NFL draft: Maturity a concern as teams consider Clausen
By Chip Scoggins
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
On the day he announced he was going to play quarterback at Notre Dame, Jimmy Clausen marked the occasion by arriving at the College Football Hall of Fame in a Hummer limo. Then he crowed about winning multiple national championships.
A stunt like that never goes over well in the court of public opinion, and Clausen still is paying the price. As he prepared for this week's NFL draft, Clausen faced far more criticism about his attitude and perceived arrogance than he did his ability to lead an NFL team.
By most accounts, Clausen is the second-ranked quarterback behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and most likely a first-round pick. But the perception that he is too cocky has dogged Clausen and raised doubt within league circles about whether he can become a franchise-type quarterback.
"You know, to be honest, some of the people that say those things just don't know me as a person," Clausen said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. "A lot of people don't really know me as a person.
"That's why I was so excited to come here, talk to all the coaches and the GMs and owners so they get a feel for me as a person. 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."
Clausen showed steady improvement at Notre Dame. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions last season.
Few knock Clausen's physical skills. He has a strong arm, good accuracy and he played in a pro style system under Charlie Weis. He also showed some toughness by playing the majority of last season with two torn ligaments in his right big toe, which required surgery in January.
But his immaturity as a younger quarterback has been hard to escape.
"People that don't like him can't give me a reason why they don't," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. 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. His arm strength may not be John Elway-like, but it's very good. It's good enough."
Even so, Kiper admitted that "nobody has a real feel" for where Clausen might be drafted after Washington (which owns the No. 4 overall pick) traded for Donovan McNabb. Some have speculated that if Buffalo doesn't select Clausen at No. 9 overall he could fall to the end of the first round.
More than one mock draft even projected the Vikings to take him at No. 30.
It still seems unlikely that the second-ranked quarterback would drop that far. Whatever happens, Clausen said he's prepared to lead a franchise.
"That's one of the reasons why I went to Notre Dame, to best replicate what it was going to be like playing big-time football in the NFL as a rookie," he said.
"There's obviously been history shown that a lot of quarterbacks that come into their rookie season in the NFL have struggled. I kind of went through that at Notre Dame. I struggled my first year, got a little better my second year, and made a drastic change my junior year in college."