It can already be said that rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin practices well. The third-round pick would be a strong candidate for the Ravens’ most valuable player of training camp so far if such an award existed.
That has raised the excitement level surrounding Boykin. Will he make an immediate impact as a consistent rookie target for quarterback Lamar Jackson, like tight end Mark Andrews did last year?
That question will be answered as Boykin continues his journey through his first training camp into the preseason and beyond. Flashing in camp is one thing. Flashing on Sunday afternoons is another.
However, there are early indications that Boykin won’t be overwhelmed.
Veteran teammates are raving about him. On Monday, wide receiver Willie Snead IV compared Boykin to a former teammate, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas has topped 1,100 receiving yards in each of his three NFL seasons and just reportedly agreed to a record-setting $100 million five-year contract extension.
“All Miles wants to do is grow and learn,” Snead said. “I keep telling him every day, I’m like, ‘Dude, you look like Michael Thomas.’ I remember when Michael Thomas came to New Orleans, he was built the same, had the same mentality, just trying to get better every day. That’s his goal right now, to learn as a rookie, to grow as a rookie, and make plays when they come. He’s getting better every day.”
Boykin is approaching practice with the enthusiasm of a youngster, but trying to play like a veteran. The Notre Dame product has a veteran’s demeanor, bringing a level of maturity not often seen in a rookie. Boykin is actually about three months older than Jackson.
“I didn’t know that,” Boykin said. “It’s cool [growing with him]. You see somebody like that in college and kind of envy him, the types of things he did in college football and especially last year leading his team to the playoffs. It’s just awesome working with somebody like that every day.”
The Ravens have gone younger with their wide receiver corps, parting with veterans John Brown and Michael Crabtree while drafting Boykin and first-rounder Marquise “Hollywood” Brown with two of their first three picks under General Manager Eric DeCosta. Baltimore wants all the young pieces to grow up together and form a dangerous nucleus. The rewards could come sooner than later.
The door is open for Boykin to play immediately if he earns it. After missing time during OTAs and minicamp with a hamstring issue, Boykin is 100 percent and is using training camp to build a connection with Jackson.
“Our chemistry is a little bit slow because I didn’t do minicamps, OTAs,” Boykin said. “I think it’s growing each and every day. My job is to get him to trust me so I can out there and perform.”
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman likes Boykin’s potential not only as a receiver, but as a downfield blocker who can help the Ravens pop big plays. Boykin is listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and looks every bit of it. As a young receiver, Boykin has mastered the art of using his long frame to shield defenders from the ball on contested catches.
Boykin’s speed is deceptive because he’s a long-strider who outruns people without looking as fast as he is. Boykin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. That’s slightly faster than Torrey Smith ran it in 2011, but Boykin is about four inches taller and 15 pounds heavier.
That speed and body control was on display at Saturday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium when Boykin got behind Jimmy Smith, a nine-year pro and one of the most talented cornerbacks in the league, for a big gain.
“You know what you’re looking at when you see those kinds of plays being made,” Roman said. “The potential is there, and he just needs to continue to have a great attitude, which he does. He’ll keep getting better every day. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
The Ravens corners who have had trouble defending Boykin are eager to see him line up against other teams.
“That boy is fast,” Smith said. “He’s a big dude, fast, strong. I think he’s going to be a player for us this year. I’m excited about it.”
“He’s so long,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey added. “He’s just able to stack guys really well. That’s a thing that a lot of guys can’t do that aren’t as strong. So I’m really excited for the plays he’ll make this year.”
Even when Boykin was sidelined this summer, he didn’t waste time. He spent hours studying film, doing the extra work that can accelerate a young player’s growth.
Boykin and Brown are roommates at the team’s training camp hotel. Boykin said he tried to help Brown keep his head up during the foot injury rehab that kept the first-round pick off the field. Meanwhile, Brown said he “hyped up” Boykin before each practice.
On Wednesday, they took the field for the first time together, offering a glimpse of the promise that lies ahead.
“He’s been doing a great job,” Brown said. “I’m trying to feed off of what he’s doing, and once I’m on the field, complement him as best I can.”
Check out the on-field action from Day 6 at Ravens training camp.