Clausen looks improved, but can he find a team?
Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen took center stage Friday, throwing live in front of NFL officials for the first time since the end of the season. With a potential top-10 pick hanging in the balance, the National Football Post breaks down his workout and offers our take on his overall performance:
Clausen’s transformation is impressive, not only since his freshman year but even since the end of the season. He looked a lot thicker through his mid-section and upper body and seemed to handle the additional weight well throughout his workout. The NFL is a rough league, and Clausen looks much more prepared physically to take the weekly beatings.
On a side note, I did notice Clausen’s consistent attempts to get a proper grip on the football before nearly every throw. This may seem like a minor detail, but when I went back and looked up his measurements, Clausen’s hands were only nine inches, tied for the smallest at the NFL Combine. Being able to grip and spin the ball in cold and harsh elements is key for any quarterback at the next level, and Clausen’s hand size is a bit of a concern for me at this stage, especially when evaluating him from a cold-weather standpoint, e.g., Buffalo.
Clausen doesn’t possess an elite-caliber arm, although there appears to be an improvement in his overall velocity since the end of the ‘09 season, and he definitely has the ability to make all the throws at the next level. One of the main reasons for the improvement in such a short period of time is his ability to now transfer his weight from his back foot to front foot properly because of his healed toe. He did a much better job generating more power and torque from his lower half, especially when asked to get the football down the field, and looks more than capable of making some tough stick throws in the NFL.
The biggest improvement I saw in this area was the compactness in his overall release when he was asked to stick the skinny post and deep-out down the field. Last year, I saw Clausen consistently get elongated with his release when trying to get a little extra mustard on the football because of his inability to drive off his back foot. However, with the healthy toe, he looked much more compact throwing from the waist up on all levels of the field and got the ball out much quicker in the deep/intermediate pass game because of it.
Clausen is an accurate passer – there’s no doubt about it -- and he certainly displayed it during his workout. However, there’s a significant difference in the overall ball placement between Clausen and Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, in my opinion. There where a number of Clausen throws located on the receiver’s back shoulder in the intermediate pass game, and at times he will force his wideouts to slow down out of their breaks to adjust to the football.
There were also some impressive bucket throws down the field in which Clausen hit receivers’ outstretched arms in stride. However, from a purely objective standpoint, I thought his overall accuracy was good, just not Sam Bradford good.
A solid workout for Clausen, who now has put himself in position to possibly be selected in the top 10. The only question: Who will pick him?
Because of his lack of elite arm strength and ideal hand size, I don’t see him being a good fit for any bad-weather team. Do I still think he can be successful? Absolutely. However, he needs to be in an offense – like any quarterback -- that will allow him to maximize his strengths (anticipation and accuracy) and not force him to simply chuck the ball down the field in conditions he’s not ideally tailored for.
I think he’s a first-round talent, but finding a team in the top third of the draft in need of a quarterback with his skill set could be tough.
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