Clayton Thorson

Clayton Thorson

Scouting Report done by Mark Jarvis. See all his work at What’s on Draft. Support his work on Patreon.  See the full Clayton Thorson report here.

Comps – Low/Medium/High

Mitch Leidner (Low) – Danny Etling (Medium) – DeShone Kizer (High)


One of the truly confusing prospects in this quarterback crop, Thorson is a rollercoaster of a watch. When he is playing at his highest level he looks like a potential starter, but when he is struggling it would be tough to put him onto any roster. The ups and downs are magnified based on the competition he is going up against. When given time to deliver the ball around the field he will pick apart defenses, but as soon as pressure turns up he begins to fold. The difference between facing a strong program like Notre Dame versus a somewhat middling one in Purdue is huge. Whenever Thorson has to face a defense that is just as talented as the weapons around him, he crumbles emphatically. This was evident both in his 2018 and 2017 tape. He was a cog in the Northwestern offense, and while he certainly functioned as an effective one, he did not elevate the talent around him. He’s more than a one read and done quarterback, but the decision making process is often baffling. He goes from extreme to extreme, sometimes making choices at a pro speed, but then holding the ball for unacceptably long amounts of time. He trusts his arm beyond what he should, resulting in passes that are constantly in danger of being prayed upon by defensive backs. His accuracy does nothing to help this, as he has some of the worst natural accuracy of any quarterback in the class. Deep throws are either far out of range or allow corners to make an easy play on the ball. Even the intermediate and boundary throws are a struggle, as he does not throw with anticipation or arm talent to get through traffic. He’s often missing targets entirely to the point of throwing passes that aren’t possible to reach. Thorson’s pocket movement is decent, even though he has not mastered controlling the space he occupies. He’ll slip away from arms and climb into openings, but looks to scramble to the sideline rather than stay in the hole. Thorson is far from a good athlete, but he can pick up yardage here or there if the lanes are big enough. Mechanically speaking, he is not a natural thrower of the football. His movements are often stiff and awkward, as he tries to make adjustments by the book. He hops into his throwing stance and struggles to find a rhythm with his footwork. It’s apparent in his dropbacks, as he’ll take extra steps or get out of sync with his receivers. He can get the ball out at a decent rate when he wants to, but the speeds vary too much. His arm is a little below average, especially when he fails to drive off his platform, but he can make throws work if the anticipation issues are cleaned up.

Reads & Decisions

Eye manipulation can draw defenders out of his throwing lanes, but he needs to sell it better as the game progresses. Does not throw with desired anticipation to avoid catch point interference in zone. Has shown an ability to get through multiple progressions when given time. Trusts his arm too much, often putting balls into coverages that aren’t penetrable. Willingness to take risks in disadvantageous matchups is a concern. Alternates between bouts of hesitation and quick decision making. Does not have the consistency necessary in his processing to be a high selection. Lacked timing and chemistry with his receivers at Northwestern. Looks like a starter when he’s hot, but undraftable when he’s not. Does his best work when confined to the short game. Play declines when pressure gets to him.

Accuracy & Ball Placement

Scattershot accuracy puts an unacceptable amount of passes into danger. Sails his throws over the target when asked to make throws on the move. Does not lead his receiver with the ball, which allows defenders to get back in at the catch point. Very few YAC opportunities created. Deep ball is rarely catchable. Unable to alter ball arc with touch or control; lacks control over the path the ball takes. Dirts or floats anything that is off platform; accuracy isn’t in the ball park when he can’t set a platform. Notre Dame game was a spectacle considering how poor his passes were placed. Seems to struggle because of a lack of natural accuracy, not because of the mechanical flaws. Throwing open his man was a rarity. Underthrows deep ball. Struggles to find the chest plate.

Pocket Awareness & Scrambling

Has the desire to take off and pick up yardage with his legs, although he does not have the necessary acceleration to cover large swaths of ground. Won’t abandon passing opportunities once he exits the pocket. Adjusts well to dodge pressure and avoid breakthrough. Frequently operated rollouts and threw from a moving platform. Size is enough to muscle through on quarterback sneaks. Movements tend to be reactive not proactive; climbs up the pocket to avoid danger, not find passing lanes. Swivels hips smoothly to dodge pass rushers. Doesn’t panic when the pocket begins to collapse. Decent ball security; won’t endanger it when he finds an exit lane. Not particularly strong through contact; won’t play like his listed size. Tries to work to sideline prematurely.

Mechanics & Throwing Motion

Not much urgency to his setup; takes too long to get feet settled and start arm action. Throwing motion gets long and loopy if he doesn’t put some fire in it. Does not square up properly to his target when rolling to the sideline for throws. Looks unnatural and robotic in his footwork at times; will lock his base prematurely and wait in throwing stance. Angling towards target is not fluid, although he gets it in the right direction. Doesn’t throw a pretty ball; has plenty of wobbles. Would do well to improve body control, as it would make the process more compact. Throws away from the hit rather than staying true to his motion. Drops can get messy later on in the game. Footwork and setup looked much more synced against Purdue. Has twitch in lower body to make faster adjustments.


Arm Strength

Arm strength is average and won’t make up for mental errors such as hesitation or forcing throws. Passes seem to drift as they get beyond 25-30 yards downfield; does not throw a ball that cuts through the elements. Needs to create more power from his base. Capable of topping 50 yards distance in game situations without much trouble, but he does have to wind up to go beyond that. Gets some weight transfer going when he has to go deep downfield. May not have the velocity to get passes through tight windows; middle of the field gets swallowed up when he throws. Off platform throws don’t come close to the target.

Categories: 2019, QB, Scouting report