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Just The Sports: NFL Quarterback Draft Prospect: Jimmy Clausen

Just The Sports

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NFL Quarterback Draft Prospect: Jimmy Clausen

Jimmy Clausen's decision to declare early for the NFL draft, foregoing his senior season of college football at the University of Notre Dame, was a no-brainer. Not only did the only head coach he had ever known arrogantly coach himself out of a job, but Clausen is coming off his best season as a collegian where he completed an astounding 68.0% of his passes for 8.8 yards per pass attempt. Due to his 2009 season, his draft stock will never be higher and he has basically assured himself of being drafted in the first round and becoming an instant multi-millionaire. However, simply because Clausen will be drafted in the first round does not mean he deserves to be.

Actually, NFL teams should be very wary of drafting Clausen too high and then having to invest so much money in him. Of course, NFL teams will not be wary at all because even though it is 2010 and franchises should understand what actually makes a quarterback good, they instead choose to draft quarterbacks based on the same outdated criteria as always even when it has been proven over and over not to work. Even knowing NFL franchises will never learn their lesson, I am still going to humor myself and explain why Jimmy Clausen is not the safe bet many would have you believe.

My hesitation stems from the gargantuan leap Clausen made in completion percentage from his sophomore to junior seasons (60.9% to 68.0%); whenever there arises a better judge of how well a college quarterback will transition to the life of an NFL quarterback than completion percentage, I will use it. Whenever ones sees an increase like that in productivity, alarm bells should be ringing and questions should be asked. The number one question that needs to be posed is who is the real Jimmy Clausen. Since he only completed 58.0% of his pass attempts as a freshman, it is safe to say, he is not really going to be a 68.0% passer as a pro, but just how far is he going to regress to his mean. For selfish purposes, I would have liked to see Clausen stay for his senior season to get a more complete picture of who he is as a passer. Without a follow-up season to see how well he can duplicate his 68.0% completion percentage, I have developed reservations about how good he can be and how quickly.

In the same way that the College Board red flags students who have a large increase in their SAT scores and makes them undergo repeat testing, NFL teams should be red flagging Clausen. The best way to treat Clausen would be to draft him in the second or third rounds, thereby removing any pressure to force him into playing before he has truly learned the system and is completely ready. It is as unlikely that NFL teams will actually do that as it is that I will wake up tomorrow and be able to teleport, but for the future of Clausen, allowing him to fully develop as a quarterback is the best option. Right now, there are simply not enough data to know which Clausen is being drafted.

As much as I was amazed by Clausen's junior season of college football, there are no guarantees surrounding it. The elite level of play could as easily be a career year or a perfect storm of quarterback play as it could be the quarterback he really is; one should not forget Brady Quinn under Charlie Weis had a similar jump from one season to the next (54.1% to 64.9% from his sophomore to junior seasons) before falling back to earth in his senior year (61.9%). Since there is simply no way of being sure, Clausen should be drafted with hesitation. Sadly, he will not be.



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