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How Boykin fits with Eagles

In the weeks leading up to the draft, we discussed the Eagles' need to upgrade at nickel cornerback and returner.

With one pick in the fourth round, they might have addressed both areas, taking Georgia's Brandon Boykin.

Boykin (5-9, 182) is almost the exact same size as the player he's trying to replace: Joselio Hanson (5-9, 185). Hanson was cut before last season, but the Eagles eventually brought him back. He turns 31 in August, and as I explained recently, did not have a great year in 2011.

In Boykin, the Eagles get a player Greg Cosell of NFL Films called one of the top two slot cornerbacks in the draft. NFL Network's Mike Mayock had Boykin ranked as his 61st best overall prospect. The Eagles got him with the 123rd overall pick.

Boykin's job this offseason is to beat out Hanson and perhaps Curtis Marsh or Brandon Hughes for the nickel cornerback position. The Eagles tried Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie there last year, and it didn't work out. With the Asante Samuel trade, Rodgers-Cromartie moves to the outside. Nickel corner is a tough positiont, but an important one. The Eagles need someone who can play the run, blitz and cover receivers of different shapes and sizes - from big, tough targets like Marques Colston to quicker guys like Wes Welker and Victor Cruz.

The slot corner is not technically a starter, but Hanson played more than 50 percent of the Eagles' snaps in six of the final seven games last year, according to Pro Football Focus. In other words, the Eagles need someone they can rely on in that role.

The other area where Boykin helps the Birds is the return game. He tied an SEC record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns in his college career. And Boykin had an electrifying 92-yard punt return in last year's Outback Bowl (video below). In that game, he also had a tackle for a safety and caught a 13-yard touchdown on offense.

Per Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked 24th on kickoff returns last season and 27th on punt returns. Boykin should provide much-needed help there too.

In our chat, many thought the Eagles might pull the trigger on Boykin in the third round when they took Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, but they (smartly, as it turned out) waited and wound up still drafting him in the fourth.

Boykin may have slipped because he fractured his fibula at the Senior Bowl. But if he's healthy, he could contribute right away in a couple different roles.

Get complete coverage of the 2012 NFL draft.

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