After taking a month to review the 2013 NFL Draft, it is already time to look ahead to the 2014 class. In fairness, I will do my best to focus on senior prospects for the next few months and move to juniors/redshirt sophomores when the time is right. I am only taking pre-season evaluation notes for now, focusing on where prospects win and where improvements can be made. Therefore, treat these posts like rough drafts and not final opinions.
Clemson’s offense is incredibly fun to watch, but it isn’t the easiest scheme to extrapolate from in terms of a quarterback’s NFL projection. The team opened a handful of games with different scripted formations spanning the entire first drive. Boyd has experience from center, single back shotgun, two backs in shotgun, the pistol, and empty sets.
Numerous throws are of the one read variety, whether it be wide receiver screens or twins/trips slants to one side of the field. Also, plenty of play action is incorporated, including some read option or reverse/jet sweep fakes. Many times a free rusher is allowed to gain a numbers advantage, and Boyd certainly has the mobility to buy himself, and the offense, some time with his feet. Also, on quick throws, Boyd has the unique ability to change throwing planes or platforms, avoiding outstretched arms.
Pocket movement is hit or miss with Boyd. Compared to 2011, he took a huge step forward, showing the ability to dip his shoulder, step up in the pocket and avoid oncoming rushers. However, there are times when Boyd does a bit too much, getting antsy to escape laterally when the movement isn’t exactly necessary. Also, his willingness to move towards the line of scrimmage while keeping his eyes downfield is hit or miss. Boyd flashes this, even testing vertically, but other instances show a runner who prefers to tuck and run. I will admit that Boyd shows good awareness to understand when a lane between the tackles will open up with other defenders turning their heads and dropping in coverage, leaving wide open spaces to pick up yards.
Boyd was used as Clemson’s short yardage back, following lead blockers and cutting off of them. I would consider him a serviceable player in this role since he didn’t always work past the first defender. In fact, in the games I watched, Boyd’s longer runs came on scrambles rather than designed plays. I doubt he carries this full-time role into the NFL.
I really like how Boyd handles downfield throws. He seems very comfortable testing coverages vertically, between the numbers and on the edge. He certainly puts a lot of loft on these targets, but consistently leads the receiver in stride with good timing. There were times when Boyd appeared to “force” throws into tight single coverage, but I don’t mind these situations. From afar, I can only guess Boyd understood the talent surrounding him and believed they could win their individual matchups. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I appreciate his willingness to let it rip.
Although Boyd also shows promise on outside breaking routes, I do question his placement on a large number of throws. On underneath patterns, intermediate targets, or short attempts, Boyd shows room to grow. This could be for a variety of reasons. One, Boyd tends to drift on some of his throws rather than releasing from a firm base. That's not to say he doesn’t flash launching off his back foot, but Boyd doesn’t always play with balance. The Clemson quarterback also short arms a few targets to his right and has been known to throw behind crossing routes. It is certainly an area that needs to be monitored.
As odd as it sounds, checkdowns can be an issue for Boyd. When viewing an entire game, there aren’t a large number of plays called that ask for multiple reads or for the field to be surveyed. Boyd does go to his checkdown options, but I feel it is hastily done. Sometimes that target is well covered, but Boyd attempts the pass anyways. I did see some occurrences of Boyd throwing balls out of bounds on busted plays, however.
Where He Wins
The one word to describe Boyd is intriguing. Here’s why: pocket mobility, an ability to change his throwing platforms, and a willingness to test vertically with success. If he continues to progress at last year’s pace, Boyd can give offensive coordinators a chance to win the numbers advantage. He can play in an up tempo offense and use his feet and arm slots to take advantage of free pass rushers or pressure in general. Many will point to his height as an issue, but the way in which Boyd changes levels tends to negate that disadvantage.
Areas Of Improvement
Placement and poise. I like Boyd’s vertical placement and completions on outside breaking routes, but placement isn’t a consistent plus. I’m not sold on the Clemson quarterback throwing with anticipation, either. Luckily, another year of film will be available following the 2013 season.