CLEMSON - Despite Tajh Boyd replicating plenty of his on-field success his senior year that he produced in 2012, his NFL draft stock has taken a tumble this spring via multiple scouts and draft analysts compared to his potential first-round status a year ago.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., the network's most well-known personality on the subject, doesn't disagree.
"I'd say fifth or sixth round right now for Tajh Boyd," Kiper said during Thursday's teleconference with reporters. "I look at the height factor. (Boyd's listed at 6 foot and 3/4 inches.) Some inconsistency."
After becoming the 2012 ACC Player of the Year, Boyd returned to Clemson for his senior year, and brought the Tigers back to another 11-2 record with extremely similar individual statistics in 2013, though Clemson again could not beat Florida State or South Carolina.
Kiper pointed to the skill players surrounding Boyd: receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington in 2012, and receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant and left tackle in Brandon Thomas the past two years.
"I think all those things helped him and assisted him," Kiper said.
"A Day 3 quarterback who certainly will play in the NFL, as a backup hopefully for a lot of years. As a starter? Debatable."
Top five talents
Rivals South Carolina and Clemson are looking at producing two of the first five players chosen May 8 at the 2014 NFL Draft.
For defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Kiper believes the Gamecocks' star will go either No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans or No. 3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Both teams in the AFC South, and both need to get pressure on (Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck," Kiper said. "He would have been the No. 1 pick obviously, if he had the great year, which he did not have for a variety of reasons, and we'd probably need 20 minutes to get into that.
"I think the fact that he was concerned about getting hurt, had that cheap shot against him in the North Carolina game, kind of all contributed to that. But he's No. 1 on my Big Board, a lot of teams still have him No. 1, but I think he goes 1 to Houston or 3 to Jacksonville. Or maybe St. Louis wants to move out of 2 - somebody may trade up to get him."
Meanwhile, Kiper currently projects Watkins, the Tigers' All-American receiver, to the Oakland Raiders with the fifth selection.
Shaw, Gamecocks take
Whereas Boyd is looking at a late-round pick, his South Carolina counterpart might not be so lucky.
"I think Connor Shaw is a late-rounder or priority free agent who's a gutty competitor, and he wins," Kiper said. "Steve Spurrier has nothing but great things to say about him, and there's a reason for it."
Shaw went 27-5 as South Carolina's quarterback. Like Boyd (32-8), Shaw is his school's all-time wins leader - and was a perfect 17-0 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"He just went out there and laid it on the line every week. Those kids respected him, he was a natural leader just based on how tough he was and how gritty he was," Kiper said. "If you had him as a career backup, I think you'd be in pretty decent shape."
I don't know about a starter in the NFL."
Kiper ran down a few other Gamecocks prospects.
"Bruce Ellington, the receiver, big-play guy, versatile athlete, of course played basketball there," Kiper said. "Made a lot of big catches for South Carolina. Think he could be in the third-round discussion very easily."
"Kelcy Quarles, the defensive tackle, I think after it's all said and done, he's an early to mid second-round pick, who's going to get some late first-round consideration. I think he's a guy gaining a lot of momentum as we move into the month of February."
"Victor Hampton, the corner, I was a little surprised he came out, but you look at where he could figure, third or fourth round."
"Quarles is the guy after Clowney, and Ellington, that are going to be guys that get a lot of positive commentary. (Chaz) Sutton as well, the defensive end, as a fourth-round pick."
Thomas a 'Pro Bowl guard'
Bryant and cornerback Bashaud Breeland received more fanfare for their decisions to move on from Clemson, but it's a Tigers senior Kiper's got his eye on following Watkins in the team's pecking order.
"I think Brandon Thomas is a second- or third-round (option)," Kiper said. "Because he was a left tackle who played well, and did a good job at the Senior Bowl practices. He could play as guard, and be a great guard, a Pro Bowl guard. I think second round for Brandon Thomas."
Kiper pegged both Breeland and Bryant for the third or fourth rounds.
Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins scores a touchdown reception over Georgia Tech’s D.J. White during the first half of a game on Nov. 14, 2013, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)×
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