Yesterday I wrote a story about how the Jacksonville Jaguars should draft Jimmy Clausen if he's available at pick 10. It revolved around a lot of side-bar reasons, such as the fact that Jacksonville has ignored the position since 2003, the last time the Jaguars drafted a quarterback, and some other reasons such as tickets and job security.
Well, now I am going to tell you exactly why he should be drafted at pick 10.
I'll mention, but I'm not going to rehash some of the reasons I mentioned yesterday. Aside from the talent standpoint of Jimmy Clausen, here are a few non-talent reasons to draft him.
- Drafting Clausen will address a position that's been ignored longer than any other NFL team.
- Drafting Clausen will sell tickets and energize a portion of the fan base.
- Drafting Clausen will put Garrard on notice and legitimately challenge him.
- Drafting Clausen will buy Jack Del Rio and Gene Smith security.
There are a lot more pros to Jimmy Clausen's game than their are cons. First of all, he was very productive his sophomore and junior season on a Notre Dame team that really wasn't all that talented. In Clausen's sophomore season at Notre Dame he had more turnovers than one would like to see, but his improvement from 2008 to 2009 was monumental.
As you can see, statistically Clausen got better across the board from his sophomore season to his junior season, which is to be expected from a big time quarterback prospect. What should first jump out from comparing those two seasons is how much better his decision making has gotten. He completed a significantly higher percentage of passes, more touchdowns, and significantly less interceptions all while throwing less passes than the previous season.
Another positive from look at the raw numbers of Notre Dame is the fact that they really did not have a running game to fall back on. In 2008 their leading rusher (Armando Allen) had only 585 rushing yards. In 2009 their leading rusher (Armando Allen, again) improved but still had only 697 rushing yards. Part of the reason Allen's rushing numbers jumped is because of the success of the passing game and Jimmy Clausen. Teams needed to back off defensively to better defend the passing attack, which naturally opens running lanes by unclogging the box.
While Clausen did have a talented receivers in Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, neither is looking to be a top flight player in the NFL. Golden Tate is a fringe first round pick right now, and most scouts peg him as a slot wide receiver at the next level. Michael Floyd should project well to the next level, but he was injured much of the 2009 season, which left Clausen with essentially one weapon in the passing game, of which both he and Tate were still wildly successful statistically. This wasn't a case of a quarterback strictly benefiting from having a loaded team offensively, a la Matt Leinart.
Some of the concerns with Jimmy Clausen have to do with his intangibles. Many feel he's not a "winner" yet is very cocky. I don't have so much a problem with the "cocky" label for Clausen. He's a southern California kid who was highly recruited by the best schools in the nation and ranked as the No. 1 quarterback prospect out of high school... I'd kind of expect him to have a big head. Some call is cockiness, I call it moxie. He feels that he is the best at his position and can get the job done. I don't really view that as a bad thing. As far as the "not being a winner" stigma that seems to be attached to him... he doesn't play defense. Offense at Notre Dame under Jimmy Clausen and Charlie Weiss was never the issue, it was always defensively. Notre Dame simply couldn't score enough to win a lot of their football games. It wasn't an issue of Clausen not performing either. In the majority of Notre Dame's losses, Clausen generally had impressive games.
Some of Clausen's biggest positives are exactly what you look for when projecting a quarterback to the next level. One huge positive, as we all know, is the fact that he played his whole collegiate career in a pro-style offense. This will ease his transition to the pro game, as he's accustomed to taking snaps under center and 3, 5, 7 step drops. He's comfortable reading a defense from his drop back and after turning his back to the defense on play-action. He is also deadly accurate. While many quarterbacks coming from the NCAA post almost video game-esque completion percentages, rarely is it from making NFL style throws. In Clausen's case, the majority of his throws were not short timing patterns, short slants, and bubble screens. While Clausen doesn't have a rocket for an arm, it's good enough. He has enough zip on the deep out patterns and can push the football down the field when necessary. I would compare his arm to that of Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, whom many questioned entering the draft last season. Sanchez did not have much issue in the New York weather and arm strength. His decision making has been fantastic as he progressed through college and mechanically he's exactly what you're looking for.
There are a lot of comparisons made between Clausen and his predecessor at Notre Dame, Brady Quinn, who so far has been a complete bust in the NFL. To be fair to Quinn, he really hasn't been given a real chance at the NFL level, but I still don't feel he'll amount to much. That being said, Quinn and Clausen went to the same school and played quarterback... which is about where the similarities end. Clausen was highly touted coming out of high school and Quinn kind of burst on to the scene in Charlie Weiss' system. He always looked like a system quarterback and never really improved one year to the next. Quinn looked nearly identical both seasons. Clausen also has a much stronger arm than Brady Quinn, better mechanics, pocket presence, and is much more accurate than Quinn ever was a Notre Dame. Quinn also had the luxury of a real running threat in Darius Walker, who ran for over 1,000 yards in his final two seasons with the Irish.
All in all Clausen isn't a perfect quarterback prospect for the NFL, but who is? Clausen is however, exactly the type of quarterback Jacksonville needs. He's a pocket passer who can punish teams with his accuracy and decision making. He would also have a nice nucleus of young players on the offensive line, receiver position, tight end position, and runningback position to grow with. If Gene Smith feels like Clausen can be the quarterback of the future for the Jaguars, he should jump on the chance to draft him 10th overall if the opportunity presents itself. Of course, if the Jaguars brass do not feel Clausen is the answer or are blown away with a trade offer, they should pass on him. I tend to think Clausen will be long gone by the time Jacksonville picks and it may be moot, but there is an outside chance another quarterback could fall in his lap.
Now, let's look at some Pros and Cons of Jimmy Clausen from some draft sites around the web:
Courtesy of Draftbible.com:
Pros: Clausen has an NFL arm and throws one of the prettiest deep balls of any quarterback in the nation. Just as impressive has been his toughness fighting through turf toe and a bruised hand, not to mention his clutch play in the fourth quarter. Many of Notre Dame’s wins have been of the come from behind variety.
Cons: He doesn’t always use the whole field and many of his numbers come courtesy of acrobatic catches made by his talented wide outs.
Courtesy of Mockingthedraft.com:
Accuracy: Clausen has the incredible ability to complete just about every pass of 15 yards or less. Puts very good touch and zips on his short and intermediate throws. When his deep pass is on, he leads the receiver well. Needs to improve his trajectory on deep throws. His throws tend to come in low on deeper passes. Can throw on the move well and his passes don't lose a lot of velocity. Completed 68 percent of his passes as a junior.
Arm strength: While Clausen's arm is strong enough for the NFL, he can't accurately make all deep throws. On deep outs Clausen will take some zip off the ball and not deliver it as quickly. It will also take him a while to get deep passes out as he has to rely on his body to get the ball out. His arm will never be confused for Joe Flacco's or Matt Stafford's, but it's every bit as strong as Mark Sanchez's.
Athleticism/mobility: Clausen has good quickness in the pocket to slip around rushers and get rid of the ball. When he's on the move, Clausen needs to do a better job of securing the ball while he's on the move. Players at the next level will be more capable of stripping the ball away. Won't make a lot of deep runs in the open field. Runs mostly erect.
Decision making: Rarely will you see Clausen throw into bad coverage situations. Even when he does, he tends to put the ball only where his receiver can catch it. Intelligently throws away passes instead of passing into coverage or taking a sack.
Field vision: Works through his progressions better than just about any quarterback in college football. This is a display of his excellent football intelligence. When Clausen's first two reads are unavailable, he frequently found tight end Kyle Rudolph or checked off to a running back. As a junior, Clausenreally improved his ability to move safeties with his eyes.
Mechanics: Possesses a quick, smooth delivery. Has a slight windup, but it's very correctable. Looks to have great balance and control driving back from under center. Quickly gets his feet into position. Clearly most comfortable in five-step drops. Where Clausen could improve is planting his feet in the ground. He'll frequently shuffle his feet in the pocket.
Pocket awareness/poise: Clausen is generally calm and poised in the pocket, but he'll often get antsy and start shuffling his feet around. This was especially evident following a mid-season foot injury. Loses some steam on his passes in the face of pressure when he tries to get rid of the ball more quickly.
Final word: After Notre Dame fired head coach Charlie Weis, there was no reason for Clausen to return to school. Playing for a new coach, Clausen's pro potential could have only struggled by switching offensive systems. He also would have risked injury.