In just about a week, Tajh Boyd will be waiting on a phone call – watching the NFL draft on his channel of choice.
By now, the story’s well known – he was a projected first-round lock before last season who’s stock has dropped dramatically depending on who you talk to.
The general consensus is at least three quarterbacks will go in next Thursday’s first round. That leaves the Hampton, Va. product among a wide variety of signal-callers in the mix over the final two days and six rounds in NYC.
Earlier in April, Boyd had the opportunity to be one of nine players in ESPN analyst and former NFL coach Jon Gruden’s ‘QB Camp.’ The positive publicity is certainly welcome, and per P&C Clemson writer Aaron Brenner – just four of the 29 quarterbacks who’ve appeared on the segment have not been drafted in the first four rounds.
Gruden’s blunt analysis is the draw for the air time, but he likes several aspects of Boyd’s make-up.
During the segment that aired mid-April, the former Tampa Bay Bucs and Oakland Raiders boss did a breakdown on Boyd’s Clemson accomplishments and asked the young QB why he was even tweaking his throwing motion with a private coach.
“Look, I’m a quarterback evaluator,” Gruden said, staring down Boyd from across the table. “There’s guys who will criticize you and me. There’s people that criticize everything. The reality is this, you’re only 6-feet-tall. Did you go back to Clemson to grow? No, but you need to grow mentally.
“You got to keep growing above the neck and gain knowledge so you can apply it. Not a lot stand in the pocket – stand on the one-yard line with someone beating down my face and throw a 99-yard touchdown pass. Hard to find guys who can do this. There’s a lot of potential (with Boyd) to work with.”
At one point, Gruden asked Boyd why he didn’t maximize on some positive reviews after the 2012 Tigers’ season.
“When you leave, you want to make sure you don’t have any questions about anything,” Boyd answered. “I told myself I wanted to be the best quarterback out of this class. Ultimately I feel like I am most definitely.
“Does it appear that way to some others? Probably not. But it doesn’t really matter what they think at the end of the day. I feel like I got everything I wanted (out of the senior year).”
ESPN backed up Gruden’s analysis with stats on both Boyd’s ability on deep throws and on the run. He led the nation in completion percentage (54.7) and yards per attempt (20.8) of throws of 20 or more yards – tied for second in touchdown passes (16).
Outside of the pocket, Boyd completed 55 percent of his attempts – up eight percent from 2012.
Other evaluators aren’t as impressed, as CBS has him at the No. 16 QB and in danger of going undrafted.
Gruden says a “live arm” and intangibles are enough to move him up, counting on more game-to-game consistency at the next level.
“The show that we did on him that is relative to his performance is it’s all about peaks and valleys,” Gruden said on a teleconference this week. “He’s had tremendous peaks at Clemson in this no-huddle spread offense. He’s had some great individual performances.
“He’s had some valleys I think – the three South Carolina losses. The struggle against Florida State. I think people are studying those games against high-level competition and wondering why he struggled in some of those outings. He just has to become more consistent.
“When he did go to the Senior Bowl I did think there was a struggle initially to be an under-the-center quarterback, but I think I really like Tajh.”
Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas had similar struggles at the Senior Bowl, but CBS has him as the No. 10 QB. Gruden’s not sure he’ll even stick at quarterback in the NFL.
“It was clear he wasn’t consistent and when you’re not consistent at the quarterback position you’re going to be downgraded,” said Gruden. “That’s why Logan Thomas is where he is on the draft boards. When you stand around and look at him he has the size to play a number of positions. Somebody with a creative offensive mind is going to get him and get the best out of him.”
Gruden is confident Boyd can stay out of the late rounds and have a chance to flourish.
“I think he’ll be a mid-round selection and develop in a system and has a chance to be a really good player if they can get some continuity around him.”