Commentary

Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

Being able to read a defense trumps arm strength, so the ND QB should be fine

Updated: February 9, 2010, 3:36 PM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesHis arm strength isn't amazing, but that's not what separates elite NFL QBs.

What this is: During the year, Football Scientist K.C. Joyner has evaluated top NFL draft prospects. This week he looks at former Notre Dame Fighting Irish QB Jimmy Clausen.

When grading a quarterback's arm strength, I often think back to a line from former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh in Dr. Z's classic book, "The New Thinking Man's Guide To Pro Football." Some in the media had called Super Bowl XVI a battle between Walsh's brains and Cincinnati coach Forrest Gregg's discipline. That viewpoint led Walsh to ask this question: What constituted discipline? Was it being physically tough on someone? Or could it also be executing a highly choreographed set of moves under the pressure of competition? The answer is that it could be either, and it really depended on what one meant by the word discipline.

The same thing goes for measuring the velocity of a passing arm. The gold standard in this area is the deep out pass, but that throw requires a much different kind of delivery and less touch than many other important vertical passes, such as the go, corner, post and fade routes.

Now, let's look at Jimmy Clausen. It is pretty much a given that Clausen will be a first-round draft pick, but his arm strength is enough of a question mark to cause his predicted draft slot status to vary significantly. For example, Mel Kiper's initial mock draft has Clausen going to the Buffalo Bills at the No. 9 spot because he possesses "an NFL arm." Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay, on the other hand, has Clausen going in the No. 23 spot (to the Seattle Seahawks) in part because "he doesn't have ideal arm strength."

So which analyst is right?