While the 2014 NFL draft will be defined by where the top quarterback prospects like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles go early in the process, there is plenty of talent available in the signal-caller department in the later rounds.
One of the more intriguing quarterbacks in the draft, given the combination of upside, production and question marks, is Clemson’s Tajh Boyd.
Boyd measured in at 6'1" and 222 pounds. His arm length is 30.75 inches, and his hands measured at 9.625 inches. He could be drafted anywhere from the second to the fifth or sixth round, so the NFL Scouting Combine was particularly important for his immediate future.
|Tajh Boyd at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine|
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||Hand Size|
|6'1"||222 lbs.||30 3/4”||9 5/8”|
|40-Yard Dash||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3 Cone Drill|
The first drill the former Tiger participated in was the 40-yard dash, and Orange and White filled us in on Boyd’s unofficial times:
Boyd's official 40 time was 4.84, which ranked seventh among quarterback prospects.
Boyd’s mark wasn’t spectacular, but it was certainly solid. There is little doubt that his running ability will be a major factor in the NFL if he is going to be a contributor one day.
It was critical for Boyd to post a passable time in the 40 because the majority of the questions about how his game translates to the next level come down to his ability to throw the ball accurately. He has to prove that athleticism is a strength, and this 40 time certainly helps.
Boyd also had the opportunity to throw short routes, although his wide receiver did drop one of his passes.
The NFL Network commentators remarked that Boyd appeared to have too much weight on his front foot instead of transferring it from the back foot forward. If the commentators noticed it, the scouts in attendance certainly did as well.
Boyd looked better on the deep passes than the shorter ones, which follows many of the scouting reports on the former Clemson star.
He never looked fully comfortable during the throwing drills, but he also didn’t do anything that would really hurt his draft status.
His ability to connect on the long ball should appeal to many NFL teams with the vertical passing game becoming so important in today’s game. If Boyd is drafted by a squad with speedy receivers, it isn’t difficult to imagine a quick-strike offense that scores a lot of points.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller agrees:
Of course, drawing too many conclusions from six or seven throws with receivers he is unfamiliar with is dangerous, but that is why we have the combine. Boyd handled himself well in limited opportunities throwing the ball and didn’t particularly do anything to really hurt or help his status.
For his part, though, Boyd wasn’t afraid to bring up some impressive names when asked why he participated in the throwing drills, per Aaron Brenner of the Charleston Post & Courier:
Boyd also didn't mince words when asked by ESPN's Josina Anderson about one of his fellow quarterbacks in this draft class:
Boyd then participated in the vertical jump drill and posted a 30.5" leap. Only five quarterbacks on the day jumped higher, including Logan Thomas, who led the way with a 35.5" mark.
Much like Boyd's 40-yard-dash time, his vertical jump was solid but not spectacular. It was further testament to his above-average athleticism, which is really what the majority of the non-throwing drills are about.
Boyd's broad jump tally was 106", which was far less impressive comparatively than his vertical leap. Boyd ranked among the bottom six quarterbacks in the drill on the day.
It certainly takes away from his vertical jump a bit, although Boyd's most important combine drill was probably the 40-yard dash because of his propensity to escape the pocket with his legs.
Ultimately, Boyd’s status as a draft candidate will come down to how front offices and scouts feel he projects to the next level. That being said, it’s hard to ignore his college production at Clemson.
Boyd led the Tigers to an Orange Bowl victory this past season, became the first quarterback in ACC history to record 30 or more touchdown passes in three separate years, set a conference record with 107 career touchdown passes and was awarded with the 2012 ACC Player of the Year.
His strengths include impressive arm strength, which translates to quick throws and the ability to hit receivers in stride on deep balls. He is also comfortable standing in the pocket and taking a hit, but his combination of size and elusiveness allows him to escape potential tacklers with relative ease.
His overall accuracy and decision-making need improvement, and the fact that he took the majority of his snaps from the shotgun may alarm some of the NFL teams that predominantly run traditional offenses under center.
The only other real concern given his tendency to tuck the ball down and run is his durability. With the type of defenders he will be facing at the next level, Boyd will want to minimize the number of hits he takes on a weekly basis if he wants to be a productive player for years to come.
With all that in mind, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun Times points out what NFL analyst Mike Mayock thinks about Boyd’s draft prospects:
Another NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah talked about what Boyd needs to work on and some possible strengths in comments that were passed along by Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:
One thing that I struggle with is when he needs to shuffle, reset his feet, when he gets pushed off his mark, decision making and accuracy takes a tumble…I kind of thought as a runner he was a big asset down on the goal line because he is a power runner. He's like a mini Steve McNair out there. From yards out, he's tough to get down on the ground. There's a lot of elements of his game to like.
Looking ahead, it’s easy to point to someone like Russell Wilson as a prototype for Boyd as a productive college quarterback who wasn’t afraid to run or throw on the run, but use caution when doing so. The Super Bowl champion Wilson is more the exception than the rule.
That being said, if Boyd can develop some more consistency throwing the ball on intermediate routes to match his athleticism and ability to hit receivers on deep passes, he can become a productive NFL quarterback.
The only question now is where he will be drafted.
Note: Combine results courtesy of NFL.com/combine and will be fully updated when posted.