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My Final Word on the Bradford-Clausen Debate

Sam Bradford is the consensus best overall quarterback, and the first quarterback taken in any class is typically the best. My wholly amateur opinion is that Bradford will bust. The only edge I ever saw Bradford have over Jimmy Clausen, and it was slight, was arm strength. Whatever happened between his final snap and his pro day, Clausen looked bigger, stronger and stronger armed. Maybe he had a growth spurt. I don't know. It's weird.

Personally, I like that Clausen seems like a bit of a prick. His ego makes him work hard and makes him resilient. Clausen has done the media thing since he was in junior high. Bradford, by comparison, was not even a particularly attractive recruit out of high school. If not for Rhett Bomar stupidly violating NCAA rules, Bradford would not have started for the ridiculously talented Sooners.

Between Bomar and Bradford was a nobody named Paul Thompson. To quote his Wikipedia page, "Paul Thompson is now an Amway Global Affiliated Independent Business Owner." Thompson nevertheless completed 60.7% of his passes, and recorded a respectable 7.12 adjusted yards per attempt (no sacks included). Bradford dwarfed that, of course. His first season he recorded 9.15 adjusted yards per attempt. Thompson did a pretty beautiful job of keeping the seat warm, though. In his one year at Oklahoma, he severely outperformed Matt Ryan in his senior seasons. Both players finished 11-3 in games started. Ryan was interception prone, completed less than 60% of his passes and averaged only 6.06 adjusted yards per attempt.

I make this apples to oranges comparison to make a point: Ryan was his team's offense. Boston College had some line talent, but little else. Clausen is in somewhat the same boat: He had some receiving talent, but not a whole lot else. Clausen's stats are more clean. Bradford's stats are influenced by, among other things, his reliance on yards after catch. The spread offense boosts yards after catch and yards after catch is more dependent on receiver than quarterback - at least in the pros.

My red flags for quarterback are a bit different than others. Spread offense counts, but that's near universal. I worry less about dropping back or throwing a pro-style route tree and more about yards after catch. It's not that the former do not matter, they do, but the latter is what makes players like Bradford and Colt McCoy seem like world beaters when, to me, they look like the college equivalent of a game manager. They do not make many tough throws. They distribute and allow the surrounding talent to do something.

My red flags for Sam Bradford are as follow:

1. Two year starter.

2. Low level high school recruit.

3. Incredible surrounding talent.

4. Weak schedule.

5. Lopsided wins/few opportunities to lead come back.

6. No history of failure.

7. Injuries.

8. Pocket presence.

9. Personality.

That last one might be a bit controversial, but again, I have my own sort of standards. I don't like what I see in Bradford in interviews. I do not like that Bradford sat behind Paul Thompson without so much, that I know of, as a fight. When his college coach benched Matt Hasselbeck, Hasselbeck threw a fit. Competitive fire, it's important. Bradford looks nervous. He looks misfit. He doesn't look like a star, but a spectator taking in what must be an overwhelming series of events.

I write all this because we are nearing the draft and I find myself as bewildered about a first overall pick as I have been since JaMarcus Russell was selected first overall in 2007. What really spins my head though is that the Rams are likely to draft Bradford even though a clearly superior quarterback prospect is available.

By comparison:

1. Clausen started three seasons, never sat behind anyone, and would have started his senior season had he stayed.

2. Clausen was a five star recruit.

3. Average to poor surrounding talent.

4. Weak schedule.

5. Led multiple comeback wins.

6. Toughed it out on a crappy Notre Dame team.

7. Suffered turf toe, but played through it and had his best season.

8. Moves well in the pocket and buys time.

9. Seems like a regular, dislikable, alpha-male type quarterback prospect.

Clausen isn't perfect, like Clausen and like most quarterback prospects, he faced a weak run of defenses, but according to my criteria, it looks like Clausen is both overwhelmingly the safer pick and the player with better potential. The Rams are committed to taking a quarterback, but why Bradford? It seems self defeating to me. It seems predestined. It seems irrational and likely to fail.

Anyway, all this is just sort of my attempt at a time capsule of opinion. Eventually, we will know who is the better player, even if we can never for sure know who was the better prospect. I think Seattle should draft Clausen. I think it's 100% the right move, and I've only restrained myself from a full on crusade because I think the move is so unlikely. I spent quite a bit of my own free time reviewing the two quarterbacks. Bradford was the center of an amazing offense, but I think, a lesser part of it. Clausen is reminiscent of Ryan.

Sometimes one just has to be clear about where they stand. I am not going to rake the new administration over the coals if they do not select Clausen, though it may be the most destructive move possible, and may rob Seattle from its best chance to draft a top quarterback for years to come (this team will bounce back), because what little humility I can muster tells me that it isn't fair to the people in charge, and depends on the assumption that I can accomplish more with a little game film and a little time than a multimillion dollar operation can accomplish*, but screw it. It's my opinion. Clausen is not only a superior prospect to Bradford, but the single most valuable prospect in this class.

*It doesn't actually, though this is a common complaint. It only assumes that my standards are better fit for projecting a modern quarterback prospect that those used by a front office. All the resources in the world do not mean a thing if the organization is asking the wrong questions.