Eagles Add Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles dropped back four spots in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, picking up a seventh-round pick in the process, and selected Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson with the 167th overall selection.
Philadelphia was intent on getting some competition for Nate Sudfeld but was unable to bring in a proven veteran option other than Luis Perez being signed after the AAF ceased operations.
Thorson fits the typical Eagles template at QB, a big-armed 6-foot-4, 226-pound pocket-style quarterback, who did a lot of pro-style things in Evanston.
"I’m just so grateful and thankful for the Eagles organization for taking me and I’m looking forward to getting in there and learning from these great coaches and obviously this awesome quarterback room that I’ve heard so much about," Thorson said during his introductory conference call. "So I’m really excited. It meant a lot to me. I’ve heard such good things about the Eagles."
Interestingly Easton Stick, the North Dakota State QB who is a good friend of Carson Wentz was chosen at No. 166 by the Los Angeles Chargers, a spot before Thorson went to the Birds.
If Philadelphia didn't trade down it obviously could have selected Stick although most draft analysts rate Thorson, a four-year starter in the Big Ten, as the better prospect.
It will be a different role in Philadelphia of course where Wentz is the man and Sudfield is penciled in to replace Nick Foles as the backup.
"Obviously, Carson has the keys to the car, he knows it all and I’m sure Nate does too," Thorson, who started 53 games at Northwestern, said. "So, I’m looking forward to learning from them, but also becoming good friends with them and supporting them and competing my butt off and so looking forward to getting to know them. I’ve heard such great things about that room, obviously to see Nick go away, I think it’s just a great opportunity for me."
That was amplified by Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
"This kid's tough and he fits exactly what we look for in a quarterback," Pederson said. "Arm strength, decision-making, the ability to extend plays and he's going to fit really well with that room and with Carson and Nate. It's going to be a really fun spring and summer and leading up into training camp, to see all those guys really how they come together in that room and gel and it's a good opportunity for him."
Line many QBs of this generation Thorson looks to Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are templates at the position while also realizing you have to be your own man at a position often defined by your leadership skills.
"I grew up watching Payton Manning. I think I take things from each quarterback I watch," Thorson said. "You watch Aaron Rodgers get out of the pocket and move and he is pretty impressive. But I try to be myself and who that is is a guy who can sling it. With our offense at Northwestern, I was able to learn how to throw the ball with a lot of anticipation and tight windows, making plays on the run, moving the pocket a little bit. But we had a great offense at Northwestern in terms of preparing me for the NFL. So I feel like I have taken a lot from many different quarterbacks."
The biggest knocks on Thorson center on his accuracy as he topped out at a 61.1 completion rate last season with the Wildcats.
"I think one thing that was big is we went to the Big 10 Championship," Thorsaon said. "That is something that we have never done. One of the first things I think about when I evaluate myself is did we win? And we did, we won a lot. Obviously, I think I could have played better in different spots, but I think I had a good year."
Thorson is also now a full year clear from a torn ACL and fully recovered from a high-ankle sprain that limited him in the pre-draft process.
"Coming back from my knee injury the year before and playing this year was big for me, being there for my teammates and start those games," he said. "So I thought we had a great year as a team and I am excited for them moving forward too.
"... I had a high-ankle sprain in the Bowl game, but it was just a kind of nagging thing. I had never had a high-ankle sprain before. I really actually never got injured before besides my knee. But it is great and one hundred percent now."
Thorson is also a legacy with the Eagles. His father, Chad, was a four-year starter at linebacker in college at Wheaton and had a cup of coffee in Philadelphia back in the early 1990s.
"He loved it. He was just there for a few weeks. I think he was there with [former NFL DE] Reggie White," Thorson said of his dad. "He really enjoyed his time there, he wasn’t there for long, but he enjoyed it."
The younger Thorson projects to be around Philadelphia a bit longer.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen