2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Penn State QB Sean Clifford

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford.

#14 Sean Clifford (R. Senior) — 6020, 218 Lbs.

2023 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl participant


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Sean Clifford 6020, 218 9 5/8″ 31 5/8″ 76 3/4″
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.62 1.60 4.25 6.84
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
9’8″ 30.5″ N/A

The Good

-Above average accuracy, especially working downfield
-Throws an impressive deep ball and can drop balls into the bucket with consistency
-Adequate arm strength to fit balls into tight windows
-Sound athlete with good feel for pressure in the pocket
-Confident quarterback; trusts his eyes and arm to make any throw
-Good build with well-proportioned, thick frame
-Dangerous runner who can chew up defenses on scrambles and in read options

The Bad

-Needs to develop more feel and awareness in short-to-intermediate areas of the field; can have blinders on
-Mechanics tend to fall apart under pressure; will throw off back foot at times, leading to floating throws
-Pulls the ball down too quickly if first look isn’t there; has to work through progressions better
-Stats padded a bit by quick screens to perimeter
-Relies too much on running abilities in bigger matchups, making offense one-dimensional at times
-Needs to be more aware as a runner; took some monster open-field shots in 2022


-Played in 51 career games at Penn State over five seasons, starting 46 of them
-Four-time captain, just the second ever in program history
-Finished five-year career with 10,661 passing yards, 86 touchdowns and 31 interceptions; added 1,073 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 388 carries
-Named honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2021 and 2022 seasons
-Penn State’s all-time leader in completion percentage (.612) completions (817), passing yards (10,382), passing touchdowns (84), and pass attempts (1,335)
-One of two Penn State players to reach 11,000 yards of total offense and the only quarterback in program history to eclipse 10,000 passing yards
-Former 4-star prospect, ranked as the 80th overall prospect by ESPN; rated as the No. 1 prospect in Ohio, No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country and No. 4 player in the region by ESPN coming out of high school
-Was a 2016 Elite 11 Finalist and was named Most Accurate Passer at Elite 11 competition

Tape Breakdown

Few quarterbacks possess the experience and production that Penn State’s Sean Clifford has in the 2023 NFL Draft class.

Though the production is rather impressive on paper, Clifford had a relatively up and down career with the Nittany Lions, coming in and out of the lineup throughout the years due to struggles at times.

But he put it all together in his final season at Penn State, turning in a career year and working his way into a draftable prospect.

Clifford throws an impressive deep ball, dropping the ball into the bucket consistently. Outside of his athleticism and toughness as a runner, his deep-ball abilities are his best trait.

Look at the way he drops this shot into the bucket to Jahan Dotson in 2019 against Michigan at Beaver Stadium.

You really can’t make a better throw than he did there. Perfectly placed.

Same thing in the Rose Bowl against Utah this past season.

On time, in stride and right on the button for the explosive play.

When a guy is that wide open, some quarterbacks can panic a bit and rush the throw, but Clifford doesn’t here, dropping it right into the receiver’s chest like he’s playing catch on air.


Clifford had a number of explosive plays through the air at Penn State in 2022, and it was largely due to his accuracy downfield against tight coverage.

One of his best throws of the year occurred against Auburn on the road early in the season. He hit wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley right in the hands on a perfect throw near the sideline with the cornerback right in the hip pocket. He consistently gives his guys a chance to make a play downfield in contested-catch situations.

It’s a really intriguing ability of his.

Same thing here on the road against Michigan last season.


That’s an absolute dime. He does just enough to hold the safety in the middle of the field at the snap, looking left before flipping his eyes back to the right, dropping the ball perfectly in stride into the receiver’s hands for the big play, sparking the Penn State offense.

It just looks so smooth from Clifford when he’s on time. You won’t find a better ball downfield than that.

Throughout his career, the accuracy was really impressive from Clifford. He has good touch overall and really knows where to put the ball to give his guys a chance.

This throw against Michigan State in 2019 to current Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth was quite impressive.

I don’t like throwing off the back foot overall, but the touch and placement is quite impressive.

He has the arm strength too to fire into tight windows and make those difficult throws in the middle of the field.


That’s a dart for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl. Good job of stepping and really driving into the throw to beat the safety for the score.

Where Clifford really impresses me is when the play breaks down. He’s a dangerous runner, one that Penn State used quite a bit throughout his career. He can scramble and create plays and is a real threat in the read-option game.

Clifford doesn’t have that game-changing speed considering he was hawked down on both runs. But he can really get moving in the open field and you can see the 4.51 40-yard time is no joke.


With his experience and production, Clifford deserves a legitimate shot at the next level. He’s a great athlete overall for the position, has great touch and accuracy on the deep ball and processes pretty quickly overall. In the pocket he has a great feel for pressure and showed off the ability to maneuver the pocket and make plays.

The arm strength is more than adequate, and he trusts it immensely to make tight-window throws. Despite the production and experience, Clifford but experienced some serious ups and downs during his time at Penn State and had to battle for the starting job each of the last three seasons, which is a bit concerning for a guy who holds a number of program records. It should be noted that in two of those seasons he held off Will Levis, who ultimately transferred to Kentucky and is a projected first-round pick in this draft.

Clifford was a four-time team captain and the heart and soul of the 2022 Nittany Lions, who won the Rose Bowl in convincing fashion over Utah. Despite being a Combine snub, Clifford has the feel of a longtime NFL backup, whether that’s in a No. 2 or No. 3 role. He reminds me a lot of a bigger Chase Daniel.

Projection: Mid-Day 3 (5th/6th Round)

Depot Draft Grade: 6.5 Backup/End of Roster

Games Watched: Michigan (2019), at Michigan State (2019), Buffalo (2019), Michigan State (2022), at Auburn (2022), at Michigan (2022), Utah (2022, Rose Bowl)

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