Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Every cycle, droves of senior signal-callers populate the later rounds. With his scouting report, Penn State QB Sean Clifford falls into that group in the 2023 NFL Draft. Likely a Day 3 pick at best, can Clifford exceed his draft billing and go on to carve out a role in the NFL?

Sean Clifford NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Quarterback
  • School: Penn State
  • Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height/Weight: 6’2″, 218 pounds
  • Length: 31 5/8″
  • Hand: 9 5/8″

Regardless of whether or not he’s a compelling 2023 NFL Draft prospect, there’s no disputing that Clifford is one of the most visible and recognizable passers on the current draft circuit. That’s what starting for four seasons at Penn State will get you.

Clifford redshirted in 2017 after joining the Nittany Lions as a four-star recruit and backed up Trace McSorley in 2018. After that, the starting job was his, and he didn’t look back.

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Clifford got out to a hot start as a redshirt sophomore, completing 189 of 319 passes for 2,654 yards, 23 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. And although he stagnated somewhat as a prospect after that season, he put together a respectable career as Penn State’s man under center.

Across his five seasons at Penn State, Clifford completed a combined 817 of 1,335 passes (61.2%) for 10,382 yards, 84 touchdowns, and 31 interceptions. He became Penn State’s all-time career leader in passing yards, but what was even more impressive was his distinction as a four-time team captain — one of just two in school history to earn that honor.

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Clifford’s eligibility has now run out, and the future is uncertain for him. But there’s a chance that we could see Clifford again in the pros.

Sean Clifford Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Superb pocket operator with poise, navigation ability, and adaptability
  • Great mechanics in structure
  • Utilization of pump fakes to open short windows
  • Quick release and good velocity in short range
  • Underrated athleticism and creation capacity
  • Can throw with touch in tight situations
  • Can work through progressions

Areas for Improvement

  • Visibly lacks elite creation capacity and arm talent
  • Accuracy and precision can be volatile
  • Inconsistent anticipation and sometimes misses middle-field reads
  • Will stare down quick reads at times and be flat-footed
  • Sometimes tries to force throws beyond his arm caliber
  • Over-aged

Penn State QB Sean Clifford Current Draft Projection

Clifford is part of a large cluster of QBs in the late-round, fringe-draftable range in the 2023 NFL Draft. At best, he’s a Day 3 pick. If he does come off the board, Round 6 or 7 seems most likely. In that range, however, Clifford does have a few traits that can help distinguish him from his competitors.

At the very least, Clifford’s experience as a four-year starter, and his leadership ability as a four-year captain, will endear him to teams looking for a potential backup option. Those cosmetic factors alone ensure that, even if Clifford isn’t drafted, he’ll earn a camp opportunity.

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Clifford isn’t a liability in terms of talent, either. He logged a 4.62 40-yard dash and a 6.83 three-cone at his pro day — both very good numbers. He’s a good athlete, but Clifford doesn’t have the talent to elevate a unit. His creation capacity is visibly non-elite, and his arm is close to average. Additionally, he’s not quite at the level with his processing, decision-making, and accuracy to consistently counteract that.

In spite of all this, Clifford has a couple of very strong operational qualities that could solidify his projection. He has very solid mechanics in structure. And he’s quietly one of the better pocket operators in the class. He’s poised, composed climbing through lanes, quick to sense pressure, and aware of his outlets even when pressure bears down.

Clifford’s passable baseline athleticism, combined with his competent operational framework, gives him an appealing projection as a potential backup QB. While his ceiling is visibly capped, Clifford will be able to come in and distribute if needed, and he has enough mobility to extend plays to a degree.

Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Sean Clifford

Strengths: Record-setting Penn State quarterback who displays outstanding pocket presence, senses the rush, and remains poised. Fearless, steps up to avoid defenders, and plays tough, smart football. Buys time for receivers, knows where his targets are, and spreads the ball around. Does an adequate job picking up yardage with his legs. Doesn’t make poor decisions.

Weaknesses: All over the place with throws. Doesn’t correctly read the defense on a consistent basis. Occasionally, releases the ball off his back foot. Really cannot drive deep passes.

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Overall: Clifford was a terrific QB four years running at Penn State and is the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage, passing yardage, and passing touchdowns. Despite this, he lacks the arm strength and accuracy to be anything other than a third QB on Sundays.

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