2010 NFL Draft: Jimmy Clausen, Jacksonville Jaguars Legitimately Linked?

Jack HarverCorrespondent IIApril 2, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - SETPEMBER 19: Jimmy Clausen #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish congratulates teammates after an extra point against the Michigan State Spartans on September 19, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 33-30. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With less than three weeks until the first round of this year's draft, the Jaguars want a closer look at Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

ESPN's Adam Schefter recently tweeted that Jacksonville will conduct a private workout with Clausen on the school's South Bend, Ind., campus, apart from his pro day on April 9.

Judging from head coach Jack Del Rio's offseason comments about incumbent starter David Garrard, the Jaguars might be scouting a potential upgrade under center.

Appearing on The Jim Rome Show , Del Rio discussed "Peyton Manning type guys" and said of Garrard: "The elite quarterback? He's not that."

Despite possessing ample physical tools for the position, Garrard's tenure in Jacksonville has been marked by inconsistency. Behind the team's strong running game in 2007, he threw only three interceptions in 12 starts as the Jaguars won their first playoff game in the 21st century.

Forced to shoulder more of the offensive burden in the past two seasons, though, Garrard's completion percentage has dropped and his turnover-to-touchdown ratio has evened out to nearly 1:1.

In Clausen, the Jaguars might hope to find a quarterback who works more instinctively through his progressions and completes medium-range passes more consistently.

Hours after Schefter's report, NFL insider Chris Mortensen opined that Clausen could fall out of the top 20 picks on draft day. For months, both of this year's consensus top quarterbacks (Clausen and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford) have been projected ahead of the 10th overall pick.

If Mortensen is right, the Jaguars' sudden interest might indicate their belief that Clausen is in their range—and, depending on two early picks, they might be right.

After a spectacular pro day, Bradford is all but certain to go first overall to St. Louis. Suppose, then, Detroit drafts Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh—by all accounts, the best prospect available—instead of Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung, whom Washington could pick fourth.

The next five picks would belong to teams who have other interests at quarterback. Kansas City brought Matt Cassel in last year; Seattle just traded for Charlie Whitehurst; Cleveland general manager Mike Holmgren seems unimpressed by Clausen; Oakland invested heavily in JaMarcus Russell; Buffalo could prefer Florida's Tim Tebow.

Picking 10th, general manager Gene Smith prides himself on getting maximum value from each of Jacksonville's draft selections. In the modern game, no position has more value than quarterback.

Back in 2004, when Smith was the Jaguars' director of college scouting, Jacksonville passed on Pro Bowler Ben Roethlisberger with the ninth pick. Given a second chance—and final say in the team's "war room"—it's unlikely he'd ignore a franchise-caliber prospect again.

Depending on the Jaguars' impression of Clausen, they might even be ideally placed to trade up for him.

Should the Redskins decide against taking a quarterback, the Chiefs will be stuck in no man's land with the draft's fifth pick. Content with Matt Cassel and left tackle Branden Albert, and considering general manager Scott Pioli's stated aversion to spending top picks on non-premium positions, Kansas City would love to trade down.

Enter Jacksonville. Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams or Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, two ideal prospects for the Chiefs' 3-4 defense, would be much better values at the Jaguars' 10th pick.

According to The Kansas City Star , Pioli valued last year's third overall pick at less than a first- and second-rounder, such was his desire to trade down. In a similar situation, Jacksonville might move up five places for a bargain price.

Should another team leapfrog the Jaguars for Clausen, all would hardly be lost. More likely, the move would push any of several top prospects closer to Jacksonville's pick.

Tennessee safety Eric Berry, a hard-hitting playmaker likened to All-Pro Ed Reed, is currently a popular pick for both the Seahawks and Browns. Were either team to trade out of the top 10, neither Oakland nor Buffalo would be likely to draft Berry behind them.

By virtue of other teams' needs, this year's best safety could fall to fill one of the biggest holes on Jacksonville's depth chart.

Similarly, electric running back C.J. Spiller or even Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy—who, along with Suh, is considered one of this year's few consensus "can't-miss" prospects—could tumble down to the Jaguars because of low positional value, depending on who trades into the top 10.

For that to happen, Jacksonville would have to convince Clausen's suitors that their window of opportunity lies between picks five through nine. Whether they're looking to add the controversial quarterback to their own roster or not, the Jaguars can benefit from solidifying his value as a top-10 prospect.

One thing's for sure, then: The Jaguars are interested in Jimmy Clausen. For what purpose, of course, won't be clear until draft day.