It will go down to the wire who will be the first QB chosen in the 2010, and could mean the #1 overall pick as well, in a race between Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford and Jake Locker. All three are different in their own way and it just might come down to preference. For much of the 2010 season, with Bradford sitting on the bench nursing a shoulder injury, Clausen has proved that he is the most NFL-ready QB in the nation right now.
Clausen may lack Bradford’s flair and Locker’s sick athletic ability, but he possesses a combination of toughness, arm strength, accuracy and maturity that the others just don’t have. Whether he is elite in any of those categories is another question, but he possesses all four of those very important qualities in levels the other two do not. Bradford is a tad more accurate with better touch and Locker throws a stronger ball, but Clausen grades out higher as a combination of all categories.
A highly decorated high school passer, Clausen has not had the success expected at the high profile school, winning only 16 games in his 3 years. Clausen has played some great games, particularly a 5 TD 401 yard performance against Hawaii in the Honolulu Bowl. The problem is that he hasn’t gotten Notre Dame anywhere close to success let alone a BCS bowl and is leaving for the NFL on the heels of a 4 game losing streak.
Clausen has been Notre Dame’s most prolific passer behind Brady Quinn, whose senior year is the benchmark for all ND passers. Clausen has come very close in 2009, throwing for 3,722 yards, 28 TD and only 4 INT. Clausen and receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, both projected as high draft picks themselves, have literally carried this team for the last two years with little in terms of a complimentary ground game or much of a defence to talk about.
Clausen has done very well, flourished in fact, despite also being hampered by a very inconsistent offensive line. These are the main factors for the lack of success in South Bend, for many years now.
In 2007, Clausen tossed six passes in Notre Dame’s season opener against Georgia Tech, completing 4, and set a Fighting Irish record for quickest start to a career when he started the second game of the year Penn State as a freshman. He lost 31-10. In fact, he lost his first 4 games as a starter before beating UCLA 20-6 but threw for only 84 yards. After throwing for only 60 yards the following week in a loss to Boston College, Clausen was benched for two games before reclaiming his starting job for the final three games, showing promise with wins over Duke and Stanford and throwing 3 TD in a loss to Air Force. Clausen’s freshman year coincided with the worst rushing season in Notre Dame history with only 903 yards.
2008 saw great improvement from the sophomore. He threw 17 INT but also tossed 25 TD, 3,172 yards and 244 yards/game on the year. He led Notre Dame to a 6-6 season record and the big win over Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. But he was also embarrassed by Boston College again, throwing 4 INT in the 17-0 loss and got creamed by hated rival USC 38-3. USC has beat Clausen twice in his career (he was benched for the USC game in 2007) and while that 3-point showing in 2008 is bad, he put up 260 yards and 2 TD in a 34-27 loss this year as USC hounded him all day.
Clausen led Notre Dame to 4 wins by 7 points or fewer in 2009, including a thrilling 33-30 victory over Michigan State and a 37-30 clash with Jake Locker and Washington in which Clausen threw for 422 yards and 2 TD compared to Locker’s 281 yards and 1 TD.
Unlike years past, Clausen never turned in a particularly bad performance. He had an off day against Purdue but still won the game and he really struggled against Pitt in a 27-22 loss, but he was never truly out of a game until the horn sounded. The largest loss was only 7 points and many times Clausen just needed a stop or two from his defence to pull out a win. He made some mistakes at times but he had his team in position to win games in the 4th quarter and the team didn’t get it done. You would like to have seen him work some magic and will the team to victory, but sometimes you just can’t do enough and that just about defines Clausen college career. A great QB who carried his team but couldn’t carry them far enough to win more than 6 games.
Physically Clausen is a prototype pocket passer with a very good arm, excellent accuracy and a toughness to withstand a beating behind a bad o-line. He throws with touch and tosses a catchable ball, hits receivers in stride and typically makes the right choices. Clausen is quite good at selling play fakes buying himself time to scan the field and make the play.
He stands tall in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and relishes working with downfield receivers like Tate and Floyd. He will be very comfortable stretching the field in the NFL and has played in a pro style offense during his college career. His mechanics are refined to the point of being able to step right into an NFL offense and he will have no problem digesting the playbook. He is widely regarded as the most NFL ready QB in college.
His lack of wins at Notre Dame and his inability to pull ND through in the clutch will cause some to worry about his ability to lead a pro team. I think that it’s pretty difficult, if not impossible, to win many football games at any level with little from the run and a defence that gives up 26 points a game and proves punchless in the clutch. He has had some games where he could have been much better, especially at the end of the close ones, but Clausen led the Irish to whatever success they had this year.
Clausen is a bit robotic. He’s the prototype and it seems like he came off an assembly line at times. He’s just a bit on the blah side, getting sucker punched outside a bar after the OT loss to Connecticut aside. He’s not an electrifying player like Locker, who excites with his feet and arm but can be equally concerning, and he lacks the dramatics of Bradford, he of the 50 TD as a sophomore. He’s just a complete quarterback and his lack of look-at-me cache may actually hurt him come draft time as Locker and Bradford start creating heat for themselves.
I put him at the top of list and think he will be the first QB chosen. He will wow people come workout time, especially if he’s throwing to Tate on home turf for NFL types. He’s so much closer to stepping onto an NFL field and being successful than Locker or Bradford and that should get him taken before either. In no way am I comparing him to Payton Manning (I see more Carson Palmer than Manning), he just has that same sense of ho-hum about him that Manning has, like he’s boring almost. There both just so calm, cool and precise about their business. It’s like they’re lulling you too sleep while they slit your throat.