With Sam Bradford slated to go off the board with the number one overall pick this year, the eyes of the nation are looking towards Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen to be the next great quarterback to enter the NFL.
While it's unknown quite yet to where exactly, Clausen is expected to go in the top 10 picks of the 2010 Draft.
The early contenders being the Pete Carroll led Seattle Seahawks, the Mike Holmgren led Cleveland Browns, or the always crazy Al Davis led Oakland Raiders, who just may end up drafting four quarterbacks and three punters this draft before all is said and done.
There's no doubt he'll be drafted early, but the big question is, does he have the skills to make it as a legitimate NFL starter?
The list of NFL Draft busts is long and impressive, especially at the quarterback position, including names such as Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, JaMarcus Russell, Andre Ware, JP Losman, and Rick Mirer, to name just a few.
Will Jimmy Clausen go the way of Rick Mirer, the second coming of Joe Montana, or somewhere in between?
Time will tell, but for now, let's look at the factors that play into it:
Does he have the size and intangibles to compete in the NFL?
Clausen officially stands at 6'3 and 223 pounds, compared to the NFL elites like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre, Clausen meets the average criteria in size, although some say he could afford to add a few pounds.
How about his arm strength and accuracy?
The knocks on Jimmy do include his arm strength, a major indication of whether a prospect becomes an NFL bust or not. Clausen needs work on his deep balls, often times hanging the ball too long in the air, floating it into the hands of his receivers or sometimes even short changes them entirely.
To get the necessary push on deep throws, Clausen "slings" it, using his weight to push the ball. Most often, this isn't something that can be coached, arm strength is the most difficult intangible to ignore and overcome.
His accuracy was an issue his first two seasons in college, but his junior season reduced his turnovers, and posted great highlights on the backs of college standout receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.
While the 2009 season saw him post impressive numbers, the scouts will have to determine if this was due to drastically improving his accuracy over the course of an offseason, or if he was carried by his pro-caliber receiving duo.
Can he escape a pass rush at the NFL level?
Clausen is not known for his athletic ability in that respect, often times his footwork is sloppy and much like another former Notre Dame star, he often suffers from "happy feet". Clausen runs fully upright, and struggles to secure the ball, something pass rushers at the next level will have a field day with.
When protection breaks down, Clausen doesn't deal well with the pressure, often making weak throws to the closest receiver, something that can easily be read by NFL defenders.
The simple fact is that any team taking a chance on Jimmy Clausen, will have to have a stout offensive line, or he's likely to fall victim to "David Carr Syndrome". A team like the Minnesota Vikings, who have a great offensive line and a big quarterback need, would be wise to move up if Clausen begins falling down the board.
What about his leadership qualities, does he have off the field issues?
Clausen is a solid leader on the field, but his personality can come off somewhat arrogant and abrasive. Labeled often as a "SoCal prep" and a "pretty boy", Clausen has worked hard to try and shake the labels and take on a blue collar mentality.
Twice he has had run-in's with the law, both involving alcohol. Once, being caught "illegally transporting alcohol while underage", he escaped a citation by attending a diversion program. The second incident involved a South Bend pub incident that resulted in Clausen receiving a black eye.
Final assessment, will Clausen succeed in the NFL, and where is his best fit?
Although Clausen has cut his teeth in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame, going against hard-hitting safeties in the AFC North like Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, and Roy Williams means Clausen likely would not be a good fit for the Cleveland Browns.
However a team like the Seattle Seahawks may pay dividends for him, a team that often runs a series of check-downs and slants, something Clausen is very comfortable with, as his accuracy is above average within the first 10-15 yards.
If Clausen is given a solid offensive line and winds up in an NFC West Coast Offense, he has an adequate chance of being a successful starter in the NFL.