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NFL Prospect Focus: Clemson Offense

Greg Gabriel takes a look at which Tigers could make a splash in next year's draft. Greg Gabriel

Print This October 04, 2013, 11:00 AM EST

Clemson is undefeated and one of the top teams in the country because they are well coached and have talent on each side of the ball. On offense, there are two seniors and a junior who are top prospects at this time. The seniors are quarterback Tajh Boyd and running back Roderick McDowell. The junior is receiver Sammy Watkins. Boyd and Watkins will be drafted and McDowell has a chance to be drafted.

Tajh Boyd – Quarterback

Boyd is a fifth year senior and a three year starter for Clemson. Through last week’s game, he had completed 692 of 1103 career passes for over 9000 yards and 82 touchdowns. This year, he has completed more than 64% of his passes and thrown nine TD’s with no interceptions. He only has thrown 28 interceptions in his college career.

Boyd is about 6’1 – 220. He is an athletic quarterback who runs the ball often. On the year, he has 49 rushing attempts. He has good but not great speed. I would say he will run in the 4.68 range. He hasquick feet and good body control but is not a speedster. Boyd’s build is thick for a quarterback, but he doesn’t look overly muscular.

Boyd almost always plays from a shotgun. This year, they are lined up more in the pistol than a conventional spread. As a passer, Boyd holds the ball high and has a quick release. When he makes a decision, he gets the ball out of his hand. He has a compact release but has different throwing motions. He is usually over the top, but at times, he will throw a bit side-armed. He has good arm strength with the ability to throw the ball 55+ yards. He can throw a tight ball and shows he can zip it but also knows how to throw with touch. On his deep balls, he has a tendency to put a little too much air under the ball. Still, he shows good accuracy and ball placement. He doesn’t force the ball and shows good timing with his throws. With his athleticism, he can keep plays alive with his feet and is a good runner. He probably carries the ball on 10 designed running plays a game. While he is effective as a runner, he is not a breakaway threat. He gets what is there and maybe a little extra. He isn’t shy with the ball in his hand and will compete for extra yards.

Boyd is an interesting prospect. He lacks ideal size at 6’1", but he is productive and has played a lot of football for Clemson. He shows leadership on the field and has won a lot of games. His passing skills are good enough to play at the NFL level, but I have doubts that he has the tools to be a productive starter at the next level. I see him as a mid-round pick with the chance to develop into a starter.

Roderick McDowell – Running Back

McDowell has been a productive player for Clemson, but I don’t see him as a potential starter at the next level. He is not very big, being listed at 5’9 – 195. He does not have a thick frame, and he does not play strong. He is quick with a burst. He can get to the hole quickly, has the vision and instincts to create, but he lacks power. On top of that, he has a tendency to run tall. He has good balance and shows he can break a block type tackle, but he doesn’t get much after contact. Too often, he goes down with the first hit. He has good hands and can be productive as a receiver. He shows he can uncover versus man and zone, and he turns up field after the catch. Where he struggles is pass protection. He almost never faces up a pass rusher and is slow to pick up blitzes. He will throw a shoulder at a rusher, but he is not physical and has no ability to anchor. In the NFL, that will get a QB killed.

I see him as a potential late-round pick because of his athleticism, hands, and open field running ability. He has to be more physical to play in the NFL, and it would help if he could return kicks.

Sammy Watkins – Wide Receiver

The best prospect Clemson has on the offensive side of the ball is receiver Sammy Watkins. He is a third year junior who according to many scouts and agents, may enter the draft. He has started since midway through his freshman year. He is Clemson’s go-to receiver and is having a productive season to date. In four games he has 25 catches for 355 yards and two touchdowns. In two and a half seasons, he has caught 164 passes for over 2000 yards and 17 TDs.

Watkins has good size at 6’1 – 205 and is strong. He plays taller because of his long arms. To go along with his size, he has good athleticism and body control. He is fast (4.48 est.) with quick change of direction and is explosive. He can be very physical and does a good job competing for the ball in traffic.

Watkins is used often on quick bubble screens. He shows he can snatch the ball on these type of plays and consistently gets yards after the catch. He also runs slants, outs, comebacks and deep routes. He does a good job setting up defensive backs with double moves on the deeper routes. When running routes, he can sink his hips and get in and out of cuts quickly to gain separation. On comeback routes, he doesn’t waste time chopping his feet. He can put his foot in the ground and burst back. He shows he can find the seams in zone. He usually shows very good hands and almost always tries to snatch the ball, but he will have an occasional concentration drop. He is a consistent runner after the catch showing instincts, moves, and power. He has the skills to turn a short pass into a long gain.

Watkins is still young and raw, but he has excellent talent. He will need to learn to run routes better at the NFL level and learn more types of routes. I like his physical play and big play ability. Because it is a stop watch driven position, how he runs in the spring may determine his draft position, but I have no doubt that once in the league Watkins will grow into a solid number 2 receiver. It may take a year to develop but there is a lot of upside.

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