If you've ever wondered what the phrase "draft stock" really means, or how it might be applied to a particular player, look no further than former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
He's a good example of a player who was perceived to have a certain amount of "stock" coming into the 2013 college football season.
There was buzz surrounding Boyd.
He was a hot name coming off a huge performance against LSU to finish out the 2012 season. But that's not to say there weren't questions about him.
Now, nobody was necessarily calling Boyd a polished player this time last year, but people 12 months ago would be surprised to learn where he's projected by most as we sit here today.
The rise and fall of Boyd's draft stock has been a fascinating tale of box-score scouting, big games and the sudden truth.
One of the phrases you'll often hear leading up to the draft is "box-score scouting." Basically, it's simply looking at stats to make a judgement on a player.
This is the antithesis of scouting, which is more about skill sets, traits and abilities. Scouts look for physical abilities and characteristics that translate to the NFL level.
That has nothing to do with stats put up against non-NFL players in different offensive schemes than guys will be playing in once they get to the NFL—let alone comparing prospects coming from different schemes based on those same stats.
Boyd will be a popular name among those who lean toward stats being their determinant on any given player.
|Tajh Boyd's Career Numbers at Clemson|
|Year||COM||ATT||PER||YDS||TDs||INTs||Rush YDS||Rush TDs|
Boyd had the kind of production in college that makes you take notice of what he was able to accomplish at Clemson, but that doesn't mean anything in terms of projecting what he can do in the NFL.
Here's a bit from Boyd's profile at ClemsonTigers.com, which shows where he ranks in school history in certain categories (not all are listed):
First in school history in passing touchdowns, first in passing efficiency, first in touchdown responsibility, first in passing yards, first in completions, first in passing attempts, first in completion percentage, first in total offense yards, first in total offense plays (1,907), first in 300-yard passing games (18), first in consecutive starts at quarterback (40), first in snaps by a quarterback (2,963), first in top-25 wins by a starting quarterback (8), tied for first in wins by a starting quarterback (32)
Not to mention Boyd is the ACC's all-time leader in touchdown passes (107) and total touchdowns (133).
From a stat perspective, Boyd has an impressive resume.
The Peak of Boyd's Stock
At the end of the 2012 season, Boyd had what could arguably be called the best game of his storied college career.
Matched up against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Boyd and the Clemson offense faced Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Tharold Simon, Lavar Edwards, Eric Reid, Kevin Minter and Bennie Logan, among others on the dominant LSU defense.
Clemson won the game 25-24 on a last-second field goal, and Boyd finished the game throwing 36-of-50 for 346 yards with three total touchdowns (one rushing).
LSU coach Les Miles sung Boyd's praises after the game, per the Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated): "Tajh Boyd was phenomenal, ... I did not expect the heroic, if you will, efforts that he had."
That was the high point for Boyd.
The buzz followed him and was a catalyst for the talks about him potentially being a first-round pick before the 2013 season began.
As a quarterback, Boyd is still much more potential than actuality. The assumption heading into his senior season is that he's going to be more refined in the pocket. If he does that, the first round is a possibility. If Jake Locker could be taken in the top 10, Boyd can be a first-round pick. But to do that, he'll have to start relying more on his eyes and arm than his legs.
The question then becomes whether or not Boyd was able to make that next step as a quarterback and develop more as a "pocket passer" during the 2013 season.
The Scouting Report
* Inconsistent ball placement, receivers often have to adjust or reach to catch passes.
* Does not throw with anticipation before receivers are breaking out their routes against zone coverages.
* Do not see him scanning defenses and going through a multiple receiver progression.
* Uncertain whether he could win games from the pocket.
To dive into a little bit of what Harris is detailing about Boyd, these aren't minor issues.
First of all, ball placement is a top detail needed for any quarterback looking to play in the NFL.
The windows to complete passes are much smaller in the pro game, and if a quarterback doesn't have the ability to consistently throw it exactly where it's needed, the passes won't be completed. The receiver won't even get an opportunity to make a play before the defender simply bats it down, or worse, picks it off.
If Boyd can't consistently throw the ball exactly where it's needed for a receiver to make a play but rather just gets it "in the general area," Boyd won't consistently be leading any offense in the NFL.
The last two bullet points are also very crucial when discussing Boyd's potential in the NFL.
The offense Boyd ran at Clemson didn't often ask him to sit back in the pocket and make multiple reads in a progression. As Kadar had noted before the season, Boyd had a tendency to just tuck it and run any time he either felt pressure or felt like he had been in the pocket too long.
Oftentimes it was simply after his first read.
But just because Boyd wasn't asked to do it and it's not how his offense was necessarily set up in college doesn't mean he can't do it.
NFL teams know this as well.
The Senior Bowl
One of the biggest "plummets" for Boyd's draft stock may have come during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala—at least in terms of the media perception of where he's going to be drafted, which is the basis of draft stock as a "thing" anyway.
Boyd did not help himself during Senior Bowl practices.
He was consistently missing on throws during the week, which can be expected, considering quarterbacks are throwing to receivers they have never worked with before.
But after a week of practices, the game didn't look better for Boyd, either.
He finished the game 7-of-16 for 31 yards and threw an interception.
ESPN's Mel Kiper recently said of Boyd (subscription required), via Aaron Brenner of South Carolina's The Post and Courier: "A Day 3 quarterback who certainly will play in the NFL, as a backup hopefully for a lot of years. As a starter? Debatable."
CBS Sports currently has Boyd as its No. 10 quarterback.
|CBS Sports' Top 10 QB's in 2014 Draft|
|QB Rank||Player||Overall rank||School|
|2||Blake Bortles||5||Central Florida|
|3||Johnny Manziel||7||Texas A&M|
|4||Derek Carr||29||Fresno State|
|5||Jimmy Garoppolo||57||Eastern Illinois|
|6||Zach Mettenberger||104||Louisiana State|
|9||David Fales||153||San Jose State|
Coming into the year as a possible first-round pick then moving to the sudden truth of falling all the way down to the 10th-best quarterback in this draft? That's a player's draft stock rising and falling.
But maybe "draft stock" really is all a media creation, and Boyd was never truly a first-round pick—or maybe he still goes higher than people are projecting him now.
Either way, Boyd has been a fascinating player to watch go through this process.
He has great overall stats and has played in big games everyone will remember, but when looking at specific, translatable skills, the NFL needs Boyd to be a player it hasn't seen yet.
It's the development we didn't see this year that affected Boyd's stock the most.
He'll still get an opportunity somewhere, but it'll be as a developmental project, which normally doesn't happen until after the first three or four rounds.