Why Did the Jets Draft Tajh Boyd?

Before the NFL draft on May 8, most Jets fans assumed that a quarterback competition for the starting job would take place between sophomore-to-be Geno Smith and newly acquired veteran Michael Vick. The soon-to-be 34 year-old Vick was considered at the very least a mentor for Smith, and at the most, the starter for the Jets, who have playoff aspirations.

With 12 draft picks in the draft, the team was expected to improve positions that were lacking in talent and depth, like the cornerback, tight end and receiver spots. Not many  foresaw the Jets taking another quarterback. However, to the shock and puzzlement of many loyal fans, the Jets selected former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd in the 6th-round with the 213th pick in the draft. Let us explore the possible thought process of the Jets’ front office as they made this pick.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Boyd is an intriguing player. Nifty and athletic, Boyd is multi-faceted, an asset that can put pressure on opposing defenses, provided he gets into the game. Boyd has a fairly mature pocket presence, as he doesn’t shy away from incoming tacklers and will stick with the play until the end. His decision-making skills are polished, as well, and he knows the right situations to go deep or to dump it off to his running back in the flat when facing pressure. That skill cannot be taught, rather it is instinctual and comes as a result of taking many snaps at the quarterback position.

In his first season, Boyd will most likely play in Wildcat scenarios, if he even sees the field at all. His job is to learn the offense and pick Vick’s brain for as much advice as he can get about being an NFL quarterback. He will evolve as a player, and with some refinement of his skills, he will be challenging the incumbent quarterback (Smith or Vick) for the starting job next season.

Boyd is very personable, which will win him points in the locker room. He is humble and not a bit aloof, which can help him as he tries to navigate through the crowd of quarterbacks vying for jobs in the NFL. He has passionate supporters from his days in Clemson, and he has no shortage of highlights from his college days that will help to further his NFL prospects. At 6’1″, 222 lbs, he is not very imposing, but he uses every single one of his pounds and inches to make a play succeed. If he fails in the NFL, it won’t be of a lack of hard work, that’s for sure. If anything, poor mechanics and trouble reading an NFL defense will be his downfall.

That point leads us to the not-so-sunny side of this acquisition. Boyd is still a work-in-progress, and he still has much to improve on.As previously mentioned, he needs to work on his mechanics and reading the defense, but he also needs to improve his footwork, decision-making, and accuracy as a quarterback. At Clemson, he took most of his snaps in the “shotgun” formation, and to succeed in the NFL, Boyd needs to learn to take snaps under center effectively. All of these potential pitfalls contributed to Boyd falling to the end of the draft, but with a good work ethic, which Boyd does possess, he can shore up many of his weaknesses.

From the beginning of the offseason, the Jets interest in Boyd was not a secret. They worked him out at Clemson at least once, and possibly more times at other facilities. However, no one actually thought the Jets would bite on another quarterback, although it was rumored that they were going to sign an un-drafted free agent quarterback to compete in training camp, if necessary. It is not hard to imagine Boyd starting at quarterback in the future if the “Geno Smith experiment” ultimately fails.

By selecting Boyd, the Jets snatched up a talented player with an extremely high ceiling at relatively little cost and no risk to the team. If he doesn’t turn out, then they can cut him, since very little of his 4-year contract is guaranteed. Fans shouldn’t write him off, as they face a former 6th-round pick who turned into an NFL superstar twice every season in Tom Brady. While Boyd does not look to be a future Brady, he has the potential to be a successful quarterback in the league, and he provides an extra dimension to the Jets offense that opposing defenses will be forced to prepared for in the Wildcat formation.

There are no immediate drawbacks to his selection, and I because of that and Boyd’s upside, I applaud John Itzik and the rest of the Jets’ front office for their ingenuity and judgement in picking him. Jet fans will not be disappointed.

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