Strong pro day means Clausen virtually guaranteed spot in top 10


The pro day circuit has officially ended, and teams are putting finishing touches on their respective draft boards based on the information that has been gathered on the spring tour.

This information includes medical evaluations, background checks and the assessment of private workouts conducted in front of scouts and various team personnel.

With the book nearly closed on all of the NFL hopefuls in the 2010 draft class, let's take a look at five burning questions raging in war rooms across the league:

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1. Is Jimmy Clausen a top-10 pick?

Clausen's strong showing during his pro day on April 9 has virtually guaranteed that he will be taken among the top 10 on draft day.

The former Notre Dame star displayed outstanding physical tools for the position, and scouts came away raving about his arm strength, accuracy and touch. Clausen showed that he was capable of making the requisite NFL-caliber throws at every distance (short, intermediate and deep), and his throws came out with excellent zip and velocity.

In addition, Clausen showed evaluators that he is fully recovered from the nagging toe injury that hindered his play during the regular season. Though Clausen completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,722 yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions, he showed flawed passing mechanics due to his inability to transfer weight from his back leg to his front foot on throws (Clausen's right big toe was injured for most of the regular season). While his faulty mechanics didn't impact his production, it was cited as a concern by several scouts prior to his workout.

However, after watching Clausen display exceptional footwork while going through three-, five- and seven-step drops, evaluators are not as concerned about his throwing motion or delivery.

When factoring in Clausen's other strengths, it is hard to envision him not cracking the top 10 based on his skills and potential. Clausen is one of the few quarterbacks entering the league with experience running a pro-style offense, and his ability to direct pass protection at the line of scrimmage is invaluable. Given the importance of these attributes, Clausen has the potential to step on the field very early in his pro career.

Although questions persist about his personality and leadership ability, Clausen is seemingly addressing those concerns by being forthright and engaging in team interviews.

With teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs searching for young quarterbacks to groom for the future, Clausen is a strong candidate to come off the board in the draft's opening moments.

2. Derrick Morgan or Jason Pierre-Paul?

Scouts around the league are split on the pass rusher who most deserves to hear his name called first on draft day. Defensive ends Morgan and Pierre Paul are in an intense competition to be that player.

Morgan, who is regarded as the safest pick of the two, is a high-motor pass rusher with an explosive first step. He flashes a good closing burst off the edge, and has a solid array of rush moves that allows him to consistently get into the backfield on rush downs. In addition, Morgan is a solid run defender with the strength to hold the point of attack on the edge. He has shown good play recognition and awareness against the run, and routinely slips through cracks to create negative plays in the backfield.

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Although Morgan's game lacks flash or pizzazz, his production has been steady since he stepped into Georgia Tech's starting lineup two years ago.

In Pierre-Paul, scouts are captivated by his athleticism and raw potential. He shows an explosive initial burst off the ball, and has the body control to bend around the corner on pass rushes. Though he lacks a diverse array of rush moves, Pierre-Paul plays with urgency and his relentless pursuit of the quarterback results in him racking up garbage sacks off the edge. He amassed 6.5 sacks in only seven starts, and is viewed as a potential double-digit sack artist as a pro due to the uncanny athleticism.

In spite of his boundless potential, Pierre-Paul has a few glaring red flags that should cause decision makers to pause before pulling the trigger on the pass-rushing phenom. He enters the league with only one year of major college football experience (Pierre-Paul spent two years at two different junior colleges before his lone season at South Florida), and didn't pick up the game until his junior season of high school. With such a scarce playing history, Pierre-Paul lacks outstanding football instincts and awareness on the field. Although he is able to rely on his superior athleticism to overcome some of his deficiencies, Pierre-Paul often appears a step late to the ball, and isn't the impact player that you would expect based on his athleticism.

Regardless, his unique skills jump off the screen when watching his tape, and teams can't be faulted for their willingness to gamble on his immense potential.

Morgan and Pierre-Paul are undoubtedly the top pass rushers available in the draft, but their varied games present a tremendous challenge for evaluators looking to add a playmaker to their lineup.

Given the importance of substance over style in minds of decision makers, it is safe to assume that Morgan enjoys a slight advantage over Pierre-Paul in most war rooms.

However, the allure of the sizzle could lead to a surprising turn of events on draft day, and Pierre-Paul might be the biggest beneficiary.

3. Why is Anthony Davis' draft stock falling?

Davis was widely considered a top-15 talent when he initially entered the draft after a stellar three-year stint at Rutgers, but he has seen his stock slip dramatically of late due to numerous reports about immaturity and lack of accountability.

Davis was suspended on multiple occasions by the team throughout his collegiate career due to his issues controlling his weight, and he earned an infamous reputation for consistently showing up late for team meetings and workouts. Furthermore, Davis' underwhelming performance at the NFL Scouting Combine during the lifting portion of the workout (he only posted 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press) raised concerns about his work ethic. Given the importance of character in the minds of coaches and scouts, the dubious reports have tarnished his image and raised red flags around the talented prospect.

When solely looking at Davis' game, it is readily apparent that he has upper echelon ability for the position. He possesses exceptional size, and is an outstanding athlete in space. Davis easily slides laterally to mirror skilled rushers, and his ability to effortlessly adjust to counters is uncanny. In addition, he shows a strong initial punch and has the flexibility to anchor against power. Although he isn't a powerful run blocker, he grades out well in most aspects and has the athleticism to block effectively on the second level. With such an impressive skill set, teams are still intrigued by his outstanding talent and potential.

Although Davis' star has dimmed a bit due to his immaturity, it is hard to imagine one of the most talented offensive tackles in the draft falling down to the bottom of the first round based on his minor character concerns.

4. Who is Kareem Jackson?

Jackson may not be a household name to some outside of Alabama, but the former Crimson Tide star is one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft.

Jackson, who entered the draft after a stellar three-year career at Alabama, is emerging as the third-rated cornerback (behind Florida's Joe Haden and Boise State's Kyle Wilson) on most draft boards, and is quietly sneaking into first-round consideration.

A solid technician with outstanding instincts and awareness, Jackson is ideally suited to play in zone-based schemes. He has been well schooled in the finer points of the position after spending three seasons playing under coach Nick Saban. Jackson understands complex concepts of the passing game, and his keen awareness of route recognition allows him to aggressively jump short and intermediate routes. Though he occasionally gets caught out of position on double moves, Jackson displays solid skills in coverage, and has an uncanny knack for getting his hands on the ball. With five career interceptions, Jackson shows good ball skills and awareness, and has the potential to blossom into a ball hawk as a pro.

While some scouts questioned his speed after watching him on tape, Jackson silenced his critics by recording times in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Additionally, his solid performance during positional drills has convinced evaluators that he has the speed to run with swift receivers on vertical routes.

Jackson has been unable to surpass Haden and Wilson as one of the top corners in the draft, but he has quietly joined them as a first-round candidate.

5. Who is the fifth QB on most draft boards?

The 2010 quarterback class has started to take shape with Clausen, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow ranking as the top four candidates on most boards.

With the aforementioned quartet sure to come off the board within the top two rounds, scouts are attempting to pinpoint the fifth quarterback on most boards to determine when quarterback-starved teams are likely to pull the trigger on draft day.

In looking at the possibilities, most teams are deciding between Cincinnati's Tony Pike, Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour, Fordham's John Skelton, Troy's Levi Brown and Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton as likely candidates available at that stage in the draft.

Without a consensus leader of the pack, teams are sorting through the list to see which signal callers are best suited to make the transition to the next level.

The deciding factor ultimately could come down to how well each of the signal callers fits within a team's respective scheme, and that could be determined by the amount of spread offensive elements that are featured in each team's playbook.

Pike, LeFevour, Skelton and Brown have thrived operating the wide-open system, but it may take them awhile to assimilate to the pro game due to the extensive use of the shotgun. Additionally, the simple reads of the offense don't fully prepare quarterbacks to make the full-field reads typically required of pro passing games.

With that in mind, it is not surprising that Crompton is quietly generating a buzz in war rooms across the league. He ran Lane Kiffin's version of the West Coast offense at Tennessee, and his last eight games of the season showcased his potential as a pro quarterback.

Furthermore, he has the physical tools (arm strength, touch and accuracy) to develop into a starting quarterback in time.

Given Crompton's skills and experience in an offense that is widely used by the majority of teams in the NFL, it is not surprising that he is surging up the charts on draft boards across the league.

Although he will rank as one of the most unheralded prospects leading up to the draft, he is making a strong push to be the fifth quarterback off the board, and his selection in the early stages of the draft could come sooner than most anticipate.

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