Kiper stands by his man Clausen

An NFL draft class cannot be fairly evaluated for three or four years, and to that end Mel Kiper Jr. is saying he’ll let the jury decide on whether he was right about Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen or not.

The veteran draftnik rated Clausen as the No. 4 player on his board but the Irish quarterback took a freefall through the draft and luckily wasn’t present in New York to face the scrutiny as he dropped all the way to the Carolina Panthers at No. 48.

It made Kiper look terribly wrong in his forecast, but no one can tell whether or not he’ll ultimately be right or wrong for some time. Kiper, in discussing his fondness for Clausen this week, said let’s wait and see.

"The reason I like him is because he's tough, he's gritty and he competes," Kiper told the Charlotte Observer on a conference call with reporters this week. "He's 6-2 1/2, 220, which is ideal size. He doesn't have a howitzer for an arm, but it's good enough - it's more than good enough.

"That's my opinion (that Clausen was the No. 4 prospect in the draft) and I'll stand by it," he said. "We'll see where it stands three years from now."

How long it takes Clausen to get a real shot on the field remains to be seen. The Panthers are committed to Matt Moore this season and head coach John Fox could be under a win-or-else mandate.

Kiper said in his evaluation he got a great deal of positive feedback from people at Notre Dame, input he said they didn’t have to offer up on the quarterback who left with a year of eligibility remaining.

"I'm not saying he's going to be Dan Marino or John Elway or the greatest quarterback in the NFL," Kiper said. "I've never said that. I think he can be a very good starting quarterback in this league."

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