Draft Spotlight: Jimmy Clausen
We turn our attention to the quarterback position. When discussing the QB spot for the 49ers you’ll get lots of debates. Some say that the one thing stopping the 49ers from taking the next step is the quarterback position. Others will say that current starter Alex Smith can get the job done. So which boat are Baalke and Co. on? Will they go into the season with Smith, Carr and Davis or will they pull the plug and use one of their 1st rounders on a QB. The one QB who might be available for them at the 13 spot is Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen.
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.
Accuracy: Very good, but not great, accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws whether over the middle or on the sidelines. Receivers usually have a chance to run after the catch, though he tends to throw high when missing because of his delivery. Fades are generally placed where only his receiver can make the catch, though not always over the correct shoulder. Needs to consistently put deep throws on the outside shoulder of his receiver.
Arm Strength: Enough arm strength to make every necessary NFL throw, but requires great effort to do so. Good zip on crossing or out patterns to either side of the field when in balance. Places in the ball in tight quarters over the middle. Tries to throw too hard at times, and needs to take a bit off short passes and rely on his arm strength to deliver passes without a wind up. His 60-yard deep ball floats, allowing safety help to arrive.
Setup/Release: Well-coached pro-style quarterback with balanced footwork and nice ball carriage. Also effective out of shotgun. Puts strong effort into each pass, sometimes overthrowing. Winds up a bit when trying to unleash a fastball, allowing defenders to react. Drops right shoulder to get better trajectory on deep passes. Needs to better sell ball fake and pump fake to draw in defenders. Able to deliver the ball from different slots when needed, but also gets happy feet if line is struggling to protect him and will throw off back foot. His average height and tendency to wind up could hinder ability to get the ball through the line.
Reading Defenses: Regularly looks off safety before going to his intermediate or deep out. Tended to bird-dog his favorite receiver in 2009, however. Takes too many chances downfield, eschewing his underneath options and trusting his receivers but not acknowledging safety help over the top. Also throws late over the middle or across his body, which he won’t get away with in the pros.
On the Move: Good footwork in the pocket, able to shift in any direction to evade rushers and create space and find a passing lane in which to throw. Keeps eyes downfield when pressured out of the pocket, and throws well running to his left or right. Able to run for first downs. Adept at sliding after a run but gives good effort to gain a first down or find the end zone. Needs to secure the ball better when scrambling. A bit late feeling backside pressure, but his internal clock improved this year behind a below-average line.
Intangibles: Fiery, emotional leader is willing to demand the best from his teammates. Intelligent player able to handle any offense. Tough runner who played through broken toe on his plant (right) foot in 2009. Maturity has been a question mark in the past, and he can get salty with coaches and teammates during a game, but no major concerns have arisen.
NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Clausen’s a highly-competitive signal-caller who was has been very productive in a pro-style system during his career. Possesses a live arm and flashes the ability to make all the NFL throws. Displays impressive accuracy in the short passing game. Is athletic and mobile for the position and can avoid the rush and make plays outside the pocket. Has a very quick delivery.
Clausen has a somewhat low release point. Release point combined with less-than-ideal height leaves Clausen susceptible to having passes batted down at the line. Has a strong arm but lacks premier arm strength and may struggle at times fitting the ball into windows deep down the field. He will be unable to participate in combine drills due to toe surgery.