Jimmy Clausen, QB - Notre Dame
Weight: 222 pounds
40 time: 4.76
The top recruit in the country coming out of high school in 2007, Jimmy Clausen never lived up to the great hype that he brought upon himself when he rolled up to the College Football Hall of Fame in a limousine as a senior in high school and announced that he would be attending Notre Dame. Clausen was a productive player during his three years with the Irish, however he never was able to make it to the National Championship game or even a BCS game like the hype had suggested he would when he stepped foot in South Bend.
A two-year starter for the Fighting Irish, Clausen threw for 8,148 yards, 60 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions with a 62.6% completion percentage (695-1,110); the most productive season of his career came in 2009 when he threw for 3,722 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just four interceptions with a 68.0% completion percentage (289-425). A prototypical pro-style quarterback, Jimmy Clausen has all of the tools needed to develop into a starting quarterback in the NFL. With three years of experience playing Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense, Clausen is a very smart, intelligent quarterback with great instincts. He has experience going through his reads and progressions as a quarterback along with playing under center, unlike many of the other quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Jimmy has great mechanics with a clean, quick delivery; his arm strength is very good, with the ability to consistently throw the ball down the field in the passing game.
Clausen’s accuracy has gotten better over the course of his career at Notre Dame, with his completion percentage improving in each year that he gained experience (56.3% in 2007, 60.9% in 2008, and 68.0% in 2009). Jimmy’s accuracy in the short-to-intermediate throws is excellent, but it begins to become a bit more shaky as he throws further down the field. He has very good velocity on his throws with the ability to throw the ball on a rope down the field. He’s shown the ability to make deep throws in which he places the ball perfectly on the outside shoulder of his target for his receiver to make the catch.
What I like most about Clausen is the emotional leadership that he brings with him; a team captain as a junior, Clausen is borderline cocky, however he possesses the tools needed to back up his confident attitude. While he didn’t win every game he competed in, Clausen has a competitive fire that I love to see and his willingness to do whatever it takes to win is something that you can’t coach and is hard to find. Likely the most underrated aspect of Clausen’s game is his mobility and pocket presence; he does a great job of stepping up in the pocket to avoid the pass rush and he’s capable of evading the rush by buying time through scrambling outside of the pocket. He’s shown that he’s consistently able to throw the ball on the run, although he could still likely use some refining in this area.
Jimmy’s decision making at the beginning of his career was rather poor; however, as he gained experience and coaching from Weis, you could see him developing into a better leader as well as a better decision maker on the field. Jimmy’s maturity has been questioned and his confident, borderline cocky attitude is something that will likely have some teams at the next level shy away from him. Clausen has shown the ability to be a clutch performer at the end of games, however he also never won a big game during his career at Notre Dame, which is something that I am a bit concerned with.
Another concern that I have is that Jimmy was playing with two of the top wide receivers in the country in addition to a fantastic tight end in college. I wouldn’t say that the receivers made the quarterback, but they certainly played a major role in Clausen’s success. The luxury of being able to loft the ball up to a player like Michael Floyd who could come down with most jump balls as well as having another reliable option in Golden Tate as well as a very talented tight end in Kyle Rudolph certainly made some of Clausen’s throws easier than if he wasn’t playing with such a talented supporting cast. It would help Jimmy’s development to land in a situation with at least one go-to option in the passing game.
Clausen showed great toughness in 2009 when he played the majority of the season with a broken toe in his plant foot; the injury later required surgery in the offseason, which is why he wasn’t able to workout at the Combine. There doesn’t appear to be any long-term concerns with the injury, but it is something that teams will need to look into to make sure it checks out okay. I project that Clausen will be drafted in the first round, specifically among the Top 25 picks with a chance of going as high as the Top 10.
It always seemed as if Jimmy Clausen going to Notre Dame was more to prepare him for the NFL than it was for him to have a chance to play college football; since the eighth grade, Clausen’s life has revolved around him preparing himself as much as possible for the professional level. You always got the sense that Clausen was going to jump to the NFL at the first chance that he got, and that chance came in 2010. I like Clausen a bit more than other scouts do because I think that he has that “it” factor that you can’t coach and is hard to find in a quarterback. Jimmy’s attitude is something that the team that he lands with will need to keep in check, however when you draft Clausen you know that you’re getting a player who is extremely prepared to play in the NFL and has the potential to develop into an elite signal caller at the next level. He may need to land in the right fit to become the best player that he’s capable of being, however he certainly has all of the tools needed to have success in the NFL.
Notes: Jimmy was the No. 1 overall player in the country coming out of Oaks Christian Academy in 2007. With a 42-0 record as a starting quarterback at the high school level, Jimmy won four state championships and threw for 10,764 yards and a state-record 146 touchdowns over the course of his high school career. As a senior he threw for 3,428 yards, 49 touchdowns, and just six interceptions with a 69.0% completion percentage (194-281); he also rushed for seven touchdowns in 2006. He threw 3,665 yards and 58 touchdowns as a sophomore. Jimmy’s two older brothers, Rick and Casey, both played quarterback at Tennessee but were unsuccessful in the NFL, which is why the Clausen family decided to prepare Jimmy so well, so that he could have a chance to play in the NFL.
Not everybody is going to like Clausen, and that probably includes at least some of his new teammates. From a strictly football standpoint, though, he’s the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft thanks to three seasons in a Charlie Weis offense—two as a starter. Moreover, Clausen’s numbers as a junior compare favorably to the more successful quarterbacks taken at or near the top of the draft—we’re talking Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger. So whatever you think about Clausen’s brash demeanor, cocky attitude, and spiky hair—or for that matter, Clausen’s love-it-or-hate-it alma mater—there’s little question he has the talent to be an NFL quarterback.
So Clausen can play, and in all likelihood play sooner than any of his 2010 quarterback draftmates. Short-term that means you can expect at best mid-tier production along the lines of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and/or Mark Sanchez—none of whom ranked higher than 16th in fantasy production during their rookie season. But should he land in a positive situation—preferably one with a good offensive mind at the helm and a line that won’t send him into the same shell shock that derailed the careers of David Carr and Tim Couch—he’ll provide a quicker return on investment than any other quarterback you could add to your dynasty league roster in this year’s rookie draft.