Panthers #48 Draft Pick Analysis: QB Jimmy Clausen

Article-1268501-0948d067000005dc-135_306x423_medium

via i.dailymail.co.uk

Before I get into the details of this pick I have to describe the build-up to the announcement of the pick. With both Clausen and McCoy on the board and all the talking heads expecting the Panthers to make a move up to grab somebody it was quite the build-up for me. With so many good players still on the board I just couldn't convince myself they would go for one of the QB's but when Clausen was announced I yelled "Ohhhh!!" like I had just seen one of those skateboarders rack himself on a handrail. It was quite a shock to say the least.

Since then this pick makes more sense to me as it was no secret the Panthers desire QB depth but I guess absolutely nobody expected Clausen to slide so far, in particular to slide past his old coach Charlie Weis...twice! But I think in the end we will be very glad he did.

Upside: A

The sky appears to be the limit for Clausen in the NFL. The scouts agree he has the arm strength to make all the throws, he is very accurate (4th best completion percentage in NCAA in 2009) and he has experience running a Pro Set offense similar to what the Panthers run. He comes from big time program and has played in pressure-packed games in front of huge audiences. He has won games making throws down the stretch in tight coverage with the game on the line. It would appear Clausen has followed the perfect path to the NFL and should develop into an NFL starter in due time.  More after the jump...

Downside: B

Obviously several NFL GM's have some issue with Clausen or else he would not have fallen to the Panthers at #48. I have a hard time believing it's some glitch in his throwing mechanics. The leading assumption for the slide is his intangibles, that he's not a leader, that he is a cocky, arrogant, a ‘douche bag' if you will, who rubs people the wrong way. ESPN's Todd McShay in particular was very harsh on Clausen and wasn't shy about it on camera. McShay's seemingly unsupported diatribe on Clausen certainly rubbed SBN's Notre Dame blogger CW the wrong way as well, who had quite a response to McShay which you can read here. I think instead is McShay who looks like the douchebag.

Now I will be the first to admit I know very little about Clausen so I decided to ask the experts, our SBN Notre Dame bloggers over at Rakes of Mallow for skinny on Clausen. Here's the feedback:

Hey there. We're big Clausen fans here, understandably, despite his lack of the Quinn good looks/BCs appearances/unquestionable good-guyness. The first two, of course, are out of JC's control, and the third is overblown and exacerbated by his pre-college cockiness and having go follow Brady. Some anecdotal things that I think will help him in the NFL:
1) Accuracy. The underrated-but-oh-so-important QB trait. And he's filthy accurate. Time after time on long routes to Tate/Floyd/Rudolph, Clausen hit them far more often than not, and more consistently than Brady ever did. Every time he dropped back in 2009, and pretty much every time in 2008, we assumed completion. And we were usually right, no matter the type of throw.
2) Arm strength. He zips it. Into tiny spaces.
3) Smarts. He reads defenses well, and mastered an offense at ND that apparently uses the same verbiage that the Panthers use. Weis was a miserable head coach, but he knows what he's doing with quarterbacks. No quarterback this year more ready for the NFL in this respect.
4) Leadership. No doubt this was the weak link of Jimmy's game upon arriving. He rolled up to the College Hall of Fame in a Hummer to announce his college choice, where he then promised four Heisman Trophies and four national championships. The proclamations and spiky hair made us roll our eyes, but even we skeptics weren't ready for 2007. He took shot after shot, lost more than he ever had in his life, and grew up a huge amount. Major strides in 2008, and then by 2009, he was the undeniable leader and face of the team, a role he accepted well. We would've lost a bunch more had he not come up with some ridiculous performances against Washington, Purdue, Michigan State. And he led us to within a Duval Kamara end zone slip of tying USC. Our now-deposed coaches did nothing but rave about him, including Jon Tenuta, who had far less pleasant things to say about our defense. And they of him, I'm sure.

Personally, my favorite JC moment, which now seems sad in retrospect, was the 2008 Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. He showed what he was capable of really for the first time start to finish, and got us all excited for 2009. Too excited, clearly, but it was fun while it lasted. The game winner at Purdue was also fun.

Jimmy-clausen_medium

via nflmockdraftking.com

 

So in spite of the fact so many team passed on Clausen it appears their issues may have zero affect on his ability as pro.

Fit: A

As far as where Clausen will fit into the Panthers depth chart he will fit nicely into the #2 QB slot in 2010 and learn under the tutelage of QB Coach Rip Sherer. Whether he sees the field in 2010 is unknown but long-term he could very well fit into the ‘franchise QB' slot every team has room for. For Clausen he could not have found a better fit for himself. The Panthers run a similar offense, he won't be asked to start right away since Matt Moore appears to be the #1 QB at the moment and yet he could unseat Moore if he learns quickly and gains the confidence of the coaching staff. Plus the Panthers are not a rebuilding team as many top rookie QB's get drafted into. They have a top running game and offensive line that should provide whichever young QB that starts the protection to be successful. Though Clausen may come into the league with a chip on his shoulder because of his unexpected and possibly undeserved draft day slide, in the end I think Panther fans will reward his with their adulation.

Summary

Though Clausen may be disappointed in his slide and Panther fans may be shocked at the selection in the end I think he will eventually take the reins of the franchise in the next season or two. Clausen has the knowledge, the physical tools and the passing accuracy to be a stellar NFL QB for many years.

Here are some additional resources on Clausen:

Many professional scouts felt that Clausen's ability to master Weis's pro-style offense, make good decisions and his overall competency at the position make him very attractive to quarterback-hungry franchises. He is a classic drop-back quarterback with above-average accuracy, good mechanics and a very quick release. In 2009, despite the offense's struggles, Clausen showed mental and physical toughness and the ability to command the huddle, to keep his team into games well into the fourth quarter.

Weis cites Clausen's ability to "pitch a perfect game," using his quarterback's performance vs. Hawaii in 2008 as an example. That bowl game turned out to be his coming out party. He completed 84.6 percent of his passes, gain 401 yards and connect on five touchdown throws. He would follow that contest by producing seven 300-plus yard performances in 12 games the following season, including 452 yards vs. Navy.

Clausen has been the face of the Notre Dame program for the past three years and has shown improvement in virtually every aspect of his game each year. He lacks a cannon for an arm but he does have a live arm and a quick delivery that allows him to get the ball out quickly. He has close to a ¾-arm delivery which coupled with his lack of top height can cause some of his passes to get knocked down or tipped by pass rushers. He has been well coached and understands a pro style offense, so he is apt to come to camp better prepared than most. He is recovering from toe surgery and will not participate in combine drills.

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