Brandon Boykin became the fourth Georgia player selected in the NFL draft when the Philadelphia Eagles picked him in Saturday’s fourth round with the 123rd overall pick.
Several draft analysts gave Boykin a second- or third-round grade, but he slipped into the draft’s third day. Ten cornerbacks were selected Thursday and Friday in the draft’s first three rounds and two more came off the board Saturday before Boykin.
“This young man will bounce back,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “I love the way he plays the game, and the versatility that he brings. He’s not just a slot cover corner. He’s one of the most dynamic return specialists that we have in college football.”
In response to his slide down the board, Boykin said, "I was surprised. I was a little disappointed not really knowing why it was happening."
The former Bulldog started to turn scouts’ heads with standout performances during practices before the Senior Bowl, but broke his leg while covering a kick during the game and was forced to miss the NFL combine and Georgia’s pro day.
McShay also said scouts told him that Boykin suffered two concussions at Georgia.
“I think the only reason he slid to the fourth -- because we had a second-round grade on him -- is because of the injury at the [Senior Bowl],” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.
Boykin's leg is still not fully healed, but he said he anticipates being healthy in time for his first camp with Philadelphia.
"Very close," Boykin said when asked whether he is close to 100 percent. "By the time rookie camp rolls around, I’ll be ready and definitely by the time the season starts."
While the injury prevented him from showing off his athleticism for a congregation of scouts, Boykin’s dynamic senior season -- in which he was named the winner of the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football -- likely helped his cause.
In addition to his main role as a starting cornerback, Boykin starred as a kick returner and also chipped in on offense. He tied for fourth on the team with 55 tackles, including 11 for a loss, intercepted three passes and broke up nine.
“I really like this kid because I think he understands the game,” Mayock said. “When I look at defensive backs, some of them have great ability. This kid’s got very good ability. He can play press, he can play off, he understands zone.”
On offense, he rushed seven times for 107 yards -- including an 80-yard touchdown run against Boise State -- and caught five passes for 71 yards and two scores.
But it was on special teams where Boykin solidified his NFL draft status. He returned three kickoffs 100 yards for touchdowns during his UGA career, becoming the first player in SEC history with three 100-yard plays of any kind.
He also finished his career with 2,663 kickoff return yards, which ranks second in SEC history. Finally, he added punt return duties to his resume as a senior and returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown in his final college game against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.
Although the Bulldogs lost that game in overtime, Boykin was named Outback Bowl MVP for scoring on the punt return, recording a safety, catching a 13-yard touchdown pass and recording seven tackles.
McShay said the Eagles are a good fit for Boykin because they already have standout cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who can help the team best use Boykin’s cornerback skills, while also taking advantage of his versatility on special teams and possibly offense.
“There’s a lot of potential for the Philadelphia Eagles when it comes to how they’re going to use him on special teams, on offense and on defense,” McShay said. “His instincts aren’t great in coverage, but if you protect him vertically and you don’t ask too much of him, he can be a playmaker on that side of the ball and he can flat out fly if he gets his hands on that football.”
Boykin said he looks forward to playing alongside the Eagles' established veterans at his position.
"I know they’ve got two great corners," Boykin said. "I know they do play a lot of slot. Being a slot guy, I feel like I’m somebody that can come in and contribute at the slot, I can play inside and outside, I can be a return man -- a kick returner and punt returner -- so I’m expecting them to use me in a lot of ways and I’m just excited for the whole opportunity."
Boykin joins offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (second round to Buffalo), center Ben Jones (fourth round to Houston) and tight end Orson Charles (fourth round to Cincinnati) among drafted ex-Bulldogs.