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Fortunes of Tebow, Clausen unlike projections

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports

You can follow Charles Robinson on Twitter at @YahooSportsNFL

One stayed in college, one left early, and both proved that you can't believe everything you read in the NFL draft tea leaves.

It's a reality that placed Tim Tebow(notes) and Jimmy Clausen(notes) on the opposite ends of this year's draft spectrum – one having climbed his way into the first round, the other falling precipitously out of it. Tebow's jump to the 25th pick in Thursday's opening round and Clausen's tumble to the 48th spot (16th pick of Friday's second round) make them the biggest winners and losers, respectively, of this year's selection process.

Perhaps no draft pick has suffered such a painful slide as Clausen, who took the sour draft day memories of Aaron Rodgers(notes) and Brady Quinn(notes) and pushed their agonizing limits. Once thought to be a top 10 pick, a variety of concerns about Clausen – from his injured toe to criticisms about his leadership abilities (and maybe some fears over Quinn's NFL flop) – left him crashing down draft boards. He was finally saved by the Carolina Panthers midway through the second round, but only after quarterback-needy teams like the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders passed on him twice.

If indeed Clausen was a top-10 pick, his tumble likely cost him a sizeable chunk of guaranteed money, as those draftees are looking for at least $19 million. Although he'll get the quarterback premium, Clausen's second-round guaranteed money will fall somewhere in the $3 million range.

Now we'll spend the coming days dissecting why it happened – an autopsy that began in earnest Friday, as pundits questioned whether Clausen might have gotten some poor advice about entering the draft as a junior. In truth, his foray into the draft was driven by both himself and the expectations of his family, acting on information that was concrete in January.

But the NFL's sifting process can be brutal, and teams found reasons not to believe in Clausen over the last few months. Ultimately, Clausen's skill level was solid, but there were consistent questions about his leadership skills and even his attitude. Founded on solid ground or not, those concerns appeared to have parlayed themselves into his fall over the last several days.

Conversely, Tebow's public relations machine wasted no time or expense beating back the negative perceptions about his ability to be a conventional pocket passer. The goal? Convince one team, any team, that his leadership and intangibles were reason enough to devote time and patience to refining the rest of his game. Oddly enough, it was a team that didn't make any sense at all for Tebow – the Denver Broncos – that took the bait, convinced he had the ever elusive and notoriously ambiguous "it" factor that could make him a success in the NFL.

The two players are prime examples of why draft projections can mean very little in January, when teams are just beginning to become familiar with each player's positives and pitfalls. And though Tebow appears to be the big winner now, and Clausen the big loser, there is an opposite side to the coin for both.

While Tebow has gone to a team that appears intent on developing him, coach Josh McDaniels has already stripped the Broncos down, traded away the team's two best players (Jay Cutler(notes) and Brandon Marshall(notes)) in the last two seasons, and could very well be on shaky ground if Denver falls apart in 2010. Clausen, on the other hand, goes to a team with a solidly talented core of players, a fair chance to start in the next two seasons, and because he was drafted in the second round, the ability to hit unrestricted free agency after only four seasons.

Indeed, like so many of the moves made during the draft, the winners and losers of 2010 can be viewed drastically different three or four years later. But until that time comes, here's the best and worst of this year's crop …


WINNERS

• The Seattle Seahawks
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had a very good run in their first draft, coming away with what appears to be five key players. Seattle got great value in its first three picks, with tackle Russell Okung(notes), safety Earl Thomas(notes) and wideout Golden Tate(notes) each falling a little further than expected on draft boards. The Tate pick at 60th overall could be brilliant. And the move to acquire running backs LenDale White(notes) and Leon Washington(notes) for essentially fourth- and fifth-round picks was grand larceny. Give the new Seattle regime credit: It's not bashful about making aggressive moves.

• The New England Patriots
Just from the standpoint of warm bodies, you have to tip your hat to the Patriots. After selecting 12 players in the 2009 draft, they come back with another double-digit whopper, including six players in the first 113 selections. The three defensive selections (Devin McCourty(notes), Jermaine Cunningham(notes) and Brandon Spikes(notes)) in the first two rounds will be key to rebuilding that fading unit. No doubt, Belichick is casting a wide net in recent years while trying to prove that past personnel success wasn't just a function of having Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff doing the behind-the-scenes dirty work.

• The Oklahoma Sooners
Four first-round picks, and three of the first four players drafted. That's a heck of a haul, and should be a nice little recruiting tool for head coach Bob Stoops. And while a lot of people have been cracking about the Sooners' 8-5 record with such elite talent, don't forget that Bradford missed most of the season. However you want to chop it, this draft will be a badge of honor for Oklahoma.

• Jon Gruden's hot microphone
As reporters, we've been exposed to a far more chippy, profane Jon Gruden than most everyone who has been soaking up his personality on ESPN. But viewers were treated to a small sliver of the behind-the-scenes Gruden when the network cut back to draft coverage and Gruden was reading a text message to Mel Kiper. His mic picked up him telling Kiper, "I said, it's a crazy league. Lotta [expletive] coaches … " Another reason to love live television.

• Personnel departments
They were loving the break and reset between Thursday and Friday, which allowed teams to get all their ducks in a row for Rounds 2 and 3. Personnel departments and coaching staffs had a chance to shuffle their draft boards and spend some time game-planning the second round, rather than making snap decisions in the midst of Day 1. Don't be surprised if we look at this draft in three or four years and see that break result in slightly fewer second-round mistakes.

• The Baltimore Ravens
I think this might be the best front office in football over the last decade. The Ravens rarely make a massive mistake, and even when they do, they follow it with a string of success. Their move to send the 25th overall pick to Denver in exchange for a second, third and fourth-round pick was brilliant. Particularly seeing the Ravens turn their two second-round picks into Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle(notes) and Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody(notes). Both guys have first round résumés, but slipped due to various concerns. Awesome talent, and a great fit in the Ravens' scheme.

• The Carolina Panthers
No first-round pick, and Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen falls right into their lap with the 48th overall pick. A major stroke of luck for the franchise, giving it a first-round caliber quarterback to groom for the future. Now all John Fox needs to do is get an extension from the Panthers so he can be around to actually reap the benefits of this windfall in a few years.

• A Prime time draft on Thursday
Ratings were up 30 percent for the first round of the NFL draft on ESPN – a heck of a bounce for the league. And you could argue that number is actually more impressive, considering the NFL Network drew a small fraction of the audience as well. Splitting the event into three days appears to have been a win-win for everyone.

• Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu(notes)
He wasn't projected to go until late in the first round at the earliest, but the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled the shocker and nabbed him at No. 10 overall. How much money did he "make" with that rush up the board? Well, the 10th overall pick is expected to get in the range of $19 million in guaranteed money this year. The 32nd pick? About $7 million. So Alualu is looking at slightly less than three times the guaranteed payout than what was projected. On the bright side for Jacksonville fans, a lot of personnel men really liked Alualu going into the draft and think he's going to be a very, very good player.


LOSERS

• USC and Ohio State
Despite having Taylor Mays(notes) and Charles Brown(notes) as potential first-round picks, both tumbled into the second round. That wasn't a disaster, but Mays took a shot at former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll, essentially saying Carroll lied to him about his deficiencies. Not a lot of warm fuzzy feelings for the program. As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes didn't see one of their players plucked until the fourth round. That's the longest draft day drought in the last 20 years for the school.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger(notes)
Yep, he's even taking his lumps on draft day. When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hit the podium to announce the team's first-round pick, a segment of the Radio City Music Hall crowd was chanting "She said no!", in reference to Roethlisberger's recent off-field issues. Surely this is just the first taste of what is awaiting Big Ben in the regular season. The Steelers must be thrilled.

• University of Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle
He was a top-20 talent who had teams scared off by concerns regarding his knee. The tumble to the 43rd pick cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million in guaranteed money. That's a tough pill to swallow for one of the draft's best linebackers. But he can call Carolina Panthers defensive end Everette Brown(notes) for advice. Brown was thought to be a first-round pick last year, and also slid all the way down to the 43rd pick.

• Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson(notes)
The Cleveland Browns and head coach Eric Mangini loved him, so much so that word leaked out before the draft that Wilson could come off the board with the team's seventh overall pick. But an internal split formed between Wilson and Florida cornerback Joe Haden(notes). Team president Mike Holmgren thought Haden's level of competition in the Southeastern Conference gave him the edge, so he broke the tie in Haden's favor. In turn, Wilson trickled all the way down to the New York Jets at 29th overall. There's a $15 million difference in guaranteed money between those two spots. Ouch.

• The Jacksonville Jaguars
Everyone is entitled to go after their guy, so you can't begrudge the Jaguars for taking defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. But if Denver could move back multiple times in the first round, there is no doubt in my mind Jacksonville could have slid back a few spots, too. The Jaguars would have saved some guaranteed money and picked up an extra middle-round pick. Perhaps that would have helped soothed a fan base that won't be rushing to buy season tickets based on the team's new defensive tackle.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Moving up to get Dez Bryant(notes) in the first round was gutsy and could pay big dividends. But I'm shocked Jones came out and made jokes about Bryant's reported issues with showing up on time in college. Jones joked that Dallas has had a few great players like that in the past, and that maybe it's not such a bad thing. Way to usher Bryant in the right way – by basically giving him a free pass right at the start. Joking or not, Bryant now knows that Jerry loves him enough to overlook his peccadilloes. Head coach Wade Phillips must be doing cartwheels.

Albert Haynesworth(notes) and Marshawn Lynch(notes)
The trades they wanted didn't happen. The Washington Redskins defensive tackle and Buffalo Bills running back are already skipping their teams' offseason programs. So you can bet when the mandatory minicamps come around, that's when the circus will kick into high gear.

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams
Seriously, the guy has to be wearing on Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Adams sounded off yet again to the hometown paper The Tennessean, talking about the "big mistakes" of the past by Fisher and general manager Mike Reinfeldt, and once again tooting his own horn for forcing Vince Young(notes) back into the starting lineup. I can't argue Adams' right to say what he wants, but the timing is poor. It's one thing to nip at the heels of Fisher in the midst of a losing streak, and quite another to do it during the draft.