2014 SENIOR BOWL
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (Mobile, Ala.)
TV: NFL Network
Who: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, OL Brandon Thomas suit up for North squad
CLEMSON - It's a bit fruitless to play the what-if game. There's no guarantees Tajh Boyd would have gone in the first five picks of the 2013 NFL draft, and it's far from certain he'll hear his named called among the first 100 players selected in the draft this spring.
Based on assorted prognostications, and a few reports coming out of Senior Bowl practice this week in Mobile, Ala., Boyd might have cost himself a high draft pick and therefore a richer rookie contract with his decision last year to play out his senior year as Clemson's starting quarterback.
"Maybe I did lose some money. Maybe I didn't," Boyd said last month. "At this level, as you go through life, one of the biggest things you don't want to deal with is regret. I don't want to wonder what could have happened. I didn't leave this university with unanswered questions. So in that regard, I think I made the perfect decision."
Boyd has never wavered from that optimistic approach, at least not yet.
The most scathing remarks on the 2012 ACC player of the year's pro prospects came courtesy of DraftInsider.net analyst Tony Pauline, who quoted an unnamed Packers scout Monday saying, "Based on what I'm seeing, Boyd is not draftable."
Three days later, Pauline was on a Columbia sports radio show and emphatically picked apart Boyd's throwing mechanics during Senior Bowl practices.
"It was bad. It really wasn't good. Clemson fans especially are overrating Tajh Boyd," Pauline told hosts Jonathan Reynolds and William Gunter on Thursday. "Because he was a very productive college quarterback doesn't mean he's a good NFL prospect.
"Basically, what I saw from Tajh Boyd at the Senior Bowl is what I saw on film over the past three years. He's got a big-time arm, but he's a wild passer. He's very inaccurate."
Boyd holds the ACC record for career passing efficiency (155.3 rating). His 68.5 completion percentage ranked fifth out of 68 quarterbacks this year with at least 2,300 yards (Boyd had 3,851), but that doesn't sway Pauline.
"I'm not talking statistical accuracy. What I'm talking about is he makes his receivers work too hard to catch the ball," Pauline said in the radio interview. "In basically pitch-and-catch drills, where he was asked to throw the deep out, the ball was sailing over receiver's heads, they were adjusting backwards to make the reception, they had to leave their feet. They were all off-balance because he can't hit them in stride.
"He was lucky Clemson had some sensational receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins) at his disposal to get the ball off to."
Asked if a Boyd comparison to similarly sized and scrutinized Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was fair, Pauline said "not even close."
Josh Norris of RotoWorld and NBC Sports concurred roughly with Pauline, writing, "There were times he would look downfield and automatically go to his check down without actually looking downfield. His placement has always been erratic . I do like his pocket movement, he measured in fine, and he's going to get drafted, but likely on the third day."
Boyd and his agents didn't return phone messages left Thursday and Friday.
Boyd still has some believers. NFL.com writer Chase Goodbread wrote Friday that Boyd has been "the most impressive of the three North quarterbacks in practice this week," compared to squad teammates Stephen Morris of Miami and Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech, who aren't high prospects.
"I'm impressed with Tajh Boyd's athleticism," Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, guiding the North team, told NFL.com. "He can extend plays. He'll get an opportunity to show his athleticism."
Despite Boyd's strong effort in the Orange Bowl (31 for 40, 378 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INT and a 48-yard scoring run), even his most ardent supporters have jumped ship in terms of mock drafts.
Originally, Peter Schrager of FOX Sports had Boyd going 13th to the Titans, which lost third-year quarterback Jake Locker to a season-ending foot injury in Week 10 and are led by new head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
On Dec. 4, Schrager was gung-ho about Boyd hearing his name early on May 8.
"I'm still of the belief that Boyd is a first-round pick . the kid can play. He will be a first-round pick, regardless of whatever and whoever else you're reading," Schrager wrote in his first mock draft published six weeks ago. "He has too many tools and has shown too many flashes of brilliance over the past two seasons for him to drop out of Day 1. Write it down."
However, in his next update posted Jan. 15, Schrager left Boyd out of the top 32 selections.
Sports Illustrated's September mock draft had Boyd going fifth to the Vikings, and while its next edition dropped Boyd a bit, SI had Boyd 24th to the Browns, paired with Watkins (whom SI projected seventh to Cleveland.) SI's January update didn't list Boyd in the first round.
Boyd has heard bits and pieces of the firestorm. But when AL.com caught up with him Tuesday in Mobile, he shrugged it off.
"That's kind of the funny part about it," Boyd told the website. "I was projected as a top 10 pick in the (2013) season and in actuality, my numbers were pretty similar to last year. I think that this is a good setup for me because it gives coaches a chance to see what I can actually do in their setting.
"I look at the situation I'm in now and I can only move up. I'm excited about it and I'm just going to go out here and try to make a splash."
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