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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen
    By K.C. Joyner
    ESPN Insider
    Saturday, January 30, 2010
    Updated: February 9, 3:36 PM ET

    What this is: During the year, Football Scientist K.C. Joyner has evaluated top NFL draft prospects. This week he looks at former Notre Dame Fighting Irish QB Jimmy Clausen.

    When grading a quarterback's arm strength, I often think back to a line from former San Francisco ***** coach Bill Walsh in Dr. Z's classic book, "The New Thinking Man's Guide To Pro Football." Some in the media had called Super Bowl XVI a battle between Walsh's brains and Cincinnati coach Forrest Gregg's discipline. That viewpoint led Walsh to ask this question: What constituted discipline? Was it being physically tough on someone? Or could it also be executing a highly choreographed set of moves under the pressure of competition? The answer is that it could be either, and it really depended on what one meant by the word discipline.

    The same thing goes for measuring the velocity of a passing arm. The gold standard in this area is the deep out pass, but that throw requires a much different kind of delivery and less touch than many other important vertical passes, such as the go, corner, post and fade routes.

    Now, let's look at Jimmy Clausen. It is pretty much a given that Clausen will be a first-round draft pick, but his arm strength is enough of a question mark to cause his predicted draft slot status to vary significantly. For example, Mel Kiper's initial mock draft has Clausen going to the Buffalo Bills at the No. 9 spot because he possesses "an NFL arm." Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay, on the other hand, has Clausen going in the No. 23 spot (to the Seattle Seahawks) in part because "he doesn't have ideal arm strength."

    So which analyst is right?

    The odd thing is that they both are on the money. After breaking down six of Clausen's 2009 game tapes (at Michigan, at Michigan State, vs. USC, vs. Boston College, vs. Connecticut and at Stanford), I found metrics and scouting notes to back both sides of that argument.

    For example, Clausen did a fine job on the 13 deep out passes he threw. Eleven of them were on target (on target being defined as landing within the catching frame of the receiver) and seven ended up being completed. He was also 2-for-2 on the comeback route -- which is a close cousin of the deep out -- so he was on the money on 13 out of 15 of the vertical outside routes.

    Clausen also displayed superb accuracy on the long passes that require more arc than the deep out. He was one for two on the corner route and would have been two for two if not for a dropped pass. Clausen also completed the only deep post route he threw.

    Throwing into high traffic areas also was an area of strength for Clausen, something that is evidenced by his seven completions in eight attempts on deep in passes.

    For all of his vertical plusses from a metric perspective, the scouting eye indicated Clausen had some issues on certain types of throws. This was especially evident in the Michigan contest. In that game, Clausen had multiple occasions when he threw a low hard pass when a higher, arced passed would have been more appropriate. It almost looked as though he was trying to show just how hard he could throw the ball and was putting more mustard on passes than was necessary. That trend didn't show up later in the season, so it might have been an early season psychological issue he has since overcome.

    Clausen also had issues when facing a pass rush. The scouting notes indicated numerous instances where Clausen threw passes off of his back foot when the defense did a heavy blitz. The first negative on this front is that he would do at times even when the blitz was picked up, so that leads to concerns about whether he will get what Phil Simms calls "pocket cabin fever" whenever a defense comes after him.

    The second negative is that those aerials ended up well short of the mark. That clearly shows Clausen cannot effectively gun a pass downfield unless he has the ability to step into the pass.

    If the game tape reviews showed both an upside and a downside in terms of Clausen's arm, they were perfectly clear about his ability to read a defense. He made only four bad decisions in 224 passes (a bad decision being defined as when the quarterback makes a mistake with the ball that leads to either a turnover or a near turnover). That equates to a 1.7 percent bad-decision rate, which is a mark that would usually rank among the top 10-15 quarterbacks if it were accomplished at the NFL level, so Clausen gets high marks here.

    The Football Scientist Lab Result: Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have proven that the ability to read a defense is much more important than possessing a cannon for an arm. Clausen has displayed superb ability in that area, and when that is added to his more than adequate skill in placing accurate throws downfield, it equals a TFS seal of approval.

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  2. #2
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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    is it that clear that Clausen's arm isn't as strong as Bradford's?

    I don't know about that.

  3. #3
    Bralidore(RAMMODE) Guest

    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Ive never cared about a guy possessing a cannon arm. Id much rather the guy love the game, be intelligent, hard working and accurate. Ill take that all day long over a cannon arm.

    Besides, a lot of strong armed quarterbacks get that gunslinger mentality and force balls they shouldn't rather than relying on their accuracy.

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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    QBs like Brees, Manning, Warner, Rivers, and Brady all had to work harder on reading defenses and timing with their receivers because they lacked the 100 mph fastball. As long as the offense gives him time to step into his throw its not a problem. He has shown to be a good decision maker and he can make all of the necessary throws. I don't see this as a concern.

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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Bralidore(RAMMODE) View Post
    Ive never cared about a guy possessing a cannon arm. Id much rather the guy love the game, be intelligent, hard working and accurate. Ill take that all day long over a cannon arm.

    Besides, a lot of strong armed quarterbacks get that gunslinger mentality and force balls they shouldn't rather than relying on their accuracy.
    agreed, remember JaMarcus? He has an incredible arm. There isn't much else to like about the guy.

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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    I think come draft day Clausen will be far and away the #1 QB and possibly the #1 overall pick.

  7. #7
    msha is offline Registered User
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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    interesting note: in mcshays 2nd mock draft, he did not have clausen in the 1st round

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Quote Originally Posted by msha View Post
    interesting note: in mcshays 2nd mock draft, he did not have clausen in the 1st round
    Not surprising. McShay is not a very big fan of Clausen, as evident by his #37 ranking in the current Scouts Inc draft board.
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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    McShay just hates Claussen and he makes his grades and drafts based on controversy because he knows that is what will get him attention. Worst draft guru ever, get him off TV.

    This is a great article i agree with the writers points and it makes alot of sense.

  10. #10
    TheRammer Guest

    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen
    By K.C. Joyner
    ESPN Insider
    Saturday, January 30, 2010
    Updated: February 9, 3:36 PM ET

    For all of his vertical plusses from a metric perspective, the scouting eye indicated Clausen had some issues on certain types of throws. This was especially evident in the Michigan contest. In that game, Clausen had multiple occasions when he threw a low hard pass when a higher, arced passed would have been more appropriate. It almost looked as though he was trying to show just how hard he could throw the ball and was putting more mustard on passes than was necessary. That trend didn't show up later in the season, so it might have been an early season psychological issue he has since overcome.


    The Football Scientist Lab Result: Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have proven that the ability to read a defense is much more important than possessing a cannon for an arm. Clausen has displayed superb ability in that area, and when that is added to his more than adequate skill in placing accurate throws downfield, it equals a TFS seal of approval.
    I'm a michigan fan and the games I saw him play my Big Blue I have been pretty impressed which helped me keep a eye on him the last couple of years. He's not a bad QB at all, and think he has the great intangibles to be a wonderful NFL QB. I hope maybe AV's thoughts comes to bare and we trade our 2011 ist rounder and pick up Clausen as our QB of the future... if by some miracle Bradford isn't still on the board...

  11. #11
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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    If faint praise is damning, then what of faint criticism? If the worst that can be said about him is that he has at times thrown too hard and is less accurate when throwing off his back foot under pressure, that doesn't sound so bad at all.

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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    If faint praise is damning, then what of faint criticism? If the worst that can be said about him is that he has at times thrown too hard and is less accurate when throwing off his back foot under pressure, that doesn't sound so bad at all.
    My thoughts exactly. If those are the only negatives they can find then this guy is the real deal. Let us not forget that none of the players coming out of college are a finished product by any stretch.

    Claussen will need some work on technique and such, but from this report a lot less than we might think.

    Methinks Charlie Weiss did a good job coaching this kid up.

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    Azul e Oro is online now Registered User
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    Re: ESPN Draft Lab: Jimmy Clausen analysis

    Intriguing report. This kid is growing on me. I guess a lot is going to depend on the interviews; it certainly sounds like JC is a viable candidate as far as the measurables are concerned.

    Even bearing in mind that he's a homer alumnus, Theismann has a good opinion of him & that's an opinion I'd take over Mcshay's any time:
    Throughout the twists and turns of the 2009 Notre Dame football season, quarterback Jimmy Clausen had an impressive ear to hear his concerns.
    Former Notre Dame All-American quarterback Joe Theismann had befriended Clausen, who declared for the NFL draft Monday following his junior year in South Bend.
    "The discussion (to leave college early) never came up between us. I think he had every intention of going back for his senior year," said Theismann on Monday. "Now that the coaching situation has changed so much, I think it is in his best interests to see what his future looks like. I agree with his decision."
    Charlie Weis, who recruited Clausen out of Westlake Village, Calif., was fired as head coach at the end of this season. And Clausen's top receiver, Golden Tate, is also declaring for the NFL draft.
    "I think Golden is a bit more polished coming out than anybody," said Theismann. "I mean, what Golden was able to do at a time when he was the focal point, just speaks volumes for his ability. He catches the ball well, he returns kicks well. He's a first-round pick, in my mind."
    Clausen leaves Notre Dame after 34 starts, in which the team was 16-18. He ranked second in the country in pass efficiency this season behind Boise State's Kellen Moore.
    Clausen was 289-for-425 passing for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns this year with four interceptions. He averaged 310 yards per game passing.
    "I said a while back that I was going to tackle (Clausen) if he tried to leave. If Charlie was there, I would have felt that way," Theismann said. "But with so much transition that is going to go on, and so many questions and so many players leaving ... that's what kids look at now. 'What is the team going to look like around me?'
    "The fact that he played for Charlie was great. He gave him an opportunity to work from under center, which is very important."
    Theismann, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins and was NFL MVP in 1983, said he thinks Clausen can make it in the NFL.
    "He is like any young quarterback. There are things that he needs to work on and get better at," Theismann said. "But he certainly has the arm strength. He has proven he has the accuracy. He has proven he has the toughness. And I think, based on the way things are going at the University of Notre Dame ... if professional football is his chosen field, it's probably a good opportunity."
    Theismann said Clausen will continue to improve after a rough start at Notre Dame.
    "When Jimmy first came to Notre Dame, he was put in a very difficult situation," he said. "There was an awful lot expected of him. And the team around him was very young. ... There was a lot of pressure and it was tough for him. And he handled it very well. I think that in the three years he has been a starter there he has grown, he has matured. ...
    "He has a great foundation to become a professional quarterback."
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -02-11-2010 at 09:20 PM.

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