2015: 210/334 2880 YDS 21 TD 10 INT
2016: 212/361 2925 YDS 26 TD 9 INT
Career: 422/695 5805 YDS 47 TD 19 INT
If you missed my report on Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes II, you can find it here. The second quarterback that I graded this season is DeShone Kizer. Some would say Kizer got Yo-yoed by his head coach Brian Kelly in a “quarterback by committee” against Texas, but that was one game in which Kizer performed just fine. The rest of his season was a roller coaster, not only for Kizer but the Notre Dame program as a whole. If Kizer declares for the 2017 NFL Draft, the reports and tweets will start flying on the kid.
Let’s take a look at the redshirt sophomore and how he stacks up against the rest of the class.
Kizer is an imposing figure with a similar build to Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. He stands 6’4” and weighs in at 230 pounds, but has a frame to add bulk with looking heavier. He is a physical kid when he carries the ball and has shown strength to take hits in the pocket and not go down.
Arm Strength (7):
Kizer has plenty of arm strength to make all the throws at the next level. The ball pops out of his hand, but doesn’t show the same pop when he isn’t set or moving toward the target. Some will say this is the same with all quarterbacks, but there is a difference you can see when the ball comes out.
Completion percentage is one thing, but accuracy is another, and Kizer struggles with his accuracy. He has shown flashes of being able to make all throws accurately and into tight windows, but he has a tendency to overthrow (I’ll discuss more here shortly). The belief that accuracy can’t be fixed is somewhat true, but making throws when they matter is as important as the accuracy.
Once again, there is more to throwing than just being able to fire a fastball to the receiver. Understanding what type of throw is needed for certain routes versus certain coverages is as important as velocity. Kizer is still learning the nuances of the position and as he gains more experience, this will improve. With his arm strength, this shouldn’t be a long term problem.
Set Up/Delivery/Release (6):
Kizer has one of the smoothest motions you will see when everything aligns. The biggest knock on Kizer’s fundamentals are his feet. He tends to over stride when throwing the ball causing his passes to be off target. At times, Kizer appears to be robotic in the pocket with his mechanics and reads which make him appear rigid. This again is part of the learning curve for Kizer and should get better with time.
Kizer is an effective runner and with his size, he can be used in many different fashions to put pressure on defenses. Once again, his body type and athleticism remind me of watching Cam Newton (maybe not the athlete as Cam), and Kizer is capable of being employed in similar ways at the next level. Still, Kizer is a passer first when leaving the pocket, and is able to keep his eyes up for receivers while on the move.
Pocket Presence/Poise/Decision Making/Football IQ (7):
The Irish’s season didn’t go as planned, so we got to see Kizer in plenty of tense situations where he displayed great poise and leadership on the field. He demonstrates an understanding of what the defense is showing, but at times he can be slow to process the play as it develops. This makes him late and/or off-target on a number of throws. As I mentioned before, he can be robotic in the pocket, which can slow his feet and make his presence look choppy.
Kizer maybe the most intriguing quarterback prospect in this draft, as his ceiling is maybe as high as we have seen in a handful of years. He has the size, athleticism, and arm, and he’s still learning the position. Earlier this year, Bruce Feldman reported that Kizer was a three-sport star in high school, and didn’t do anything to focus on learning the finer points of quarterbacking outside of football season.
Quarterback isn’t a position where a player can get by forever simply by being athletic and a physical specimen. There is a lot that happens before and after the snap that the QB has to process quickly, and staring down the barrel of a live defense is the only way to see if one can do it. Kizer has now spent three years learning the position and has made big leaps from his senior year in high school to now. The question now becomes how much more is there to get out of him and is he able to do it mentally?
If Kizer can put all of it together, he has the ability to be similar to Cam Newton (without quite the same arm strength) who when used properly is lethal for defenses to handle. If Kizer declares, he will be an upside quarterback who will need to land in the right position to start right away. And, with time, he has the ceiling to be a top flight quarterback in the league.