Tajh Boyd aims to prove doubters wrong

May, 20, 2014
May 20
12:00
PM ET
If Tajh Boyd is on the field this season, it's a bad sign for the New York Jets.

Nothing against Boyd, a record-setting college quarterback who seems like a terrific young man, but he's starting out as No. 4 on the depth chart. He will compete with Matt Simms for No. 3, meaning the ideal scenario for Boyd is a season of clipboard-holding duty. And yet there's something intriguing about the former Clemson star. It's probably because he's a quarterback, and we tend to obsess over quarterbacks. But there's more to it than that. Here's a player who, going into his senior year, was regarded as a potential high draft pick. He tumbled all the way to the sixth round, the kind of fall that always prompts two contrasting questions:

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsCurrently the No. 4 quarterback on the roster, Tajh Boyd has a long road ahead of him if he wants to be the starter for the Jets.
What's wrong with him?

Did the team get a steal?

Boyd said he was sitting in the Jets' cafeteria the other day when a couple of his new teammates asked if he regretted returning to school for his senior year. Tough crowd, huh?

"I don't regret the decision at all," Boyd told reporters at last weekend's rookie camp. "I wanted to finish."

He wanted to win the national championship and the Heisman Trophy, neither of which happened. His motivation was admirable, but the extra year allowed pro teams to dissect the perceived flaws in his game. Among the criticisms:

1. Disappointing senior year: Boyd is puzzled by this school of thought. "My stats were actually better this year than my junior year," he said. He's right. He improved his accuracy (67.2 percent to 68.5) and cut down on his interceptions (13 to 11).

2. Mechanics need work. Boyd has a funky delivery, sometime throwing sidearm or three-quarters. He sometimes did it out of necessity, but quarterbacks coach David Lee -- a stickler on fundamentals -- is working with Boyd to get him to throw over the top.

3. Height: Officially, he's a shade under 6-foot-1. No amount of coaching can change that.

4. Benefited from an outstanding supporting cast: No doubt, Boyd was surrounded by a lot of talent at Clemson, but he doesn't believe that should count against him. "In my eyes, everybody has to have somebody to throw to," he said. "My guy just happened to be Sammy Watkins" -- the top receiver in the draft.

Boyd has a lot of work ahead of him, trying to learn the nuances of a pro-style offense. Much like Geno Smith last year, he has to get comfortable under center, a big transition after playing almost exclusively in shotgun. Boyd said he's surprised that Smith, Simms and Michael Vick have been so helpful. His figured the NFL is such a cut-throat business that he wouldn't get much positive input from players at his own position.

"It has a certain perception, aura of what you think is going to happen," Boyd said. "When I got here, it was totally different, like those guys were pretty excited that I was in the room."

The Jets will be excited if Boyd develops into an NFL-caliber quarterback, but the odds are against him. Tom Brady came out of the sixth round in 2000, but he's a once-in-a-generation player. Over the last 20 years, the Jets have drafted five quarterbacks in the fourth round or later, none of whom did much in the league -- Greg McElroy (seventh round, 2011), Erik Ainge (fifth, 2008), Brooks Bollinger (sixth, 2003), Chuck Clements (sixth, 1997) and Glenn Foley (seventh, 1994).

Their last late-round quarterback pick to make an impact was Jeff Blake (sixth, 1992) -- and that happened with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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