NFL Hot Press: Sources See First-Round Potential for Northwestern QB Thorson

Sources See First-Round Potential for Northwestern QB Thorson

Updated Sept. 21, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Even though it is very early in the process, there has been a lot of buzz and acclaim for the quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. A lot of attention has been heaped on the likes of USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Scouting sources, however, say there is another quarterback who could factor into the first-round conversation: Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. Recently, I spoke with a director of college scouting who raved about Thorson’s NFL potential.

“I’d take him over Paxton Lynch, and [Thorson]’s a better quarterback than Blake Bortles was coming out,” said the college director. “Unless [Thorson] falls off during the season, I anticipate giving him a solid [second-rounder]. But, I think he will rise in the interview process, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up being a first-round pick. [Thorson] is super smart and knows the game well. He is a devout Christian, but he also has learned how to be one of the guys. He’s a leader that gets along with everyone. He has a super strong arm, is athletic and mobile for a guy that big. There are just too many positives.”

This same director of college football told me a year ago that Ohio State safety Malik Hooker was going to get high first-round grades after only three games. The same director also alerted me about Hooker missing the combine with injuries, and was first to report both of those stories.

This college director said he thinks Thorson will end up with a higher grade than Louisville’s Lamar Jackson will with his NFL team. Even if Thorson has a second-round grade from this team, he could easily go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. There were scouts across the NFL who had Deshaun Watson and Teddy Bridgewater graded on Day 2 in their respective drafts, yet both were first-round picks. Last year, one NFC playoff general manager told that they had Pat Mahomes graded in the fourth round; the Chiefs had him worthy of a high first-rounder. Thus, Thorson could still easily be a Thursday night pick even though some grade him out in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. There are plenty of NFL teams desperate for a franchise quarterback, and quarterbacks like Watson or Mahomes rose during the spring leading up to their drafts. Thorson could easily follow that same track with his skill set and intangibles for the 2018 NFL Draft.

In 2017, Thorson has completed 64 percent of his passes for 842 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. The junior had a rough game against Duke in Week 2, but bounced back last week against Bowling Green. As a sophomore, he completed 59 percent of his passes as a junior for 3,182 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound has the size of a NFL starter with a good athletic skill set to go with it. Sources say that Thorson doesn’t have good receivers and his offensive line isn’t special, so he doesn’t get a lot of help to produce big numbers.

Sources say that in looking at Thorson’s sophomore tape compared to his junior year, they say that he is showing more comfort in the pocket and they like how he has developed as he gained experience. In speaking with general managers from a few other teams, they said they heard that there is a real positive buzz about Thorson going through the scouting community. One big question is if Thorson will enter the 2018 NFL Draft or return for his senior year. I asked the director of college scouting that question.

“At Northwestern, they’re saying he’ll enter the [2018 NFL Draft] if he hears he has a first-round grade,” said the director. “So we’ll see about that later on. Stay tuned.”

There is no doubt that the scouting community and teams across the league are going to be watching Thorson closely this fall. After all, there is an insatiable need across the NFL for franchise quarterbacks. With all of Thorson’s positives and the need in the league, it is understandable that he has first-round potential for the 2018 NFL Draft.