Northwestern Football: Clayton Thorson Has Real NFL Draft Stock



Northwestern QB1 Clayton Thorson has slowly but steadily developed during his two years, and the next step for him could be “the league.” A year ago, when NU sputtered to a 1-3 start, and the offense plodded along in doldrums of inefficiency, not many would be talking Clayton Thorson and NFL Draft stock in the same sentence.

However, Thorson and the offense finally woke up in week five at Iowa, and they did so in a huge manner. The Cats won 38-31, and Thorson began an individual stretch that saw him throw 17 TDs and 9 INTS in the final nine games of the season.


The redshirt junior saw his TD-INT ratio improve from 7:9 to 22:9, with those 22 touchdown tosses setting a new school record. He also improved his completion percentage by 7.8 percentage points.

The Wheaton native also attended the Manning Passing Academy in June, and he described the experience to his coach Pat Fitzgerald as “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Thorson wears #18 because of Peyton Manning.

“He loved it, thrived in it, had a great week, and I think his best football is ahead of him,” NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

“We’ve been so fortunate, the line of quarterbacks that we’ve had in my 18 years not only as a coach but also on staff have given us an opportunity to compete, and he’s next in line.”

Athlon ranks him as the 30th best QB in college football this season.

Thorson has shot up the NFL draft position rankings put out by so-called draftniks and it’s possible, if he continues to progress and has another great season, he could go early entry to the NFL.


“Do I believe he will be an NFL quarterback? Absolutely. If it’s after this year, that means he’s had a really good year and that’s win-win for everybody,” Fitzgerald said.

As a redshirt in 2014, Clayton Thorson had the opportunity to learn from Trevor Siemian, who won the opening day QB1 job with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos last season. Fitzgerald is absolutely right about the line of succession at the quarterback position. Before the Kain Colter-Trevor Siemian platoon years, Dan Persa was stellar at the position for the Cats. Preceding Persa was Mike Kafka, who would go on to make a couple starts for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.

Thorson was humble about the NFL draft stock talk.

“I realize I’m not there now,” he said. “It’s great that people say you’ve got some talent, but I don’t put much into those talks. It doesn’t matter if you don’t perform.”


During his first season as a starter, Northwestern won with a very stout defense, a decent running game, and a little bit of smoke and mirrors.

In his second season running the show, the team sputtered at the start at the same time that the offense was off its game. However, once they kicked it up, the team did as well.

We’ve seen Clayton Thorson already develop from a proverbial cliche “game manager” of sorts into the focal point that determines the fortunes of both the offense, and essentially the team.

He’s 17-9 as a starter during those two seasons, and NFL teams will no doubt be impressed by that as he goes through the draft evaluative process, whether that’s this year, or the next. Perhaps the biggest asset for Thorson though is his size. At 6-4, 220 he’s a perfect prototypical size for a signal caller in “the shield,” and that no doubt as a lot to do with why his NFL Draft stock is higher than you might think right now.


Whether it’s after this season, or the next, it appears Clayton Thorson will be playing football somewhere for some time to come.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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