1) Can you sum up what Thorson’s college career was like?
Clayton Thorson’s career was, well, up and down. His best individual season was as a sophomore, when he put up 6.7 adjusted yards per attempt along with 27 total touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. That was also the only season that he had a solid supporting cast, featuring slot receiver Austin Carr (who is now a depth piece for the Saints) and Justin Jackson, now a running back for the Chargers. His junior year featured a bit of backslide statistically, and in his final season starting, coming back from an ACL tear, he was clearly hobbled early in the year and was constrained to a more game manager-like role.
2) What are his strengths?
Thorson can make all the throws. His arm strength is definitely there, to go along with his physique, and during his time at Northwestern he hit some gorgeous deep balls and tough throws. He also has the arm strength to get the ball into small windows. His mechanics are solid and he doesn’t take too long to get the ball out. When you just look at his throwing ability, Clayton Thorson is pretty much the ideal passer. Despite being constrained by a pretty vanilla playbook offensively, Thorson also showed the makings of a clutch gene in Evanston, engineering key drives with important throws time and again. He suffered from a bland offense that constrained him in a lot of ways, but for the most part, when Clayton Thorson had to make big plays, he made them.
3) What are his weaknesses?
During his time in college, Thorson was pretty inconsistent throwing the ball down the field. Northwestern has never really had a consistent deep threat during his time on the team, but Thorson also didn’t show the ability to replicate great throws over the top, and was a bit more mistake (read: turnover)-prone than one would like. He also really struggled to avoid sacks, despite being relatively mobile, holding onto the ball for too long. The ACL tear made him a bit cautious last year when it came to scrambling, but hopefully with a year of recovery that can return to the strength it was at times pre-injury.
4) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
This is about where I expected Thorson to go. He profiles as a reliable back-up who can make the throws NFL teams need him to in a pinch, but needs some time and hard work to be consistent enough to earn a starting look. Some experts had him going at the end of the third round, but most agreed he was an early Day 3 guy. The buzz about him pre-draft was coming from the Panthers and Patriots, two teams looking primarily for a backup with some ability to develop beneath an established starter. That obviously applies to the Eagles, too (although Wentz is a bit younger than Newton and especially Brady) so the pick and placement makes all kinds of sense.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
It would take a couple of breaks and some really good development for Thorson to become a reliable NFL starter, though I don’t think it’s impossible. For a rookie, he’s a relatively high-floor guy who knows the game, and I think he will be a reliable NFL backup for a long time. Thorson doesn’t profile developmentally as a franchise quarterback, at least not developmentally, but I do think that whatever team he is on will be happy to have him around. As a Bears fan, I’d certainly be happy with a developing Thorson as my team’s backup, and I think Eagles fans should largely feel the same if he earns that spot.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
Thorson is one of the best interviews I’ve had during my time at Northwestern. Just a great guy who doesn’t really get on anyone’s bad side, will crack jokes with the media, and generally an impressive all-around man. He is also a devout Christian, who references his faith a decent amount, and was married at the end of his redshirt-junior season (right after he graduated). He and his wife Audrey will celebrate their one-year anniversary in about a month.