[size=18px]Ron Bellamy: Duck's stock has made healthy gains[/size]

By Ron Bellamy
Columnist, The Register-Guard
Published: Sunday, April 16, 2006


Since the end of the college football season, the NFL draft stock of Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens has risen sharply.

Three or four weeks ago, Clemens noted, most draft projections had him as a sixth-round pick. If that.

But the latest projection by ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Clemens being selected in the second round, with the 48th pick, by the Minnesota Vikings.

In Kiper's current mock draft, Clemens would be the fifth college quarterback selected, behind Matt Leinart (third to Tennessee), Vince Young (seventh to Oakland), Jay Cutler (10th to Arizona) and Brodie Croyle (44th to Baltimore).

(Kiper also projects defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as the No. 13 pick, by Baltimore, and wide receiver Demetrius Williams as the 50th pick overall, midway through the second round, by San Diego.)

"I look at it every once in a while," Clemens said the other day. "Mel Kiper isn't going to be the one pulling the string, but it's kind of fun to look and see that three or four weeks ago, I was going to be a guy who was hopefully going to squeeze into the sixth round or something.

"It doesn't mean anything, but it's nice to be getting some attention and having my name mentioned in there. ... It's a heck of a lot better than where I was three weeks ago."

And better, certainly, than his prognosis after he fractured his left fibula near the ankle, and suffered damage to ankle ligaments, in the Arizona game Oct. 22.

"I fell off the radar after I got hurt," he said. "Everybody quit looking, quit hearing about me. I wasn't at the Senior Bowl, I wasn't at any of the all-star games."

But Clemens recovered well enough to participate in some aspects of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, and since then he's had individual workouts with coaches from more than a half-dozen teams, including the Rams, Eagles, Bengals, Chiefs, Cowboys and Falcons.

Clemens said his injury has healed well. "I'm running on it, jumping off it, doing all the cuts," he said. "It's pretty much healthy."

Thursday, he was in San Diego for interviews with Chargers coaches - the quarterbacks coach there is former UO assistant coach John Ramsdell - and Monday he flies to Baltimore for interviews with the Ravens. On Wednesday, he'll work out in Eugene for the Jets, his last scheduled audition before the two-day draft begins April 29.

"Once I got to the combine and threw a little bit, I think they thought `OK, the kid is kind of healthy, and he can throw a little bit,' ' Clemens said. "But I think the thing that's really helping me right now are the interviews that I've done after the combine with teams that have come in ... and that in all the workouts I've thrown the ball well."

In film sessions with pro coaches, Clemens has displayed a strong grasp of the position and the game.

"They're encouraged by the diversity of coaches I've already had" - three offensive coordinators in five years - "and by the systems that I've had to learn, and quickly, in some cases," Clemens said.

On the Wonderlic test, the 12-minute, 50-question aptitude test taken by potential draftees, Clemens scored a 35, tied with Leinart for one of the top scores in the country among quarterbacks this year.

"For a guy who took ballroom dancing as a senior," Clemens said wryly of the USC quarterback, "he stayed pretty sharp."

For perspective, according to Internet lists based on published reports, Eli Manning scored a 39, Tom Brady 33, Joey Harrington 32 and Ben Roethlisberger 25, close to this year's average of 24.5.

Clemens plans to spend draft weekend with his wife, Nicole, at his parents' ranch in Burns.

"My wife says she's going to be glued to the TV set," he said. "I won't be. I think we're going to take a (horseback) ride that morning, and then relax a little bit, play some cards and look up every 15 minutes or so and see who gets picked."

The first three rounds of the NFL draft will be held the 29th. By the end of that day, it seems, Clemens will have looked up to the TV and seen that among those picked was him.

Ron Bellamy: Duck's stock has made healthy gains