With the dust settling on the hiring of Brian Kelly as the new head coach, its time to catch up on some news and events from the past couple weeks that didn’t receive too much attention with all of the hoopla surrounding the Notre Dame coaching search.
We all know that Jimmy Clausen is leaving Notre Dame early for the NFL, but outside of reporting on Clausen’s decision, where Clausen ends up in the draft hasn’t really been discussed here.
To get a good gauge as to where Clausen should end up in the draft, I asked Scott Wright from Draft Countdown what he thought of the now former Irish QB and where he saw him getting picked in April. Here’s what Scott had to say about Mr. James Clausen.
Just average height and arm strength but both are adequate. Has three years of experience in a pro-style offense, which can’t be underestimated in this day and age of the spread. Might have some minor durability concerns but has showed the toughness to play through injuries. Made major strides as a leader this year but may still have some issues with his intangibles and could rub some the wrong way. There is a fine line between being fiery and confident and overly cocky. Really reminds me of Aaron Rodgers. Barring any character red flags popping up he should fit into the Top 10 overall with a legit shot at the Top 5. Will compete with Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford to be the first quarterback selected.
Should Wright’s prediction for Clausen prove to be true, it’s easy to see why Clausen decided to forgo his final season in South Bend.
Clausen’s path to the top 10 got a little bit easier this week as well with Washington’s Jake Locker deciding to come back for his senior season. For Locker, coming back for another season made sense even though he had a good chance of being one of the first quarterbacks selected based on his potential alone. Locker has got prototypical size and excellent speed, but could use another year of seasoning in a pro style offense to better prepare himself for the NFL.
That wasn’t the case with Clausen who started the past three years for Notre Dame and really couldn’t do a whole lot to improve his draft stock or better prepare himself for the NFL.
With just three games left in the NFL season, the top of the draft order is a little clearer and there are plenty of teams currently projected to draft in the top 10 that could be in need of a quarterback. St. Louis is currently slated to draft first overall and could be in the market for a quarterback to replace the aging Marc Bulger. Early indications are that the Rams would go for Nebraska’s ridiculously dominant defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Oakland looks like it is pulling the plug on the JaMarcus Russell experiment and could be looking for a QB as well. Washington, Buffalo, Seattle, and Denver (by virtue of getting Chicago’s draft pick in 2010) are all teams currently projected to draft in the top 10 that could be looking for a quarterback. Should Denver look to improve its quarterback position in the first round, it’s interesting to note that current Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels was an offensive coordinator for the Patriots prior to coaching the Broncos and has an offense that Clausen would be very familiar with.
If Clausen falls out of the top 10, other possible destinations for him could be Jacksonville, Arizona, or even Minnesota though I doubt he’d drop that far. Jacksonville could look to upgrade from David Garrard who’s leveled off over the past few seasons. Arizona still has Matt Leinart on their roster, but the former USC star hasn’t done much to prove he can take over for Kurt Warner once he retires. Minnesota has Brett Favre for now, but who knows what Favre will do and there is a huge drop-off from him to current backup Tavarius Jackson.
Regardless of where Clausen ends up, hopefully he can avoid the same type of draft day drama that Brady Quinn experienced in 2007 when he waited backstage at the draft until pick 22 until he heard his name called. Luckily for Clausen, there are more teams in need of a quarterback at the top of the draft this year so that shouldn’t be the case.