Football journeys are not always linear, and many guys have to fight tooth and nail to get their opportunity. That was true for Last Chance U standout and Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd, who proved himself to be a diamond in the rough during his time at Arkansas. After torching SEC defenses for over 1,000 yards in 2019, Boyd will look to further expand upon his impressive 2019 in 2020.
What about Boyd makes him so underrated and impressive?
Rakeem Boyd’s fantastic tape
Boyd has put together two strong seasons in Fayetteville already up to this point. He has repeatedly shown his ability to be an all-around running back that will carry more value than just toting the rock in the NFL.
His receiving ability has not been used enough with the Razorbacks, as he has amassed just over 400 receiving yards, but he has the traits to be a high-level receiver at the NFL level. The biggest thing you see is the natural hands away from his frame.
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Boyd extends his hands fully outside of his frame and then tucks the ball into his frame naturally like a receiver. He will not be a detailed route runner, but he does pluck footballs with ease. Most importantly, he is a dangerous football player after the catch in the open field.
Boyd’s ability to win after the catch goes back to his open field traits as a runner. First off, Boyd has long strides and eats up ground quickly. He does not have elite long speed, but it is quite good. Additionally, his short-area burst is excellent, and he can fly through small holes due to his explosiveness.
The second key to unlocking this play is his patience. Notice how he takes a hitch step and hesitate to let his block set up. The blocker can seal off the cornerback, and Boyd gets a one-on-one matchup in the alley. That brings up the third key, which is contact balance. Boyd breaks off wimpy tacklers with ease on tape. All in all, it makes him a running back capable of breaking explosive plays.
Boyd’s standout traits as a runner
This is excellent processing by Boyd and showcases his strengths at their highest level. This entire play is predicated upon the guard reaching the linebacker, and he does that, but not before the MIKE linebacker (#8) comes down the line thanks to Boyd taking just the right amount of steps to press the line and bait him into that gap, thus helping the guard with his block.
Boyd’s lateral agility and explosiveness are on display here. This is a violent showcase of footwork. It is a one-step cut that illustrates Boyd’s fantastic change of direction and burst. Due to Boyd’s fundamental skills and decision-making, he gets a solid nine yards out of this run.
This is where Boyd won me over personally. Yes, once again, he showcases good hands, creativity in the open field, and the explosiveness, but it is the tough running style of Boyd that will make him win fans. His feet and legs never stop moving, and he has excellent leg drive. Every yard counts in football, and Boyd grinds out as many yards as he can on any given run. It speaks to his fire and drive on the field, which is an infectious trait not just on the field but in the locker room.
This is a loaded one. Boyd splits time in the Razorbacks backfield, which may cause teams to question if he can handle the workload of being a lead back. Also, he still struggles in pass protection. Without that in his skillset, in certain offenses, it will be tough for Boyd to be a three-down running back in the NFL.
On the flip side, it may be just as hard to keep off the field. His vision, contact balance, leg drive, and receiving prowess are all big positives for Boyd as he looks to carve out playing time. Not everyone has those traits in addition to solid all-around athleticism. It is that athleticism that gives him the “gem” status on top of the technical skills.
I think Boyd best works in a committee, given his current status. However, he is scheme versatile and can run in between and outside of the tackles. His physicality and fire showcase his willingness to learn and improve. Boyd should find work in the NFL quick and fast and stick the landing.