OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- From making the game-winning catch against LSU with one hand to pulling in tough passes in the red zone, wide receiver Miles Boykin started having the same conversations with Notre Dame fans...
Wow, you got good at catching
No, I just couldn’t catch because I had broken fingers
Boykin fractured one finger while catching a football during his first season in South Bend and injured another the following year doing the same thing. He soon went from breaking fingers to a breakout season, becoming the Fighting Irish's No. 1 receiver last season.
"Ever since my fingers healed up, I’ve been pretty steady with catching the ball," Boykin said.
Boykin was considered one of the most sure-handed receivers in this year's draft class. He dropped three of his 62 catchable targets last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
That's welcomed news for the Baltimore Ravens, who traded a third-round pick and two sixth-round selections to move up nine spots in the third round to get Boykin. The Ravens totaled the fifth-most dropped passes (76) over the past three seasons, and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman's hands were a frequent source of frustration.
Asked this offseason what needs to change in scouting wide receivers, general manager Eric DeCosta said: "The guy has to catch the football -- first and foremost."
While Boykin could be limited in offseason practices the next couple of weeks because of a hamstring injury, he made a solid first impression with his hands at rookie minicamp. He caught every pass within his reach and even some that weren't. Boykin delivered one of the highlights when he stretched out near the sideline and plucked a sailing pass off his shoelaces.
This didn't come as a surprise to Notre Dame receivers coach Del Alexander.
"He does a really good job of tracking the ball," Alexander said. "He doesn’t have to watch the ball in flight very long. He’s not a body catcher."
The buzz surrounding Boykin leading up to the draft wasn't about his ability to catch the ball. It was his athleticism.
Boykin was the biggest winner at this year's NFL combine, putting together a more impressive all-around performance than even DK Metcalf. Among wide receivers, Boykin had the fastest time in the three-cone drill (6.77 seconds) and tied for the highest vertical jump (43 1/2 inches). His broad jump of 140 inches was second. His 4.42-second 40-yard dash was among the top 20 fastest times regardless of position.
"When you look at his combine numbers, that’s a testament to who he is as an athlete," Alexander said. "Those are God-given traits, and he uses those to the best of his ability. That’s why he has so much more. I don’t know if he even knew he was capable of those kind of numbers. I’m sure he said, 'Oh, wow, there’s a lot more in the tank here.'"
The challenging part for evaluators was figuring out why that type of talent didn't surface until his final year in college.
Boykin managed 18 catches in his first two seasons before leading Notre Dame in catches (59), receiving yards (872) and touchdown catches (eight). His streak of six straight games with a touchdown catch was the longest in school history since Will Fuller in 2014.
Alexander feels the career season was a product of Boykin developing physically. Boykin believes it's the result of increasing knowledge, learning from Alexander about the coverages and leverages that defenses are trying to use.
"Simple things like that go a mile and just slow everything down for you," Boykin said.
The Ravens gave Lamar Jackson two young wide receivers in this year's draft, taking Marquise Brown in the first round and Boykin on the second day. But Brown and Boykin are two different types of pass-catchers.
While Brown is explosive and shifty at 5 feet 9, 170 pounds, Boykin is a bigger target at 6-4, 220 pounds.
"[Boykin's] a really intriguing player from Notre Dame, a size, speed receiver with really tremendous physical gifts, an outside vertical guy," DeCosta said. "He’s very physical to the football, just a big man. We think his skill set complements our offense extremely well."