Is Clausen A Franchise Quarterback?

The quarterback position is the most scrutinized position in sports and without a current rookie salary structure in the NFL, the money that teams must allocate to a top pick equates to even more scrutiny.

In the case of former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, teams that are picking in the top half of this draft have mixed opinions whether he can be a "franchise quarterback."

Out of the projected top five quarterbacks in this draft, Clausen appears to be the most NFL ready as he was able to play in a pro style offense under now Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in college.

"He's a great quarterback coach, one of the best I've ever had," Clausen said of his former college coach. "He's probably the smartest coach I've ever been around. Coach Weis definitely knows what he's doing. He puts me in a great position to go out there and just play football and make plays."

Jimmy Clausen was statistically stellar in his junior season as he completed 68 percent of his 425 pass attempts for 3,722 yards with an amazing 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Those numbers alone would make any team salivate.

"I think the one thing about him is when you complete 68 percent of your passes like he did last year, that tells you something about a player," former NFL scouting executive and senior analyst for NFL.com Gil Brandt said. "You know, he's got a little bit of a swagger about him, and I think that's good. Now, to some people, I think he rubs them a little bit wrong. But I think I'd love to have Jimmy Clausen on my football team.

The one statistic that many of Clausen's detractors can't get past is the fact that his Notre Dame team dropped its final four games of last season and finished 6-6. The .500 record and the lack of any real signature collegiate victory cause many to question the leadership qualities and the immaturity of Clausen.

Clausen is aware of the criticism.

"You know, to be honest, some of the people that say those things just don't know me as a person," Clausen told reporters at the NFL Combine. "Being at Notre Dame, the quarterback and the head coach get all the credit when things go right and get a lot of blame when things go wrong. It's a tough situation being in a fishbowl at Notre Dame."

Just about a month ago, Jimmy Clausen was projected to go as high as the fourth pick in the draft to the Washington Redskins, and there's talk now that he could be around for the San Francisco 49ers second first-round pick (17th overall). Some teams sources believe that Clausen has all the tools to more closely resemble Joe Montana than Brady Quinn, and some think that he's radioactive.

"People that don't like him can't give me a reason why they don't," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. "Maturity issues maybe were there when he came out of high school but they're not there and haven't been there as of late."

With the Redskins acquisition of Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles, it appears likely that Washington will take a left tackle with their fourth-overall pick. Kansas City gave a rich contract after trading for Matt Cassel a year ago so it would appear as if they're out of the quarterback business, even with the link to Charlie Weis. Seattle recently traded for Charlie Whitehurst and gave him a new deal. That doesn't mean that they won't select Clausen, as new head coach Pete Carroll tried very hard to recruit him coming out of the Thousand Oaks, California area. Cleveland doesn't appear to be enamored with Clausen, and Oakland might not be ready to officially declare former first-overall pick JaMarcus Russell a bust (as the rest of the NFL world already has). As bad as the Buffalo quarterback situation is, their offensive line situation is even more dire.

"It's going to be interesting to see where he goes because nobody has a real feel for it right now, nobody," Kiper said. "I put him to Oakland and I think Seattle is possible….I've heard no to Buffalo, I've not heard no to Oakland or no to Seattle…I think Jimmy's going to be a very interesting guy to follow in this years Draft."

That leaves Jacksonville with the tenth pick, a team that few are linking to Clausen. The Jaguars have no answer at quarterback and have one of the worst ticket sales situations in the league. Many pegged former Florida quarterback and local legend Tim Tebow to the Jaguars very early in the draft process, but when Tebow flopped at the Senior Bowl and in workouts, many then thought that Jacksonville was set at quarterback.

A team source recently told me "there's an excellent chance" that Clausen would be the Jaguars pick if he were available when the team goes on the clock with the tenth-overall selection.

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Who will be the team that will take a chance on this technically correct, yet brash signal caller? Will Clausen be available when the Jaguars go on the clock? We'll find out in about a week.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, and also the co-host of CB Sports Radio on ESPN 1420 in St. Augustine, FL. You can contact him at charlie@jagnation.com or follow him on twitter @nflcharlie


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