Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is all an NFL scout could ask for from a quarterback.
Production, both in yards and points, even with a subpar supporting cast. Dead-eye accuracy in a fast-paced passing attack. (Significantly, a pro-style passing attack.) Thorough command of his offense, both intellectually and as a leader who has played through pain.
Having declared for the 2010 NFL Draft in the wake of head coach Charlie Weis' departure from the Fighting Irish, Clausen stands out as the top prospect at his position in this class.
And now, more than ever in the NFL's history, quarterbacks win games.
On the strength of 21st-century rule changes designed to protect their bodies, free up their receivers, and entertain their fans, modern signal-callers such as New England's Tom Brady, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, and New Orleans' Drew Brees have smashed defenses and long-standing records.
A great quarterback—cerebral, poised, and talented—can make up for gaps in his supporting cast and even a league-average (or worse) defense. As proof, nine of the top 12 passing offenses in 2009 belonged to playoff teams, and all of them belonged to teams with winning records.
Consequently, come April, the NFL's have-nots fight and maneuver amongst themselves for the right to draft a savior-under-center of their very own. In a league where value must be wrung out of every dollar spent against the salary cap, nine of the past 12 drafts have had a quarterback picked first overall—and paid accordingly.
High positional value, far and away the highest of any position.
That's why they pay 'em the big bucks, and that's why the Jaguars would be shocked if Clausen fell to them in the first round, even should they win their coin-flip contest with Denver for the 10th spot.
Gene Smith, Jacksonville's second-year general manager, is a staunch advocate of drafting the best player available, regardless of position. In picking tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton in the first two rounds of last year's draft, Smith showed a willingness to draft for talent and let the roster sort itself out.
The Jaguars, of course, are financially committed to veteran quarterback David Garrard, who signed a six-year, $60 million contract extension before the 2008 season and has started all of Jacksonville's 32 games since.
That wouldn't stop "GM Gene," and it's not going to stop this writer from getting the most value out of the Jaguars' first round pick.
Should Clausen end up elsewhere via trade, Jacksonville can expect to be handsomely compensated for their hot commodity. From later in the first round, talents such as USC safety Taylor Mays or Texas pass rusher Sergio Kindle could represent a better marriage of immediate need and draft value.
But should Clausen stay, the Jaguars' steady quarterback situation would give him time to ease into professional football, in circumstances similar to Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers' rookie years.
Win-win. The Denver Broncos are on the clock.
9. Buffalo Bills — Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa)
8. Oakland Raiders — Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers)
7. Cleveland Browns — Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
6. Seattle Seahawks — Derrick Morgan (DE, Ga. Tech)
5. Kansas City Chiefs — Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
4. Washington Redskins — Russell Okung (OT, Okla. St.)
2. Detroit Lions — Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)