Make-or-break scenarios for QB prospects

NFL scouts will be paying a lot of attention to Clemson QB Tajh Boyd this season. AP Photo/John Bazemore

After eight quarterbacks were taken in the first round in the 2011 and 2012 NFL drafts combined, EJ Manuel was the only first-day QB in 2013.

Maybe NFL teams were just waiting for the 2014 crop. It should more than make up for this year's class, considered weak going in and validated when onetime first-round projections Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and Landry Jones landed in the fourth round.

Four, or maybe more, in 2014 sounds about right. Mel Kiper has broken down his top five QB prospects as things stand, with Teddy Bridgewater ranked at the No. 1 spot.

Outside of Bridgewater, who enters the season as the favorite to be the first quarterback taken and has fewer question marks (at the moment, at least) than the other passers in this class, what could go right or wrong for the top quarterbacks this season that would lead to their stock shifting?

I took a look at 10 draft-eligible quarterbacks, some of which are just behind Bridgewater on Kiper's list and others who are a bit further down, and looked at make-or-break scenarios for each during the 2013 season.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson Tigers

Make: Boyd made a huge jump as a junior, slimming down and becoming a legitimate running threat. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris told me in April that changed the whole offense, opening up myriad opportunities that previously were not available. If Boyd has another gear after another offseason of work, it'll cement to NFL teams his status as a dual-threat prospect -- in the Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick mold.

As far as the passing game, he reduced the number of chances taken last season. A resurgent season from receiver Sammy Watkins could be helpful to Boyd -- both during and after the year.

Boyd was on the right track. If he continues his current trek, he could land in the first half of the first round.

Break: Yes, Watkins is back, but Boyd had him and 2013 first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins as options last season. The year before that, he had third-round tight end Dwayne Allen. If defenses lock down on Watkins and no one else comes along, Boyd, as he did late in the 2011 season, might feel like he has to do too much and again make turnover-inducing mistakes. ACC teams might also better scheme how to make Boyd one-dimensional. He's gifted, but he isn't on Johnny Manziel's level of shiftiness.

Projection: Status quo. Boyd is a nice prospect who has improved every year he's been at Clemson -- and particularly since Morris arrived on the scene and revamped the offense. There's no reason to think he'll regress, not with it being his last college season and not with NFL teams carefully watching.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Aggies