Timing is everything.
Had Tajh Boyd left Clemson after his junior season in 2012, when his stock was through the roof after being named ACC Player of the Year, one of the Tigers’ most prolific quarterbacks ever might already be on an NFL roster and competing for playing time.
Boyd, who as late as November was projected to be a first-round draft pick in 2014, has instead watched his stock plummet over the past two months and is projected now to be a mid-to-late-round selection.
His situation is not rare; it’s a familiar tale in a league that analyses and overanalyzes everything former collegians do.
When Boyd was at Clemson, nobody really talked about his unconventional delivery or scrutinized his accuracy or told him he might be too short at just under 6-foot-1 to play at the next level.
All of those things and more have come into question since the Senior Bowl, which was played last Saturday.
Boyd didn’t perform well in an NFL system against other pro hopefuls during the week of practice and the game itself. After completing seven of his 16 passes for 31 yards while throwing one interception and no touchdowns, he was hardly alone among the struggling signal callers who underwhelmed, but draft analyst Tony Pauline said an unnamed Green Bay Packer scout told him last week that “based on what I’m seeing, Tajh Boyd is not draftable.”
Fair or not, it’s a tag that’s going to stick with Boyd until the early May draft.
I’m not saying every scout or NFL executive feels that way; it only takes one franchise to believe in a player. And Boyd will get a chance to prove otherwise at the NFL combine in February.
But he’s not the only QB with ties to the Palmetto State looking to make a statement when the league invites a host of hopefuls looking for a job this fall to workout in Indianapolis.
Connor Shaw, the winningest QB in the history of South Carolina football, is facing some of the same challenges as Boyd but is actually trending the other way.
Shaw played in the NFLPA Bowl a week earlier and impressed draft pundits. Some said he was the best QB at the event. He threw for 70 yards on 5-of-6 passing with one interception. That’s the same number of picks he threw during the 2013 regular season.
Unlike Boyd, Shaw’s never carried the same expectations and accolades. He was never an all-conference performer or Heisman Trophy candidate. However, similar to Boyd, Shaw’s dual-threat capabilities are a positive. He’s been labeled a runner who passes. There’s not a lot of job opportunities in a league based around the forward pass if a QB can’t get the ball down the field; accuracy on deep throws is one of the biggest knocks on Shaw.
He’s also the same height as Boyd and has been compared to successful Seattle Seahawk QB Russell Wilson. A big performance in the Super Bowl on Sunday for Wilson could help Shaw’s argument for the need for speed at the signal-caller position.
But even he knows there’s a chance he doesn’t hear his name called in New York, and he could be forced to go the free-agent route.
If there’s one area both Boyd and Shaw will help themselves in the coming months, it’s interviewing. Boyd is charismatic, outgoing and quite likable. Just like in any profession, those traits appeal to employers.
Shaw will come across as confident, intelligent and focused to executives. He might seem fit to join a military outfit, and that’s something that could cross over well to the NFL.
Both guys are undisputable leaders. That certainly means a lot in a league where the QB spot receives the most attention on the field and in the media.