Bradford vs. Clausen – Who would you take?

With the 2010 NFL Draft now less than two weeks away the consensus opinion is that the Rams will be drafting former Oklahoma quarterback and former Heisman winner, Sam Bradford. Bradford looks set to become the franchise QB that Billy Devaney will be placing his job security in, as if he fails with this selection, he looks likely to be shown the door after several disappointing seasons in charge of the franchise. It is also hard to forget the stigma of Devaney’s last first round QB selection, Ryan Leaf, a highly publicised flop, which also serves to cloud our opinion of his judgement. But the burning question is not whether Bradford is a better choice with the first overall pick than Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, but whether the signal-caller with the average arm-strength and publicised fragility is a better choice than hyperbole hero, Jimmy Clausen.

Sam Bradford’s name was mentioned in the same breath as 2009 #1 pick, Matthew Stafford, but he decided to return to the Sooners for one more shot at that elusive National Title. This proved to be a bad decision as he injured his throwing shoulder in week one, before re-injuring it again in an October comeback ruling him out for the year. Bradford had made his name as a highly accurate passer (67.6%, 88TDs – 16INTs), but now his previously average and now re-built arm strength hangs over him as a major question mark. The naysayers will also point to Bradford’s inexperience in a pro-style offense as a further reason that Bradford will struggle at the next level. Despite these much vocalised concerns, ask 90% of draftniks and Sam Bradford will be wearing blue & gold on April 22nd. Why?

Bradford was never reputed to have a cannon arm and his game is built upon his confidence and accuracy. The intelligent, productive passer has been passed fully fit by world-renown surgeons and his game compared to Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. Do not forget that his attributes are perfectly suited for Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense and when answering his critics at his Pro-Day he completed 62/63 which left analysts raving about his other-worldly precision. Throw in Bradford’s prototypical physique and unquestioned intangibles and you begin to understand the whole picture.

However if you want to talk about highly touted prospects, Jimmy Clausen cannot escape attention. Clausen has been a prodigal star since his High School days and is a product of Steve Clarkson’s conveyer belt of QB talent. Whereas Bradford’s detractors focus on his arm and durability, Clausen’s cynics label him an immature and cocky golden boy, taking issue with his personality rather than his talent.

If first impressions are to be believed Jimmy Clausen is an over-hyped frat-boy with a middling record of success. An average physique and unspectacular arm, it was only in his final season that he really lit it up in college. When he was punched on a night out outside a local bar the media showed him no sympathy and portrayed him as of deserving of his black eyes. So how is it even possible that Clausen can be seen as a legitimate contender to be #1 overall?

It is because Jimmy Clausen has ice in his veins. It is not always easy being in the limelight and since a very young age Clausen has been marked out for success. There have always been expectations and Clausen’s ability to continually achieve them is testament to his excellent football IQ and on-field ability. These intangibles and ability to perform under constant pressure are just part of the reason that he is seen as the most NFL-ready quarterback in the ’10 class. The other is his three years of experience in a Charlie Weiss pro-style offence with snaps under centre and reading multiple coverages, something Bradford doesn’t have. His profile is not dissimilar to Bradford in the fact he possesses a medium powered arm but excellent accuracy, well matched for Shurmur’s WCO.  Clausen is also blessed with top-notch accuracy which saw him complete 68% (28TDs – 4INTs) in his last season at Notre Dame as he notably matured under our eyes, before hitting 57/59 at his Pro Day.

Cases can certainly made for both prospects, for and against. Bradford’s scored a very respectable 36 on the Wonderlic test and did run play-action passes in college which goes some way to allay fears that he cannot handle a NFL playbook. However, one thing we can’t know is whether his body can withstand an NFL-sized pounding week in week out. That’s not to suggest his arm isn’t repaired, but rather that his body simply hasn’t got the durability to last a full NFL season. As for Clausen, his negatives appear to be more about perception rather than talent. I’d suggest his supposed ‘air of entitlement’ is as more of a result of his stubborn success in the face of omnipresent expectation than it is in any real personality trait. So who is going have the better NFL career?

Experts are always using comparisons when discussing QB prospects and recently Sam Bradford has been compared to Eli Manning with the caveat that he may refuse to sign for the Rams if they select him with the first overall pick. I’d like to suggest that in fact Eli Manning is a better comparison for Jimmy Clausen. Eli may not be the most athletically gifted QB, or have the biggest arm, but he has an ice-cool nerve and 4th quarter comeback prowess. Expectations for him have always been huge being the son of Archie and brother of Peyton. He also plays in hotbed of football with a hungry media waiting to pounce on any mistake. Sound familiar to a certain prospect from Notre Dame? The hit rate (bust rate!) for QBs in the top half of the first round is roughly 50/50, which means it’s highly likely one of Bradford and Clausen will be a flop. If I were going to place a $40m bet on one of them to lead the Rams out of adversity, I’d bet on Clausen.

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10 Responses to “Bradford vs. Clausen – Who would you take?”

  1. Jpjr says:

    I honestly could not agree more with this assessment. It is arguably the best I’ve read on this topic and I have read a lot. Bradford is the prototypical media darling. They want to love him, he played on a spectacular team, they voted him Heisman, it almost seems like Clausen’s negative press is directly related to the media pushing him out of the way to annoint Bradford.

    On the other hand, you have the ice cold Jimmy Clausen. Purdue game – ice cold. Barely played the entire game due to his injured foot. Then late in the fourth when Purdue scored to take the lead, the camera panned to Jimmy, and you just saw him nod his head a few times as if to say “ok, it’s my time now”. As we know the rest is history… he marched the Irish down the field and scored on fourth down in the end zone. Zero mistakes.

    I also saw the media treat Clausen unfairly in his last game (with the black eye). They raved and raved about Toby Gerhart (the RB equivalent to Bradford) and completely ignored that Clausen threw for five TDs and zero picks against a Stanford team that had obliterated USC and Oregon. Zero acnknowledgment by the sportscasters, all they talked about was Weis and Jimmy’s bar fight.

    Lastly, I can’t believe how craftily the media acted as though Bradford’s 2009 season didn’t happen. I mean think about it, he was a top draft pick in 2008, and then he gets blown out with his throwing arm in 2009 and doesn’t miss a beat in the mocks. How is this possible? How can the Rams guarantee a guy $50 million that could have a glass shoulder? How can a pro day (which he had months to script and prepare for versus Clausen’s ten days with the toe)show people his shoulder can withstand an NFL caliber hit?

    It just seems like all of these “intangibles” are being conveniently ignored. I’m not sure what the Rams are thinking but if they want a proven fourth quarter QB who has played on a bad team with a bad line (ugh, Rams?), in a pro style offense… it seems like the choice is clear. BUT, Bradford will likely be drafted as crazy as it seems for the same reason that Jamarcus was drafted… he’s a big QB with NFL size that won a lot of games in college (until he didn’t).

    St Louis: The smart money is with Clausen.

  2. RossMiles says:

    Thanks for the positive feedback on the blogpost!

    It seems that we are of similar minds when it comes to Clausen. No QB drafted in the first round is devoid of talent, it is just whether they have the ‘other stuff’ that makes a winner. And I think Clausen has it. That’s not to say Bradford doesn’t, but JC looks like the safer bet to me.

  3. Chris says:

    Bradford only had 3 weeks to prepare to throw. He wasn’t allowed to actually throw until the beginning of March.

    Also, I don’t buy the JaMarcus comparison. Bradford had a great college career and was known for his consistency and decision-making. JaMarcus couldn’t even throw a spiral. Ask LSU fans – the playbill was centered around what he could do, which as it turns out, was very little. He didn’t really ever lead his team to victory, he rode on the coattails of one of the best defenses in recent memory and had an incredible o-line and receiving core (3 of his recievers are serious NFL contributors as opposed to none of Bradford’s).

    If you wanna knock Bradford for not knowing how to take hits though, that’s a different story…

  4. Chris says:

    Sorry, meant to say playbook, not playbill. Autocorrect got me again!

  5. TM WILSON says:


    There is no comparison in the two quarterbacks.

    Sam Bradford is the new coming of Joe Montana or Tom Brady.

    Look for him to become a pro football star in a few years. He throws a beautiful perfect pass and is as accurate any any quarterback in a long time His quick delivery and accuracy reminds me of Joe Namath. Not much arm strength — baloney. And he is much smarter and a cool player in the pocket. No comparison to Jimmy Claussen.

  6. Stuart says:

    My bet is on Bradford all the way. Not saying Clausen won’t be a quality QB in the NFL but to me there is no comparison.

    In Clausen’s final season he ‘lit it up’? I don’t consider a 6-6 record against a SOS ranked 50th in the nation as lighting it up. His career record against top 30 teams is a stellar 0-12! He could not find a way to steal a single win against a talented team. His overall record of 16-19 isn’t exactly awe inspiring either against an average SOS ranked 41st.

    Yes Bradford had more talent around him but OU also played much harder competition. In his Heisman year OU’s SOS was ranked 7th toughest in the country.

    Clausen does have more experience in a ‘pro style’ offense which means his transition may be easier than Bradford’s. Both are talented guys and by the very nature of the draft, the first to go will land on an inferior team.

    That said, give me a talents smart winner over any QB with a losing record and ZERO wins against talented competition any day.

  7. Cincinnati Bo says:

    Sam Bradford will be a bust in the NFL, I agree all the way, he will be a bust in the NFL Hall of Fame. Yes, Clausen played in the NOtredame offense under Charlie Weis, look at their records. Rarely were they that competitive until Clausen’s last season. OU always played multiple sets, just depended on who they were playing. The Pro offense won’t cause Bradford much pause, if surrounded by the right supporting players. It all comes down to the offensive line no matter who is QB. Bradford compares to Troy Aikman, well go check how many times Troy was on the carpet his first season. They developed the best line in NFL in a couple of years and Troy took off. It takes more than a QB to make a team a Superbowl contender. They have to have great linemen, good running game, good receivers, good TE, good game plan every week and then you have to stop the other guys, so a good defense too.

    The problem with this article is that you are a Notre Dame fan, hard to take you serious on the young man with the attitude. I wish them both success, but give them a break and time to develop, maybe they will both succeed big time.

  8. Cactus Jack says:

    I’m hoping both guys will have long, successful NFL careers. They are each tough, smart, savvy and possess a unique “it” factor. But here’s why I prefer Bradford over Clausen:
    1. The physical: Watch video of both players and you’ll see Bradford has the quicker release and an almost effortless throwing motion. The contrast is most apparent on deep throws. Clausen “loads up” with a deep back leg bend, excessive body torque and hip rotation. All these additional moving parts betray an arm that is not exceptional, result in reduced accuracy and telegraph his intentions to defenders. Watch Bradford’s long downfield passes versus Clausen’s. Bradford is consistently on the mark or slightly past his target whereas Clausen often underthrows receivers. Clausen can correct this with improved mechanics and better timing, but like most human beings, he is likely to revert to his natural instincts in high pressure situations.
    2. The mental: Bradford’s high wonderlic score shows an exceptional agility in his thought process. Combined with his significant physical skills it should translate into a player that can quickly translate complex, new information into successful problem solving. A real world example is the overhaul of the Oklahoma offensive scheme from his freshman year to his sophomore year. Sooner coaches decided to cautiously try a no-huddle offense in the off-season but when they saw how quickly he moved from concept to reality any reservations they held about the transition disappeared. Bottom line; no matter what offense you ask him to run, Sam Bradford’s brain is wired to figure it out and make it work.
    3. The intangible: Bradford makes the players around him better. Conventional wisdom insists that people believe Bradford played with elite 5 star talent at every position while Clausen was forced to lead an offense loaded with bums. The implication is that Bradford looks better on film and was a more successful than Clausen because he is surrounded with far greater talent. So, name the highly regarded wideout talent that Bradford threw to at Oklahoma. Okay, still waiting. Malcolm Kelly was a 4 star receiver coming to OU, he’s shown little as a pro. Juaquin Iglesias was a 2 star guy that is struggling to get on the field with the Bears. Those are the two best wideouts during Bradford’s college career. On the other hand, Clausen has played with Golden Tate, a guy that is highly regarded by scouts and looks sure to have a solid pro career and Michael Floyd, a 5 star coming into the program who is thought by many to be better than Tate. While it is true that Jermaine Gresham was a great college TE and has the look of a future all-pro, Notre Dame also recruited talented tight ends. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, 3 straight Irish TE recruits were rated by recruiting services as #1 or #2 at their position in the country. In those same three classes Notre Dame’s overall recruits were rated higher than Oklahoma’s each season. It defies logic to suggest that all the experts were always wrong all the time about the level of talent entering the two programs.

    Of course, it’s just my opinion.

  9. RossMiles says:

    @Cincinnati Bo

    I’m a Notre Dame fan!?? Since when!? I’m A Utah Utes fan!

  10. Ptdude says:

    I first have to laugh at people who quote the Wonderlick test! That has never made a quarterback!

    Then I have to laugh at the people who claim Golden Tate made Clausen. Golden Tate dropped key touchdown passes in 4 games last year that cost ND the game. Not that Tate lost the game, we know the defense did. When Crist came in Tate couldn’t catch most of his passes! Tate did nothing to help Clausen!

    I think they are both good, I think even better than Locker for those teams thinking they can wait. I think Clausen has things that Bradford doesn’t in his corner, but it doesn’t mean he will be better in the pros.

    Bradford will suffer at first cause he is not used to being rushed quickly and he will have to learn to adjust to that. Something both Quinn and Russell have struggled with as they both had all day to throw in college as Bradford did. He needs to learn this. He also needs to learn to read and make audible adjustments accordingly. He is used to looking at a coach and the coach tells the team what to do. It will be interesting, but he seems to work hard at being good and will continue that work ethic.

    I think Clausen is the better quarterback. He will suffer as did Quinn as he was developed by a very good set of coaches, especially Weis, and he may get a QB coach that is not as good. It may frustrate him, or he may develop bad habits. I think Quinn suffered from this in Cleveland after Romeo left. I think he was getting there and then got injured. Then he never played as well when new coaches came in. I think people who say Clausen has a bad attitude have something against him, and I would rather have a confident QB then a wimp! Besides his teammates and coaches back him. They wouldn’t have voted him captain if he wasn’t a leader!

    All in all it doesn’t matter what any of us think. It doesn’t matter what the reporters think. The Wonderlick test is unimportant. Past injured shoulders or bad character claims are stupid as Ben was a saint coming in and look at him now and many QBs have survived injuries! The bottom line is these teams do a lot of work in recruiting who they need and they will choose outside of what reporters say. They are going to make their own decisions!

    As far as who develops or busts it comes down to 1. coaching, who is going to be good at developing these kids, and 2. which QB has the desire to improve, because they both have the talent!