CLEMSON, S.C. – Suggesting Tajh Boyd’s Senior Bowl experience could have gone better is a huge understatement.
Clemson’s record-setting quarterback began 2013 as a Heisman candidate and a strong favorite to repeat as the ACC Player of the Year. Several mock drafts projected him as a first-round pick, pegging him to take the same path that another mobile ACC quarterback (Florida State’s E.J. Manuel) took in the 2013 draft.
But as the season wrapped up, Boyd’s stock depressed. He struggled in high-profile losses to Florida State and South Carolina, making game-changing turnovers in both defeats. No mock drafts of note projected him as a first-rounder, instead pegging him as a second-day selection.
The Senior Bowl, where senior prospects are evaluated and coached by NFL personnel, was a chance for Boyd to prove those doubters wrong and to recharge his stock.
It didn’t happen that way.
The Tigers star struggled with accuracy in Mobile, Ala., both during the week and in the game itself, according to CBSSports.com's Rob Rang.
After one practice, DraftInsider.net analyst Tony Pauline said a Green Bay Packers scout told him that Boyd was “not draftable.”
Boyd started the Senior Bowl for the North team but didn’t perform well, completing seven of 16 passes for 31 yards and an interception. North coaches said that Boyd and fellow ACC quarterbacks Stephen Morris of Miami and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas would get a quarter apiece, with the best quarterback playing the fourth quarter.
Boyd didn’t play again after the first quarter.
WalterFootball.com projects Boyd as a third-round selection, 67th overall, to the Oakland Raiders. That is a harsh fall from preseason projections, and Boyd has work to do to solidify that spot.
Luckily for him, the Senior Bowl is far from the last event on the NFL draft calendar.
By the time the NFL draft rolls around on May 8, Boyd will have had several key opportunities to rejuvenate his stock for an optimal draft outcome.
Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
NFL Scouting Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place in Indianapolis from Feb. 19-25, is billed as “the ultimate job interview.”
Representatives from every NFL team invade downtown Indianapolis for a week of examination both on and off the field.
Players are measured, weighed, given a battery of medical tests and given an opportunity to showcase their skills in a variety of position-specific drills.
Just as important? The team interviews, where players meet with coaches, general managers and decision-makers and given a barrage of questions that measure everything from on-field acuity to psychological and behavioral characteristics.
Either segment can make or break a player’s chances in the NFL: Teams have been known to remove players from their draft board with one wrong answer in an interview session.
That said, the interviews are a perfect opportunity for Boyd to showcase his personality. He is among the most affable, friendly, media-ready players I have come across in my sports journalism career.
He was the only player in recent Clemson history to hold a separate press conference at a podium every Tuesday during the regular season and was perfectly comfortable doing so.
|Clemson quarterbacks drafted into pro football|
|Bobby Gage||1949||Pittsburgh Steelers||First|
|Harvey White||1960||Boston Patriots (AFL)||Second|
|Lowndes Shingler||1960||Dallas Cowboys||Twelfth|
|Steve Fuller||1979||Kansas City Chiefs||First|
|Charlie Whitehurst||2006||San Diego Chargers||Third|
|Clemson sports information|
He’ll be prepared for whatever NFL teams throw at him.
However, Boyd must perform better in individual drills. Every quarterback of note will be participating, unlike the Senior Bowl, which was limited to seniors, thus excluding juniors like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Texas A&M sophomore Johnny Manziel.
Over the next three weeks, Boyd must work to alleviate concerns about his accuracy. With a stronger performance in Indianapolis, he can put the Senior Bowl struggles behind.
Clemson Pro Day
Like most programs, Clemson has a designated day where scouts and NFL personnel come to campus and evaluate the program’s prospects in a one-day event. For Clemson, that day is March 6.
Boyd and other Clemson draft-eligible players who may or may not have been invited to the Combine will have another chance to show their wares before their potential future employers.
Players are again measured, weighed and put through position-specific drills where they can show their skills. It is yet another opportunity to impress skeptical teams, this time in a familiar setting.
Boyd will likely be working with familiar targets like draft-eligible juniors Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. If he displays the chemistry with them that he did this fall, it could give his stock a boost.
NFL team visits
Every team invites potential draftees in for individual visits, giving them a chance to get to know their potential draft picks even better (as if they haven’t already been investigating them).
This will be another chance for the personable Boyd to shine. He fares well in one-on-one situations and never seems to meet a stranger. Assuming he does well at the Combine and at Clemson’s Pro Day, he could seal the deal for a high selection with one of these visits.
Boyd will have plenty of opportunities to change his draft luck. Whether he takes advantage of them is up to him.
Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace