punched a police officer during a fight at a bar, and was suspended for the final game of his career.
Given his background as a dual-threat quarterback and a track athlete, it is no surprise that when watching Boykin one of the first things that stands out is his athletic ability in and around the pocket. He has the ability and footwork to keep plays alive with his feet, break the pocket, and make a play down the field in the passing game. Rarely does he let the rush drop his eye level, he is very adept at scanning the secondary for a target in the scramble drill. He is athletic enough at the Football Bowl Subdivision level to pick up good chunks of yardage with his feet if he cannot find an open receiver, or if the flow of the play prevents a throw downfield. But similar to other QBs in this class, such as James Madison’s Vad Lee, the idea of a position switch is one that NFL teams should not consider. Boykin is a QB who can scramble, and his athleticism is not ideal for switching to WR, despite his limited experience in that role while at TCU.
Such a position switch would also negate the other strengths in his game as a QB, starting with his arm talent and velocity. Boykin can deliver throws to all levels of the field with the appropriate level of zip, and is not afraid to challenge any throwing window, lane or style of coverage. He has an aggressive, gunslinger mentality to his game, and while there is a risk-reward element to this playing style, in my opinion, it is much easier to get a QB to dial things back than it is to convince him to ratchet the aggression up.
An aspect of Boykin’s playing style that I enjoy and appreciate is his creativity in the throwing motion and arm angle. He doesn’t exactly care about style points, and is willing to adjust his release point at a moment’s notice to fit the football around the rush and / or into coverage. There is a flip side to this (which we will get to) but his ability to drop his arm to avoid the rush kept more than a few plays alive during his time in Fort Worth. Also, watch how he releases the football on plays such as bubble screens or smoke routes, when getting the football out to the WR quickly was a matter of importance. On these plays, he looked more like a second baseman turning two, as he would take the shotgun snap and throw sidearm rather than wasting a precious second or two bringing the football up toward his shoulder before executing the throw.
Boykin is accurate in the short area of the field, on quick out patterns and slants, as well as in the vertical game. He is very skilled at throwing the red zone fade route, with a good understanding of timing and anticipation. Boykin demonstrated sufficient knowledge of route timing and structure, and was very much on the same page with his receivers, particularly Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee. He would deliver throws to these targets with great timing and anticipation, and trusted both of them to get open, often releasing the football while they had a CB draped on them in coverage.
Boykin was not always tasked with making full field progression reads in TCU’s offense, but on those occasions where he was, he demonstrated the ability and willingness to work through each read and find the open man.
As alluded to above, Boykin’s mechanics are a bit rough and need to be refined. He starts with a bit of a windup to his throwing motion, similar to Kevin Hogan, but like the Stanford QB he has a violent torque and rip to his motion that makes up for any delay in the release. His lower body is not as involved as you would like, and Boykin needs to work on incorporating a more structurally sound short leg drive into his motion. He tends to trust his arm and release off the back foot which can lead to dips in velocity and accuracy
While he is accurate in the short area, and generally accurate on vertical routes, Boykin can be inaccurate at times, particularly on intermediate throws. He greatly benefited at times by the catch radius of Doctson, who was able to bail his QB out on high throws that were off the mark. Perhaps this is more an indication of Boykin’s trust in Doctson than anything, but it is something to note and watch going forward.
Also of note, Boykin’s footwork in the pocket could use work as well. Primarily a shotgun / pistol QB, he tends to get sloppy on his one- and three-step drops, rounding them off or drifting near the end. Wherever he lands Boykin needs to be more precise with these. His ball security is also an issue. During both 2014 and 2015 there were a number of examples of fumbles or near-fumbles at the mesh point, a staple of the TCU spread attack. There were two fumbles at the mesh point in his 2014 game against Oklahoma, for example. This isn’t a red flag, but something that needs to be tracked as he enters the NFL.
Finally, his bowl-week arrest does merit a mention at this point. College kids do dumb things, but as a senior with sights on the NFL draft, your primary job is to keep yourself out of trouble. Getting arrested days before your final college game – a bowl game nonetheless – shows a troubling lack of judgment. It is not an incident that should leave him off draft boards, but I am sure that NFL coaches and executives will examine this issue, and his responses to inquiries about the arrest, during the pre-draft process.
With his accuracy in the shorter areas of the field, as well as his arm talent and willingness to challenge contested throwing lanes, Boykin fits best in a West Coast style offense. When you can incorporate the ability to deliver accurate throws with touch on vertical routes, this can make for a dangerous combination for a defense to stop.
As we creep closer to the top of my QB draft board, we are coming across some of my personal favorite plays from this past draft season. This throw from Boykin is near the top:
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As many of my readers are aware, I take hand-written notes when watching film. Rather than take you through a somewhat rote discussion of what happens here, I’ll simply transcribe what I wrote down watching this play for the first time:
“Whee→ Skinny post route thrown between multiple defenders into an insane throwing window. NFL aggression. NFL ready. NFL window. Placement isn’t perfect, but that’s like penalizing Picasso for coloring outside the lines.”
Yeah, I liked that play very much – and it wasn’t even his most jaw-dropping play of that game.
One- to Three-Year Projection
Boykin is not a day one starter in the NFL. Given his system and the flaws identified above, he has a bit of a developmental arc to his transition. But in the right organization and offense, and if given the chance, I have no doubt he is competing for a starting job by the start of his third season in the NFL, and if things break right for him, he can be a mid-level starter in this league.