No, we’re not going to talk about his supposedly negative attitude, how he was a world-class prick when he arrived at ND, or his lack of leadership. We’re not going to talk about whether he has the "right" swagger you need in an NFL QB, whether he can forget his mistakes, or whether he lives and breathes for football. I personally have no input on his attitude because I haven’t met or talked to the guy and I’d rather not form opinions based on hearsay, rumor, and whatever Todd McShay says on Sportscenter.
Instead, we’re going to talk about his actual on-field performance and why I’d be hesitant to commit to him at #9.
Without reiterating his positives (command of the offense, excellent timing and anticipation while getting rid of the ball quickly, superb pre-snap coverage recognition, etc.), we’re going to jump right into the negatives that I saw in re-watching all of the games I could:
1) In the games that I watched, roughly 65-70% of his passes went to his right, which indicates that he’s far more comfortable throwing in that direction. When he did throw left, it was generally a designed screen, a dump-off, or a pre-snap read which demanded he take advantage of that match-up. He rarely looked left in his regular progression. Keep in mind that the inability to look left basically is what caused Rick Mirer to fail in the NFL. Clausen generally also didn’t throw between the hash marks, unlike Bradford who attacked the middle of the defense with a Kurt Warner-like aggression.
2) Very predictable progression while making defensive reads. On one hand that’s a compliment, because he was throwing to open receivers. On the other hand, if I know where Clausen is going to throw the ball based on visual clues, I’m going to bet NFL defensive coordinators will also know and be able to game plan accordingly. Most times he knew where he was throwing it based purely on his pre-snap read. I think it would only take a few games for NFL defensive coordinators and players to key on his habits, much like we saw with Sanchez this year.
3) He has a relatively long throwing motion which, although not Leftwich-ian long, the ball comes out deliberately and slow; it takes a while for him to release the ball once he decides where the ball is going. He consistently got elongated when trying to generate additional velocity on the ball, likely because of his toe. He spent most of the year not fully striding into his throws, which at the time I thought was a mechanical issue; obviously it was because of his hurt toe. The velocity on his throws appeared significantly better at his pro day as he was able to fully step into his throws and generate torque from his lower half. His delivery looked more compact at his pro day, but would the longer delivery reappear in games?
4) As a continuance from my previous point, Clausen rarely, if ever, transferred his weight from his back foot to his front foot as you are supposed to do when throwing the ball. Consequently, some of his throws looked sluggish and lacked ideal velocity. Obviously this is a direct result from his toe injury. However, even prior to his toe injury, there was occasionally a lack of weight transfer in his throwing motion and only Brett Favre can consistently throw off his back foot. It appeared cleaned up at his pro day, but again, that begs the question of whether the lack of weight transfer would find its way into the field when the bodies are flying.
5) His skill position players were excellent. The vast majority of the times Tate, Floyd, etc., were open by 5+ yards, which is something you rarely see in the NFL. I can’t overstate this enough: his receivers were open constantly and by a lot. His deep balls in particular were straight up jump balls, which show trust in your receivers. However, throws like that against someone like Darrelle Revis would be an easy pick.
There are a few other knocks on him, like his attitude, small hands in cold weather, etc. He’s probably more ideally suited for a team that runs a West Coast system like the Vikings or Eagles. Regardless, there are enough questions that surround him that I’d be leery of taking him at #9 unless he had truly answered those questions.