Over the course of 12 months, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd watched his draft stock plummet like a meteor toward earth. He went from a potential top-15 draft pick had he entered the draft after the 2012 season, to what one scout called "not draftable" at the 2014 Senior Bowl.
Unlike that fireball of a meteor that eventually will crash into the ground, Boyd put on a display at Clemson’s pro day Thursday and refuses to believe he’s anything but NFL ready.
"One of the coaches asked me [at the NFL combine], 'Coming into the season you were a top 10 or top 15 pick, how does it feel when people try to throw you under the bus? How do you respond?' You just have to know how to respond,” said Boyd. “I don't regret my decision at all.
“Maybe my stock was a little bit higher this time last year, but I wasn't mature enough to come out."
Boyd finished his Clemson career with 11,904 passing yards and 107 touchdown passes in his 40 college starts. He also added 1,165 rushing yards and 26 scores on the ground. His combined 133 touchdowns is an Atlantic Coast Conference record, as are his 107 touchdown passes. Boyd also ranks first, or is tied for first, in the Clemson record book in 18 categories.
Boyd’s college success is storied, but now the 6’1” quarterback with a 225-pound frame has to start working his way back up the draft board.
At the Senior Bowl, Boyd was 7-of-16 passing with an interception and ran for eight yards on two carries. He wasn’t sharp during the week of practice leading up to the game either.
At the combine, Boyd didn’t hurt his draft stock but didn’t wow anyone either. His 4.84-second 40-yard dash ranked seventh among quarterbacks, and his throwing was solid—particularly on deep routes—but never spectacular.
At Clemson’s pro day, though, Boyd showed he had the ability to bounce back and earn a spot on an NFL roster. He was crisp with his throws and connected on 67 of 68 passes to moving targets.
"I just wanted to come out here and answer every question,” said Boyd. “I'm proud of the way I throw the football. I feel I can make any throw on the field, and I wanted to come out here and showcase that."
Boyd was 32-of-33 on passes of eight yards or more and 12-of-13 on passes of 15 yards or longer. His lone incompletion was a go route thrown to Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who told The Post and Courier the drop was his fault:
Misjudged it. I was staring at it the whole time, reached my hand out and it just went straight through my hands. One dropped pass out of a lot.
Boyd was a total of 47-for-48 in between the 20s and then moved to the red zone, where he set up the line of scrimmage at the 5-yard line. He was 19-of-19 in the red zone on routes that included fades to the back corner, cut routes and in routes, to name a few. Boyd even rolled out from the 5-yard line and connected on two passes as well.
Everything about Thursday’s throwing session was choreographed by Boyd’s quarterback coach, with input from Boyd himself. The package of routes and even the receivers—Boyd threw to long-time teammates that included receivers Bryant and Sammy Watkins, as well as running back Roderick McDowell and tight end Brandon Ford. Aspects as minute as which side of the field each receiver was more comfortable on was carefully planned.
The group spent Monday and Tuesday going over the script and even walked through on Wednesday, before unveiling it at pro day.
St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he liked what he saw. Ledbetter also spoke with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock about the session and Boyd’s draft status. Mayock considers Boyd a fifth-round pick.
He’s got arm talent and you’re either born with it or you’re not. Tajh Boyd has some arm talent. He’s athletic. The ball came out beautifully today. I thought he really threw it well. But I knew that.
Boyd may have to put to bed questions about his accuracy on Thursday; his passes were always on target, even when he threw from a three- and five-step drop, something Boyd didn’t do so much at Clemson in the Tigers’ spread offense. But Boyd was quick to point out he did a lot work in high school from a pro-style offense.
Now Boyd has to sit and wait for NFL teams to contact him about private workouts. He said he has none scheduled yet, but throughout his experience at the Senior Bowl, combine and his pro day, he’s met with “every team two to three times.”
"I honestly think I answered most of the questions [NFL teams have asked]," Boyd said of his pro-day workout. "[The interviews are] all about intelligence, I believe I showed them that. One of the concerns was my footwork; can I be accurate on my throws? I felt like I did that today."
If Mayock is right in his assessment that Boyd will be a fifth-round pick, that would likely mean he’ll be the ninth or 10th quarterback taken in the draft. That’s nowhere close to the first-round spot he would have occupied had he entered the draft last season, but it’s a lot higher than the seventh round or not getting drafted at all, which is what was being predicted after the Senior Bowl.
Boyd has NFL potential and could actually flourish in the right situation and system. After his impressive pro-day showing, there’s as much confidence about his NFL upside as there are questions about his shortcomings.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand at Clemson’s pro day in Clemson S.C. on March 6, 2014.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of 100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die. Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.