For the second consecutive NFL draft, the New York Jets have selected a former big-name college quarterback. No, the Jets did not pull the trigger on Johnny Manziel at No. 18 overall, a decision that would have sent ripples running through Florham Park in a publicity stunt more infamous than the Tim Tebow trade.
General manager John Idzik stood his ground, opting to address several key positional needs ahead of the team's decision to draft former Clemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd with the 213th pick. The Jets simply couldn't ignore their inherent Clemson connection for the entirety of the draft. Boyd had been slotted as a potential Jets' selection in several mock drafts, an occurrence that transpired into real life last Saturday.
For the Jets, Boyd is expected to compete for the third-string position with 2013 preseason sensation Matt Simms. Veteran free agent acquisition Michael Vick will inevitably give second-year quarterback Geno Smith all he can handle in training camp for the starting job. Boyd doesn't figure to suddenly emerge as a candidate to start, but it would be surprising for him not to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
At 6'1'' and 222 pounds, Boyd is noticeably undersized to man the quarterback position in the NFL. However, recent history indicates that stature doesn't dictate the capabilities of signal-callers at the pro level, despite what scouts promote as ideal. Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson is evidence of that. The same could be said for New Orleans Saints' prolific passer Drew Brees.
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Boyd cannot be dismissed merely because of his size. He excelled as a dual-threat QB in four seasons at the collegiate level, improving on a season-to-season basis. His ability to build on previous successes each season is significant because it proves he's capable of sustaining steady development over time. Boyd completed 68.5 percent of his pass attempts in his senior season, connecting with receivers on 283 of 413 throws. He racked up 34 touchdown passes in 2013, registering 107 total passing TDs (ACC record) during his college career.
A sizable number of scouts and critics claim Boyd's success at the college level was a product of Clemson's dynamic spread offense. It also helped to have a throwing target like Sammy Watkins spread out wide. Boyd was a clear-cut Heisman Trophy candidate at the beginning of the college season in 2013, but fell out of the spotlight after a 51-14 blowout loss against the eventual National Champion-Florida State Seminoles. Before that game, Boyd seemingly could have been a potential first-round draft choice.
According to Rob Rang of CBSSports, Boyd flaunts excellent ball placement and typically hits receivers in stride, enabling big plays downfield. He showcases good footwork in the pocket and makes strong steps with his lead foot toward his throwing targets. His elusiveness as a mobile quarterback is advantageous when under pressure. Boyd recorded 25 rushing touchdowns in three seasons as a starter at Clemson.
Boyd earned significant praise from ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden on Gruden's QB Camp during the pre-draft process. The Super Bowl winning head coach noted Boyd's ability to make quick decisions in the pocket and deliver strong throws on the mark in his segment with the sixth-round draft pick. Gruden also referenced Boyd's outstanding ability to throw across his body with pinpoint accuracy, saying, "That's special."
Rang compares Boyd's slick-throwing style to future first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee Brett Favre, and states that he's a creative passer who exhibits great poise both inside and out of the pocket. Rang also compares Boyd to Russell Wilson in that he showcases similar athletic traits. Boyd's compact build allows him to absorb hits and remain on his feet. He's a tough football player who indeed has potential to develop into something special.
Will Jets' sixth-round draft pick Tajh Boyd develop into a starting QB in the NFL?
Boyd's skill set perfectly fits offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg's West Coast offense. Boyd drew some criticism for throwing a majority of his passes across the middle and to pass-catchers in the flats, similar to the type of criticism Smith endured before the 2013 draft. Boyd also took most of his passes out of the shotgun at Clemson, which won't happen at the pro level. A lot of the passing patterns he'll be asked to execute with the Jets will be somewhat similar to what he did at the college level, though.
Boyd's ability to make quick decisions and deliver accurate passes to receivers in stride ultimately makes him a solid fit for the Jets. It's distinctly unlikely for him to earn playing time in 2014, but his athletic ability is going to be difficult to ignore. It's also probable that Boyd didn't expect to remain on the board on the third day of the draft, especially considering his confidence. Boyd is a natural leader and the type of player that can ascend despite being a late-round draft pick. The Jets may have found a steal in taking Boyd with the 213th pick.