INDIANAPOLIS—It is time to embark on a time-honored tradition: debating who should be the top quarterback taken in the NFL draft.
This year, it's Jimmy Clausen vs. Sam Bradford.
The consensus is that the two are the best quarterbacks available in a weak class. But who would you take first?
There is much to discuss, especially during the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend. Neither will throw because they are coming off injuries (Clausen toe, Bradford shoulder) but top quarterbacks generally stay away from throwing in Indianapolis.
Among some of the observers, Mike Mayock of NFL Network has Bradford ranked No. 1 and Clausen ranked No. 2. ESPN's Todd McShay also ranks Bradford ahead of Clausen -- in fact, he doesn't even have Clausen going in the first round.
But Mel Kiper Jr. has Clausen going No. 4 overall to the Washington Redskins, with Bradford to Seattle at No. 6. One of the biggest reasons why Mayock and McShay have Bradford rated higher is because he is a more proven winner. McShay has questions about whether Clausen can be a leader.
"The biggest thing for Clausen is a team has to figure out whether a team wants him to be their franchise quarterback," he said. "By that I mean the intangibles, the character. I think he works hard and I think he proved to us that he's tough and I think he wants the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter, but there's enough guys I talked to that point to maybe a guy with a little bit of immaturity."
Kiper, meanwhile, said he spoke with Clausen's former teammates and coaches and they all raved about him. As for Bradford, Kiper isn't sure whether his skills translate into the next level. Sure, Bradford is accurate, but he played in a system offense behind an unbelievable offensive line (until he got hurt, that is).
"The issue I have with Sam Bradford is that we haven't seen him in an NFL-like setting, where he's getting pressure and where he has to throw into small windows," Kiper said.
Plus, Bradford is coming off a far worse injury than Clausen. After winning the Heisman in 2008, Bradford missed nearly all the 2009 season with his shoulder injury. He had surgery in October. The medical evaluation is going to be critical for Bradford, who potentially cost himself millions of dollars when he decided to return to school for 2009.
If he had come out after his Heisman-Trophy winning season, he most likely would have been the No. 1 overall pick to the Lions.
"I need to know that he's OK medically," McShay said. "He's going to go to the combine and go through all the medical stuff. His doctors need to give me every single detail if he passes that test. It's looking at him throw and seeing if anything's changed in his delivery. If everything checks out, it's back to going to game tape and watching and seeing his strengths and weaknesses and figuring out whether you want to spend that much money."
So who will it be? Stay tuned for April 22.