6-foot-4, 235 pounds
Thursday, March 30, 2017
This Type of Young Athletic Grit
28. Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
6-foot-4, 235 pounds
6-foot-4, 235 pounds
Key stat: In 25 college games, Kizer completed 60.7 percent of his passes, averaged 8.4 yards per attempt and accounted for 65 TDs (47 passing, 18 rushing) and 29 turnovers (19 interceptions, 10 fumbles lost).
The skinny: Former four-star dual-threat recruit turned down offers from other big-time programs (Alabama, Ohio State, LSU) to join the Irish but found himself stuck behind Everett Golson and Malik Zaire his first season and lost the starting battle to Zaire to start his second season. But Kizer stepped in for an injured Zaire late in the third quarter of the second game of the 2015 season to rally the Irish to victory (one of three fourth-quarter comebacks that season) with a final-minute TD pass. Led Notre Dame to No. 11 ranking and 10-3 season in 2015 but struggled in 2016 as the Irish fell to 4-8 following the graduation of a lot of talent.
Kizer declared for the 2017 NFL draft following his junior season. He will turn 22 next January.
Best-suited destination: In our view Kizer would be best-suited to go to a team where he’s not expected to start immediately and can adapt to more of a pro system. He’s young enough where sitting a year (or more) would be beneficial to let his game develop and not be exposed too soon. Teams that need a quarterback — now or in the near future — that could be intrigued by Kizer’s skill set include the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills.
Upside: Big, strong framed quarterback with nice athletic traits. Has a plus arm and can stripe it. Can throw a really pretty ball when his mechanics are sound and he sets himself. Nearly entire field is in play with the ball in Kizer’s hands. Smart and wants to learn. Has quiet, thoughtful demeanor and was thrust into leadership position at high-pressure program. Drop in productivity can be attributed to major loss of talent in 2016 (six of seven leading receivers from 2015 season, plus two top-50 picks on the O-line). Showed poise when the rush bore down on him and delivered strikes from awkward angles and without benefit of clean pocket. Watch as Kizer senses pressure (bad protection on four-man rush) quickly and delivers an off-balance strike where only his single-covered receiver could catch it (but dropped it):
Good, instinctive runner who can pick up first downs either by design or on scrambles. Seems to go through progressions fairly well before tucking and running. Handled less-than-ideal circumstances at his pro day well and rebounded after so-so NFL scouting combine performance.
Downside: Got too heavy by end of last season. Was at 250 pounds by USC game. Has taken a lot of hits in two years as runner and passer. Athletic testing numbers at combine were just OK. On-field throwing session in Indy was not great as he looked a bit robotic with some of his throws to the left. Far more efficient throwing to his right. Some of his passing production was schemed up off play action. Mechanics seem to break down often, especially late in games. Tries to make off-balance or “hero” throws that lead to problems. Can hold onto ball too long, waiting for receivers to uncover. Shaky ball-handling at times. Too turnover-prone, averaging more than one per game and throwing picks in 15 of his 23 college starts. Will lock onto and stare down his primary receiver, make poor reads and force balls into traffic:
Comes from program and head coach in Brian Kelly not known in recent years for producing top QB talent (Kelly’s only draft pick of the 20-plus starting QBs he’s coached, was Cincinnati’s Tony Pike, a sixth-rounder who attempted 12 NFL passes). Kizer occasionally butted heads with Notre Dame coaching staff and wanted to incorporate his own ideas into the offense. Might need strong-minded NFL staff to keep him engaged and focused.
Scouting hot take: “I think he suffered from the smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome there a little bit. He’s a smart guy and a tough kid, a tough-minded kid, and you want that. But you have to make sure he can take [hard coaching] and respond to it. I think he can in a different environment.” — Midwest scout
Player comp: Kizer has elements of Steve McNair and Ben Roethlisberger in his game but might not be on the level of either in terms of their rare, elite competitiveness
Expected draft range: Top 40 picks