Josh Kendall

Pro Prospects: On Boyd, Watkins, plus Hampton, Clowney

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd (10)
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd (10)

For Carolina-Clemson week, NFL Draft writer Josh Norris and I talk about Clemson’s Big Three of quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Vic Beasley. We also discuss how much impact this game will have on Victor Hampton’s draft position if the South Carolina junior decides to enter the draft this year and whether Jadeveon Clowney needs to remind people of last year’s 4.5-sack effort before the end of his career.

The State: Josh, I don’t know if Clemson has a ton of guys, but they do have some high-profile guys in Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Vic Beasley. Let’s just start with Tajh.

Josh Norris: Tajh has been really interesting this season. I thought he should have declared last year. I thought he had a chance to be the No. 1 quarterback off the board last year just because of the way he finished and the fact that he looked great last year with weapons at almost every position. This year, I think he might have had his best game in the season-opener, and then it’s kind of been downhill since. I have seen him hobble around the field and wondered if he’s injured. He just hasn’t been exactly the same. He’s never been a guy who has been forced to make a ton of reads. It’s always been very simple. At most, it’s been half the field. He never really saw the check down very well. If he knew his man was covered on the vertical route, he would immediately throw to the check down and that would result in a lot of contested situations on those short routes. Other knocks have heard are that he has placement issues, and I can see that. He used to make DeAndre Hopkins leave his feet all the time. Sammy Watkins leaves his feet a lot. I wonder if Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins wanted to be in those situations last year because they knew they were better off their feet, high-pointing balls. One final thing on Tajh, I think just in terms of pocket movement and arm angles, there are some similarities between him and Russell Wilson, just in those two areas. He likes to climb the pocket. He moves up and then out. Tajh throws from a whole bunch of different throwing platforms which can compensate for the height issue.

The State: How about Sammy Watkins?

Josh Norris: He’s a man. He’s really good. It’s been tough to find a comparison for him, and people love NFL comparisons, and I understand why. It’s an easier way to learn how a prospect will play at the next level. I think comparing him to Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens. That might not seem like this game-changing player, but Torrey Smith is a much better prospect now than he was at Maryland. At Maryland, he ran vertical routes and that’s about it. Now, he can run the whole route tree. He wins at the catch point. I think Watkins’ ability to pick up yards as a ball carrier is unreal. He’s so flexible with his hips. He’s an easy mover. He can take a simple slant all the way to the house. He’s still producing even though he’s the only (elite) offensive talent they have at the wide receiver spot. Sammy Watkins is the real deal. I think this is a game where Victor Hampton could really make an NFL statement.

The State: Do you think that folks will be watching to see how Hampton does against Watkins?

Josh Norris: Absolutely. I think the minimum number of games somebody should watch on an evaluation is three, and hopefully those three aren’t in consecutive weeks and one of those three should be against their best competition. And I think this is probably going to be Victor Hampton’s top competition if he is matched up man to man.

The State: Vic Beasley is a guy, who from my vantage point at least, has come out of nowhere.

Josh Norris: It’s true, but he’s another one who has trailed off in recent weeks. He’s only about 6-2, 235, 240 so a lot of people might say that’s too small, things like that, but they are lining him up just as an edge rusher, and it’s usually as the 7- or the 9-technique, 7 is outside of the tight end and 9 is even further out. His best attribute is to find a spot in the backfield and get to it. He displays some nice bend, but something that really stands out with him is his hand use and that separates him from a lot of other speed rushers. He doesn’t mind pressing the offensive tackle, keeping them off balance and then creating that space to beat them off the edge. He doesn’t just have to beat you with the speed rush. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he does declare for the draft and winds up being a top 50 selection.

The State: This is the week last year where Clowney had such a breakout game. Does he need to remind people that he’s that kind of player or does it matter at this point?

Josh Norris: Here’s the one thing to watch. Just take a look at how many times Tajh has to escape out of the left side of the pocket. If Clowney is getting a lot of upfield penetration and that’s causing Tajh to move off his spots then Clowney is doing his job. If Boyd has to step up, the Kecly Quarles has to make that play.