When I released my top 20 players for the 2014 NFL draft, I took a considerable amount of criticism for having Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd as my top prospect. But, I’ve done this sort of thing for more than a decade and I’m fine with criticism. I simply go on what I see, what I project, and compare a prospect to the rest of the class.
There were lots of pundits who are questioning my choice now who had Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas as their top player this time last year. How’s that working out for you?
When I look at Boyd going into this season, there are some objective comparisons I want to make. I went back over my notes on former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith from 2011 and compared them to my notes on Boyd, and they are very similar. Because of that, I am comfortable projecting a big jump for Boyd this year.
If it doesn’t happen, I’ll adjust my rankings as the season goes on, but for now, here’s what I see in Boyd.
He is dynamic player. Whether it’s with his arm, which is very strong, or his legs, Boyd has multiple ways to attack an opposing defense. I love the zip he puts on his short and intermediate throws. His size isn’t ideal (around an inch and a half shorter than Smith and slightly heavier), but at this point in the league, can we really criticize a quarterback for not being 6-foot-4 anymore?
The NFL is all about creating lanes and windows to throw in, and so much of the passing offense is done on the boot and roll that Boyd should have plenty of clean air to work in.
Boyd is also an excellent on-field leader. By all accounts, he’s a humble young man who works hard to improve his game and inspires confidence in his teammates. Boyd will be without some key pieces this year, so it will be very interesting to see how he handles the changes.
But let me break down some of the similarities between Boyd and Smith. The main problem with Boyd’s game is in his footwork. He doesn’t maintain proper foot placement, and it causes what is normally an compact and sound release to get sloppy, very much like Smith does. Boyd also has problems with consistency in games, going stretches where he sails the football and forces throws, a lot like Smith did in his poorer performances.
Both quarterbacks are excellent and under-utilized athletes, both have put up gaudy statistics with a talented cast of skill position players around them in very quarterback-friendly systems. And for those of you who scout the box scores, here are some numbers.
Player A: 4,385 yards passing, 65.8 percent completion percentage, 8.3 yards per attempt and 31 touchdowns to seven interceptions
Player B: 3,896 yards passing, 67.2 percent completion percentage, 9.1 yards per attempt and 36 touchdowns to 13 interceptions
I’d like everyone to take a guess which is Smith in 2011 and Boyd in 2012. If you didn’t look it up and you got it right that Player A was Smith and Player B was Boyd, you get a gold star. I see many similarities in their games well beyond the box score and if Boyd can make the kind of progress Smith did between 2011 and 2012, there’s no reason to believe he can’t be in the mix as the top quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft.