2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report: DeShone Kizer
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Entering the 2016 college football season, the majority of the hype as the top quarterback prospect was centered on Clemson's Deshaun Watson. A tremendous performance in Week 1 quickly put DeShone Kizer atop that conversation, however. Notre Dame then suffered through a tough 2016 season with lots of struggles on the defensive side of the ball. By the end of the season, many were saying Kizer should return to school and wouldn't be the top quarterback prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead, many media members had been hyping North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky as that prospect. Still, Kizer decided to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, and he is definitely in the running to be a high pick and the first quarterback selected.
Kizer had some impressive moments as a sophomore, especially in connecting vertically with speedster wide receiver Will Fuller. Kizer completed 63 percent of his passes in 2015 for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 520 yards with 10 scores on the ground.
Kizer started out his junior year with a tremendous outing against Texas. He had other impressive performances in leading a near-comeback against Michigan State, in which he made many phenomenal throws, and another quality game against Miami. There were also some lowlights, including a rough game against N.C. State while playing in a downpour from Hurricane Matthew. Notre Dame's defense really struggled in 2016 and often blew leads that Kizer helped establish. For the season, Kizer completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,925 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for seven touchdowns.
The No. 1 attribute for any successful quarterback in the NFL is accuracy, and this is not a liability for Kizer. His completion percentage in 2016 was hurt significantly by a ton of dropped passes from a receiving corps that was sometimes struggling. Every Notre Dame game I studied from this past season included Kizer making some precise throws downfield that were dropped by his receivers. Those were painful drops as they were chunk completions that robbed Notre Dame of good drives and points.
Kizer is also impressive with his ability to make well-placed throws downfield in the face of the rush. Even with defenders around his legs or running free to hit him, he keeps his eyes downfield and throws some great passes despite knowing he will take a hit. Kizer showed an ability to work off his primary read and work through progressions as well. Many quarterbacks who come from offenses that run spread systems aren't as good as Kizer is at working through their reads, but he has developed his field vision.
Additionally, Kizer can drop in some beautiful passes to beat coverage and also can fire some fastballs into tight windows. He has impressive arm strength and the ability to make a variety of throws with touch. Kizer has the arm talent to make all the throws the pro game requires.
Athleticism is another asset of Kizer's. He is a threat to pick up yards on the ground with his ability to scramble and buy time. He connected on some impressive passes in 2016 while throwing on the run. Along with quickness and agility, Kizer has good size to break tackles, and he is not an easy quarterback to sack.
There are some real flaws in Kizer's game that have turned off a lot of NFL evaluators. Sometimes, his accuracy gets streaky and he can be prone to some overthrows. Kizer also demonstrates inconsistent decision-making, and that can lead to some plays where he isn't protecting the football. Kizer is a young player, so these problems could be reduced as he gains experience. Another point of development will be working under center. Like almost all college quarterbacks, Kizer lived in the shotgun, so working under center and developing that footwork is going to be a part of his growth as a signal-caller. Unlike other spread quarterbacks though, Kizer did get experience making protection calls at the line of scrimmage. Overall, the lack of consistency is the biggest criticism of Kizer, and that could cause him to slide in the 2017 NFL Draft.
In speaking to sources during the fall, teams laid out some varying opinions of Kizer. Some teams believe Kizer is mid-first-round talent who will be a first-rounder because of the demand for quarterbacks. Others didn't like him that high and felt his college system presented some serious concerns. They didn't think Kizer belonged in the first round. Kizer could go as high as the middle of the first round, but could easily slip to Day 2.
Player Comparison: Daunte Culpepper. Kizer reminds me of a slimmer version of Culpepper. Culpepper was a mobile athlete with a big arm who was capable of making some brilliant throws. Consistency issues, however, limited Culpepper's career.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, Arizona, Houston, Kansas City and Pittsburgh
There are a lot of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL, and that will help Kizer to be selected early in the 2017 NFL Draft. Obviously, the Browns are in dire need of a solution to their quarterback quandary. Cleveland also is loaded with draft picks, including two in the first round, two in the second and one in the third. Kizer could be in play for the Browns with their second first-round pick or their pick at No. 33.
Arizona would make a lot of sense for Kizer. He is a good fit for Bruce Arian's offense, and with Carson Palmer returning to the desert in 2017, the Cardinals would have a year or two to develop Kizer before playing him. Kizer makes a lot of sense as a fit for the Cardinals.
The Texans need a long-term starting quarterback, so they could consider Kizer.
The 49ers are also desperate for a starting quarterback and a face of the franchise. Kizer could fit nicely in head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense, and general manager John Lynch said that Kizer was excellent in the team's combine meeting, plus Lynch personally went to Kizer's pro day. Chicago cut Jay Cutler and brought in Mike Glennon to be its short-term starter. Kizer could be the Bears' future franchise quarterback to build around. Both teams would probably think of taking Kizer in the second round or trading back into the first round for him.
The Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, Steelers and Giants all fall into the category of teams that have aging starting quarterbacks. Each could consider drafting Kizer and developing him for a year or two behind their starter.
2017 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie's | Walt's
2017 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings
2017 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
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