Monday, 16 November 2009

Is Jimmy Clausen a top ten pick?

The answer, based on the game tape from Sunday, is categorically 'no'. I've just gone through Notre Dame's 27-22 defeat to Pittsburgh and I have to admit quarterback Jimmy Clausen was very disappointing. Despite all the injuries and the fact he's coming from a spread offense, Sam Bradford has to be the highest ranked quarterback for the 2010 draft.

Here are the issues I have with Clausen:

When he throws off his back foot, which is quite often, he loses all velocity in his passes. Let's look at two examples from the Pittsburgh game. Firstly, Clausen takes a snap under center on his own 23-yard line. He drops back, eyes up his best receiver Michael Floyd and without making any other read floats a deep pass down field. It's under-thrown off his back foot and simply hangs in the air. Floyd is double covered, so it's not a great read anyway - but the fact it's thrown so gently makes it a jump ball up for grabs. The defensive back catches the ball and it's a turn over.

On the second example, Notre Dame are 4th and 1 in the third quarter. Clausen uses play action before dropping back. The Pittsburgh defense completely bites on the PA, allowing Floyd to run a deep route straight down the middle of the field. He's completely open and a well thrown pass leads to an easy touchdown. Instead, Clausen under-throws off his back foot, again floating the ball high into the air. The air time on the pass is excruciating, forcing Floyd to physically stand still and wait for the ball to drop. Of course, by the time it lands three defensive backs have reacted and instead of a touchdown it's merely a completion. However, that was such an easy throw to make and it simply must be a touchdown.

It should bring his arm strength into question. However, when I watch Clausen drive the ball off his front foot there is some velocity. But this only happens on short slants (Clausen throws an outside slant more than any other pass). I'm not sure he can make big throws down field with the same kind of drive. This is a big concern because whenever he throws deep, it tends to be under thrown or too floated with little or no velocity.

My next complaint is about his mechanics and most of all, his side-arm throwing motion. In all honesty he gets the ball out nice and quickly. However, the fact the ball is coming out at shoulder height (and he isn't a huge guy - 6'2" at best) leads to all kinds of problems. In this game alone I saw two tipped passes and a throw that hit one of his offensive lineman smack on the back of the helmet. There were also four occasions where Clausen just simply threw the ball too low. His action is such that the ball generally projects downwards and this led to some drops because the receiver is having to dive to the ground to get the ball. NFL scouts and GM's want to see guys throwing the ball as high as possible - that's why Mark Sanchez made a concerted effort to correct his mechanics before the USC pro-day.

I also didn't like the way he dealt with the screen pass. On one occasion, he completely misjudged the throw and made an ugly short pass to a receiver who was only a matter of yards away. The ball fell short by a good couple of yards. On another attempted screen, he made an exaggerated pump fake to the left before running back 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. By the time he'd finally got round to passing the ball, the Pittsburgh defense had been given an age to react and had pushed forward into the backfield. The pass receiver was snuffed out quickly for a nine yard loss.

Now, it's easy to see why Clausen has put up nice numbers this year (21/4 TD/INT ratio). He doesn't make a lot of bad decisions in the short game that lead to interceptions. A lot of his passes are high percentage outside slants and we have to remember that he's throwing to two of the better receivers in college football - Michael Floyd and Golden Tate (although admittedly Floyd has missed time this year). But I saw no evidence of a guy who can come into the NFL and put up big numbers quickly. He can't keep throwing the same outside slant every week to the same guys, occasionally floating passes downfield hoping something comes off. He'll be an interception machine throwing downfield like that.

He needs to work out the kinks in his mechanics - try to release the ball a bit higher and throw off the front foot more. Simply coming from a 'pro-style offense' and having nice stats isn't going to mean anything at the next level until he does. Personally, I wouldn't touch Clausen early and even with Seattle's second pick in the first round he'd have to be viewed as a substantial project.


Patrick said...

I've never been a Clausen fan. I hope he goes to a team like the Rams so he's not even available with our pick. I would much rather grab Locker, Bradford, or (my first choice) Tebow if we are going to draft a QB.

Michael said...

I am comfortable with your review of Clausen. But I do not agree with the 4th and 1 analysis. Clausen clearly is giving his WR an opportunity to make a play. Does he get dinged for not having confidence in his accuracy; yes. Does he get dinged for lack of arm strength; no.

Rob Staton said...

I'm not the only one to voice serious concerns after Sunday. I've seen a lot of mock drafts putting him near the top, including Rob Rang's latest offering that has him at #1 overall (but it still has Colt McCoy going #11, which also won't happen).

I'll be surprised if he goes in the top ten picks. He looks like a low end round one selection but would have better value probably later than that so you can work on his very obvious flaws.

Rob Staton said...

Michael - the throw Clausen made actually made it more difficult for Floyd to make the catch. It was completely under thrown, forcing a wide open receiver to stop still and wait for the ball. He was actually challenged for the catch and tackled, when a properly thrown pass should have hit him in stride for an easy TD. It was an awful pass by Clausen.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I've had some of those opinions before this last game. I think the guy's been overhyped because of underperforming and injuries to the rest of this potential qb draft class. He's improved a lot, the last year or two, no doubt, but most of that improvement is decisions/accuracy in the short game.

He's a project, no doubt. Good work Rob.--Nano

Anonymous said...

Rob, I'm not even a Seahawks fan, I'm a die-hard Redskins fan but your blog has become a must read for me every day. With most draftnik guys I read them with a heavy dose of skepticism. But with your blog, I've come to trust your observations implicitly. You and Kyle give the clearest, most skillful, most transparent, and independent-minded analysis I can find on the internet. This is yet another excellent entry. It's helped me understand what it was I didn't like about Clausen, but couldn't put my finger on. Keep up the excellent work.

Rob Staton said...

Anonymous Skins fan - thank you for visiting and also for the kind words. Much appreciated and I hope you'll continue to stop by.

germpod said...

I watched part of the game in question, and Clausen did not look good to me at all. If he is there in the second, and we passed on one in the first, then maybe. In his defense, he did not seem to have much time to let the play develop before having to get rid of the ball.

I wish more teams in the college game ran their offense more like the NFL, so QBs could be scouted better and would transition better. After what happened to Grahm Harrell in last years draft, I do not know why any QB would go into a spread offense.

Michael said...

Rob, thanks for your response. Always appreciate your time.

While I also felt uninspired by Clausen's play, I am beginning to wonder if we are entering an era of bad QB options. I do not see any QB's that excite being available until Luck and Barkley come out.

And, given enough time to evaluate, we may make them into warts as well.

Final thought: How much does the turf toe affect his velocity and footwork, I wonder.

Thanks again.

Rob Staton said...

It's a good question on the turf toe and the answer is I'm not sure how that would affect him. He may be favoring the injury and purposely rolling back onto his heels, so it's something worth investigating. I'm not sure how serious the issue is at the moment, but I'll try and get some more information on how this injury could affect a quarterback's velocity and get back to you.

Anonymous said...


Excellent analysis. Couldn't agree more--except that I don't believe Clausen will make it at all in the NFL. I don't believe his problems are correctable; I simply don't believe he has the talent to play in the NFL. He has a weak arm and not much playmaking ability in him. I expected so much more out of him when he came out as the nation's number one high school project and was even called the "Lebron James" of high school quarterbacking. I remember him making his Notre Dame signing announcement at the College Football Hall of Fame or wherever that was. Man, what a let down. That guy just has no ability. When I think "talent" I think Elway and when I think "playmaker" I think Brees; Clausen has absolutely none of either. He is just so overrated. Surely scouts can sniff this out? I think with his brothers and having gone to Notre Dame, and some fair statistics this year people will get duped. I would not draft this guy at all because I believe he is the next Ryan Leaf. Sorry to sound so critical, but I believe this to be the case with Jimmy Clausen. Won't make it at all in the NFL.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any of you have watched all of his games this year. Clausen has one of the strongest arms in college and that has been repeated many times. I have read scouts comparing his arm strength and release to Marino. The mechanics of a QB are something that is way overhyped. Bernie Kosar was a pretty decent QB in his time and he had horrible mechanics and release. Bottom line is, you can play or you can't. Clausen can play. I don't like his personality because of how arogant he seems to be but thats allot of guys in the NFL. I have heard over and over again how the deep out is the toughest throw a QB will ever be asked to make and thats his bread and butter. He does not panick when they are down and that is a rare gift to remain calm and take control of a team. Brady, Montana, Elway. Instead of reading something another guy says and going with it, you should all watch numerous games before you hang a guy. Jay Cutler at times looks like the worse QB in the NFL and at times one of the best. Its a body of work because everyone will have a down game. I'm with Kiper. This guy can make every throw and is tough to play through the injuries and behind that horrible line and still produce without throwing the picks. I say top ten probally 2nd QB taken. I'm a niner fan and would love to have him.

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