BBD Staff Writer: Evan Sidery
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is the consensus top quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft class, but two names could vault themselves into the same discussion as Bridgewater with great seasons. Those two are Tajh Boyd of Clemson and David Fales of San Jose State. Both are contenders for the top spot with their own key qualities that make them successful.
We’ll take a look at Boyd on page 1, then look at Fales and compare the two on page 2.
Boyd is coming off a spectacular junior season in offensive coordinator, Chad Morris’ offense. Boyd threw for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions. Additionally, he finished with 514 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 186 carries. Simply put, this Clemson quarterback can become a true dual-threat quarterback when needed to be.
Listed at 6’1″, Boyd is teetering on the edge of being “too small” to play quarterback as some draft experts have said. I do not really believe in that myth at all. If a quarterback can display the total package, he can play.
Boyd has the size of Russell Wilson, but the true build of a mini Cam Newton (listed at 225). Boyd’s level of athleticism is one of the best for any quarterback in the upcoming 2014 class. He runs a lot of read-options in Clemson’s offense, resulting in solid chunks of yardage when he keeps it for himself. At times, Boyd was used in a Newton-like role on short yardage situations. He will not blow by defenders for touchdowns while on the run, but he can easily get the first down.
An example of Boyd’s athleticism is shown well below as he is used in a Cam Newton-like Auburn play on 4th and 1.
Plays like these are what Boyd can give you as another dimension to his game on the next level. The Newton comparisons in his running ability are well proven with plays like these. His strength as a runner is very underrated.
Boyd has above-average arm strength compared to the other quarterbacks in this class. He can throw the ball 40-50 yards down field with ease, but often sails it too much by throwing the ball too hard. This happens a lot on intermediate routes when Boyd tries to hit his wideouts on the run. If he calms down a little bit and eases off, he could be better off with his arm.
From where Boyd threw this ball (own 45 yard line), he threw it 55 yards in the air right into DeAndre Hopkins’ hands. Unfortunately, Hopkins dropped the touchdown here. This shows Boyd’s big arm strength and also a nice touch on this pass. This is a play scouts and draft analysts like to call dropping it into the bucket (throwing the ball right on target, deep pass).
This is the biggest weakness by far in Boyd’s game. As mentioned above, he tends to sail a lot of balls when trying to throw a cannon-like ball 40-50 yards down the field. Also, he makes his receivers adjust to the ball too much, not throwing it on target.
Boyd misses a ton of throws, which concerns me and others when watching tape on him. If he is pressured, specifically through the A-gap or off the edge, he tends not to look downfield and runs for yardage. His throws in the 10-15 yard range are great, but after that it gets a little shaky. Boyd is not “bad” at throwing the football, but is in the middle of the pack for most accurate quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class.
Look below at the following three accuracy screenshots. Some are good and some are terrible choices by Boyd.
On this play, Boyd makes a bad choice by throwing into tight coverage and also sailing the ball. Both of these things led to an easy interception for the North Carolina State defender, as he returned it to Clemson’s five yard line.
This play helped Clemson upset LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. On 4th and 18, Boyd threw a ball into a spot only DeAndre Hopkins could get it. He threw it far and also low enough so none of the LSU defenders could intercept it.
On this play, Boyd has two receivers open on the right side of the screen. He ignores both reads due to pressure off the edge by Barkevious Mingo. If he would have stepped up into the pocket, he could have thrown it down the middle of the field for a big gain. Boyd made up for his mistake though by running for a first down. Mistakes like these though are what Boyd will have to work on this upcoming season.
Boyd tends to demonstrate bad mechanics when he is throwing the football. When he is pressured up the middle or the edges, he either throws off his back foot or jumps. You never see Boyd truly step into his throws. He never seems to set his feet and release the football correctly on a consistent basis. If he can improve his mechanics, he could contend with Bridgewater for the top spot mid-season.
Here is a look at Boyd’s mechanics in a screenshot below.
His feet are a little unbalanced and it is also an unorthodox stance. Both of those can be corrected with coaching. It will be interesting to see how an NFL coach works with his mechanics.
He was a team captain for Clemson last season and willed the Tigers to a win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last season. I was in the stadium, where Boyd showed great poise and being a true leader on the playing field. He was vocal to teammates on the field and sidelines when somebody made a mistake. Also after the game, Boyd was a true treat to the media. He answered every question well and detailed. Boyd even took a picture with kids and media after the interviews were over. Boyd looks the part of a true leader in the huddle once he hits the NFL.
When a quarterback carries the football almost 200 times, he is tough. In the pocket, he can be good against pressure with his build. Boyd can shed defenders off him, or simply outrun them with his speed. During his high school career, Boyd played his senior year with a torn ACL. That truly fits into the category of being tough.
Boyd is an unpolished prospect at this point, but is steadily improving every year. He took a massive jump from his sophomore to junior year, but still has inconsistencies that need to be fixed before he hits the NFL.
Boyd needs to continue to develop his accuracy and mechanics more. Boyd will be thick in the Heisman discussion throughout next season, as Clemson will be hyped up as a top-10 team with himself and Sammy Watkins. He should put up the statistics that will pass the eye test, but can he truly develop into a Newton or Wilson on the next level? This will be dissected throughout the season.