Jim Caldwell Watches Sammy Watkins’ Pro Day
Sports Fan Insider
PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a strong showing at Clemson’s pro day Thursday and felt he erased some of the doubts about his skills that have cropped up since the season ended.
Boyd, consensus top-10 pick Sammy Watkins and 6-foot-5 receiver Martavis Bryant were among the ex-Tigers who auditioned for some 60 NFL personnel, including New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and recently hired Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell.
Watkins was as smooth as expected catching the ball while Boyd looked like his record-setting college self in about 20 minutes of throwing.
“I feel like I answered a lot of questions today,” Boyd said. “I’m looking forward to see how everything plays out.”
Boyd had thrown for nearly 12,000 yards and an Atlantic Coast Conference record 107 touchdowns his four years with the Tigers. He entered last season as the face of the program, a Heisman Trophy contender and likely first-round draft choice. But Boyd’s stock started sliding after Clemson’s 51-14 loss to national champion Florida State at Death Valley in October.
Boyd took another hit in January when he was just 7 of 16 for 31 yards and an interception and the Senior Bowl.
This time, Boyd took full advantage of the home field and familiar receivers he’s worked with for years in Watkins, Bryant, ex-Clemson tight end Brandon Ford and last year’s 1,000-yard rusher for the Tigers, Rod McDowell.
Boyd was on target on short routes, middle routes and long routes as dozens of NFL scouts took notes on his style.
“I wanted the guys to see he could make those throws and he put in on the money every time,” said Ken Mastrole, the former Maryland quarterback who tutored Boyd the past few months.
St. Louis general manager Les Snead was impressed with Boyd’s latest workout.
“Compared with the combine, you knew he knew these receivers,” Snead said. “I don’t think the ball hit the ground once.”
Boyd said throwing in Clemson’s indoor facility made him more comfortable than in Indianapolis last month. “There are obviously reasons why things happened” at the Senior Bowl and the combine, he said. “The scouts told me this was a great workout, so I’m just going to keep pushing.”
No pushing necessary for Watkins, who stood on his time on his 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds at the combine. He didn’t really need to show off his pass catching ability, but was there as much to support Boyd as impress NFL teams.
“We probably had the prettiest, smoothest pro day out here today,” Watkins said. “Of course, our leader, Tajh Boyd, put on a show.”
Watkins is considered the top available receiver in the draft. He’s got sticky hands and a sprinter’s speed to turn a simple swing pass into a long touchdown.
Among the other general managers to attend were Doug Whaley of the Buffalo Bills, John Idzik of the Jets and Martin Mayhew of the Lions.
St. Louis picks second, Buffalo ninth and Detroit 10th in May’s draft.
The Jets’ Ryan, whose son Seth is a receiver at Clemson, said he’d like to add a wideout to the roster and coveted Watkins. “But there’s no way he’ll be there” when New York selects 18th.
Watkins has several NFL meetings and individual workouts lined up over the next several weeks. “I’m getting ready to travel the world,” he said, smiling.
For now, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound receiver says he’ll fine tune his route running and focus his mind on making as big a splash in the NFL as he did at Clemson when he was an All-American as a freshman.
He doesn’t care who picks him. “I’m willing to go to any team and try and have that instant impact,” he said.
Watkins, who gave up his final college season for the pros, set Clemson marks last season with 101 catches for 1,464 yards, both school records. He left with a flourish, catching 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 40-35 win over No. 6 Ohio State at the Orange Bowl this past January.
The session brought out Clemson players past and present, including Bills running back C.J. Spiller. Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith attended and spoke briefly with Watkins.
“I was just asking him about the transition to the pros,” Watkins said. “He’s one of the best.”
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