NFL Draft Injury Impact: LSU WR Kayshon Boutte

03/16/2023
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Donning the No. 7 jersey at LSU is a high honor given to those viewed as the next playmaker. Past recipients include Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, and most recently, Kayshon Boutte.

After a stellar freshman breakout season in 2020, Boutte followed it up with an even better 2021 before suffering a season-ending injury. Following an uneven rehab process, his 2022 season and NFL Combine performance left a lot to be desired. What was once perceived as day-one talent may now be slipping down draft boards. 

Below is Boutte’s full publicly reported injury history, concerns, and NFL outlook including whether he could be a target for the Bills.

2020

Bouette suffered a hamstring strain, side not specified during the indoor track season during his senior year of high school. Other than the injury costing his team a chance at a state championship, it does not appear that this was an injury that lingered. Once football season began, he was able to play in 10 games, snagging 45 receptions for 735 yards and five touchdowns.

2021

Left ankle injury 

Early in the first quarter against Kentucky, Boutte was tackled from behind on a jet sweep to the right, injuring his left ankle. He required brief medical attention during the game but was able to return. Looking at the video, he got injured on a shoestring tackle, looking to be a relatively minor ankle sprain, returning for the next offensive series.

Right ankle fracture

After returning, Boutte broke his right ankle while trying to complete an acrobatic catch out of bounds as seen below. This happened in the fourth quarter against Kentucky. With his body still moving downfield, he managed to rotate his body to the left to secure the ball and landing on the right foot. Once he landed, the cleat looked to stick in the turf as his body began rotating to the right before the foot was released.

He required the use of the cart to exit the field where an x-ray later found that he broke a bone in his ankle. Boutte required season-ending surgery, missing the remaining seven games of the season. He ended his season with 38 receptions for 509 yards and nine touchdowns.

He required a second procedure on the ankle in the offseason due to something not healing correctly. He required the use of a walking boot and missed spring practices in 2022. 

2022

While Boutte did not miss any games due to injury, he missed one game for the birth of his child and one for illness. He also sat out of the bowl game as he prepared for the NFL Draft. He finished with 48 receptions for 538 yards and two touchdowns.

2023 Buffalo Bills Free Agency Tracker

Injury Concerns

Looking back at Boutte’s career, of the 10 games he missed over his time at LSU, seven were due to injury. 

Several outlets listed his injury as a foot, but LSU reported it as an ankle which is what appears to be more consistent. The original injury happened in mid-October 2021 with a revision surgery sometime in January 2022, three months after the original surgery. 

Credit: TeachMeSurgery.com

Details of his original ankle injury were not known other than it was a clean break. In January 2022, doctors determined that a portion of his ankle did not heal correctly, requiring a second procedure. This suggests there may have been some lingering ligament damage that needed to be corrected. The article stated that he had to restart the rehab process, causing him to be in the boot and miss all of the spring practices. He was eventually cleared in mid-June to play in the fall.

As Boutte stated, this was the first major injury of his career and it took him to a dark place. Add in that there was a new coaching staff with Brian Kelly who called him out publicly, and that didn’t help things. He further admitted that he didn’t put everything he had into his rehab at the time. 

It’s common for a player to take five-plus months for a player to fully recover from a broken ankle and Boutte was no exception, appearing to take even longer in trusting the repaired ankle. 

The aforementioned article in The Athletic was published back on August 29, 2022, with Boutte further stating that he was scared to plant a certain way and that he would second guess his steps. Those comments came nearly eight months following his second procedure. Keep in mind, he was able to resume practice back in June; these comments were made two-and-a-half months after he was cleared.

In fact, looking at his 2022 stats, he began to turn it on around mid-October with more usage noted in the passing game.

Credit: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Even after being medically cleared, he may not have mentally trusted the ankle for the first portion of the season. Recovery from injury is far more than just physical healing.

While his ankle was assessed and likely cleared at the NFL Combine, he did not do himself any favors in Indianapolis with an underwhelming RAS as seen below. 

Bills Outlook

Other than the broken ankle, Boutte’s injury is pretty clean with a hamstring strain in high school and a minor left ankle injury just prior to the ankle fracture. The fracture of the right ankle in itself is not of concern as he played all of 2022, not missing further time. I have minimal fear that the ankle complications will linger. There is a concern for arthritis, but reports did indicate that it was a clean break, potentially minimizing issues later. 

Right now, his risk to suffer further injuries or deal with recurring issues appears to be low. But his film and who he is as a prospect may dictate where he ultimately gets drafted. 

During his freshman and sophomore season before the injury, he was viewed as a first-round prospect, but a disappointing junior season and poor NFL Combine performance possibly dropped him to day two. He could certainly bounce back once he gets drafted, but he has an uphill battle.

If the Bills like him, I wouldn’t expect that they use anything more than a third-round selection on him. They have traditionally taken a chance on players with elite traits but notable injury histories in that round. Boutte may grade out as a second-round prospect, but plenty of players over the years have dropped for various reasons and he may be no exception.

I’d be more concerned about how Boutte will handle the added pressure at the next level. He already struggled with the coaching change at LSU, his injury, and the added pressure of having a NIL deal detailed in The Athletic. All of those issues could be magnified in the NFL, affecting his production. If he has another injury that keeps him out for an extended time or if smaller injuries begin to pile up, how will he respond? The mental makeup of a prospect has to be considered, especially in this case, does he have the confidence and support necessary to excel at the next level?

His prior injury history will not prevent him from being drafted, but his skill set, how he adjusts, and his outlook may ultimately dictate his success or failure at the next level. 

I believe the Bills would be better served drafting another wide receiver or position altogether. Anything more than a third-round grade would be a waste of a pick for Boutte in my opinion. He may prove people wrong, avoid injury, and thrive at the next level, but that is not a risk I believe the Bills should take. 

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