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2014 NFL Draft: The Curious Case of Tajh Boyd

2014 NFL Draft: The Curious Case of Tajh Boyd
By Derrik Klassen on December 22, 2013

Tajh Boyd has been slipping down draft boards across the nation, but why? The common narrative is that he has dramatically regressed as a quarterback and simply is not as talented as he was last year. In reality, that is not the case. There has not been major regression. Minor regressions are evident, but nothing that would have given the media enough reason to criticize him so harshly. Oddly enough, it was the media that made Tajh Boyd appear like a top tier quarterback in the first place.                         

After last year’s Clemson vs LSU game, the media gushed over Tajh Boyd and touted him as possibly the best quarterback in the country. Throughout the 2012 season, such hype was not as dramatic. Coming into the year, he still carried that praise around him and was still seen as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. The thing is, he never was and never has been one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Boyd, while still talented to some degree, was never the player he was perceived to be. His drop of “stock” is due to his flaws being exposed over an extended period of time, not because he has dramatically gotten worse. Now, what factors led to him being perceived as a “less talented player?"

To a certain extent, he has regressed, but not as much as it is being said that he has. His accuracy is not any worse, nor is his mobility. The one area in which he seems to have taken a step back in is keeping his eyes downfield. Last season, Boyd always had his eyes focused downfield when navigating in and around the pocket. This season, he has not done so as often. He will drop his eyes and focus only on evading the rushers. When he raises his head from this, he has no clue where his receivers are and simply chucks it. In that regards, he has regressed. In other areas? Boyd is still the same man that he was last year.

Boyd has always had issues starting down receivers and not reverting from his first read. Last year, and still sometimes this year, he could often get away with doing so because he had Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins to throw to. Hopkins was a first round pick in 2013 and Watkins will be a first round pick in 2014. The two made up the best receiving tandem in the nation last year. Those two receivers, especially Hopkins, also made Boyd’s deep passes appear better than they are. More often than not, they float through the air instead of being thrown on a rope. Hopkins was a lethal downfield threat and knew how to track the ball well and attack the ball when it was in the air. He bailed out Tajh Boyd on a number of throws last year and his absence this year has been evident.

The offense around Boyd is structured to restrict him from having to make decisions on his own on every play because he simply can not do so. Chad Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator, utilizes a heavy dosage of screens in order to get quick, easy yards without risking Boyd throwing downfield.

As far fetched as it may sound, Jameis Winston has played a role in Boyd’s downfall. In 2012, Boyd was praised as the best quarterback in the ACC, even over EJ Manuel of Florida State, who was a first round pick, and Stephen Morris of Miami. Now, Jameis Winston has stolen the show and clearly proved that he is the superior quarterback in the conference. Winston’s ACC dominance has shifted the spotlight away from Boyd and has made Boyd seem inferior. A case could be made that Boyd is only the fifth best quarterback in the ACC behind Winston, Morris, Logan Thomas, and even Tom Savage. Last year, such a case could not be made because Winston was redshirting, Savage was at Rutgers, and Thomas had an abysmal 2012 season. The emergence of these other ACC quarterbacks, primarily Winston, has hurt Tajh Boyd.

Boyd has not “dramatically regressed”, he has simply been exposed. He is not much different of a player than he was the previous season, despite the common narrative that he is. Boyd has the arm talent to be a great quarterback, but it is the mental aspects that are being exposed that  hinder him from being great. If Boyd can fix such issues, he will be taken much more seriously.  

Derrik Klassen

Derrik "The Prodigy" Klassen

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