DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
(percentile rank among all QBs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.83 seconds (46th)
Vertical: 30.5 inches (39th)
Broad: 107 inches (31st)
3-cone: 7.40 seconds (8th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds (13th)
Malik Zaire stepped into the Notre Dame starting job in 2015, after Everett Golson had transferred to Florida State. But then Zaire suffered an ankle fracture in just the 2nd game. Kizer stepped in, led a comeback victory in that contest and then held the job through the end of 2016.
It didn’t go as smoothly as that might sound, though.
Kizer performed well in tossing 21 TD passes vs. 10 INTs, running for 10 more scores and leading the Irish to an 8-3 finish overall. Loss #3 came against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, with the other 2 on the road at strong Clemson and Stanford teams.
Kizer hit 2016 still in competition with a rehabbed Zaire, though, and never seemed to gain the full confidence of HC Brian Kelly. He did retain the job throughout his redshirt sophomore campaign, but Kelly yanked Kizer a few times—most notably during an October home loss to Stanford.
The QB’s completion rate for the season dipped to 58.7% from 62.9% in 2015, which might look more worrisome than it is. Although Kizer struggled at times with accuracy, he also lost 4 of his top 5 receivers from the previous season—including Texans 1st-round pick Will Fuller. Notre Dame also watched 1st-round LT Ronnie Stanley and 3rd-round RB C.J. Prosise leave for the pros. The QB also endured a 9-for-26 passing day at N.C. State in Hurricane Matthew weather and dealt with plenty of drops by Irish pass-catchers.
Kizer still managed to increase his passing yardage and TD total, while adding 8 more scores on the ground. Although Zaire appeared in 8 games, he threw more than 2 passes in a game just 3 times—surpassing 5 attempts only once. For the year, Zaire attempted just 23 passes and 20 rushes.
Pro Football Focus credited Kizer with a nation-leading 154.7 passer rating on play action. Without play action, that dropped to 85.5 (62nd). He conceded that he didn’t make enough plays last year, contributing to the Irish’s disappointing 4-8 record.
(Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com)
Games watched: Stanford, Texas, Clemson (2015), Ohio State (2015)
Deshaun Watson played in consecutive national-title games amid a stellar career at Clemson. Mitchell Trubisky seems to keep checking boxes in draft season, with the primary worry being whether he started enough games before leaving UNC.
So why does Kizer top Mike Mayock’s QB rankings—as well as those of some other analysts?
Well, the primary reason: This year’s QB class is a gang of question marks in shoulder pads. There’s no sure thing. Kizer comes with terrific size. He stands 2 inches taller than Watson, Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Nathan Peterman.
The former Irish QB also flashes plenty of talent, of course, even if he does so a bit too inconsistently.
Every scouting report you read on Kizer is likely to mention that he has the ability to start in the NFL but needs work. Let’s start here with best throw I saw him make among the 4 games I watched.
It’s not the QB’s fault that pass fell incomplete. All he did was nail a wideout roughly 30 yards downfield, in the end zone, between 3 defenders. You can see he brings plenty of arm.
That toss came in 2016-opening win at Texas in which Kizer threw for 5 TDs and ran for a 6th, undoubtedly getting scouts excited for his potential.
The Texas game also showed off Kizer’s touch on this nice ball to the left side of the end zone to beat coverage for a back-shoulder TD.
Yet you can also find this example of poor footwork causing Kizer to misfire on would should have been a fairly easy completion down the middle.
The mechanical issues make regular appearances, showing pretty clearly why the QB will need work before he’s ready to lead your NFL team.
Kizer missed receivers low and high in that Stanford game in which he got yanked last year.
And here’s a misfire over an open receiver in the end zone at Clemson.
And then there are the poor decisions.
None of those balls should have been thrown.
CBS’ Dane Brugler calls Kizer, “still young in his development with most of his mistakes due to late decisions and careless throws outside of structure,” adding that he has a “bad habit of relying on pre-snap reads and staring down intended target.”
That might explain this interesting play from last season’s narrow loss at Clemson.
Kizer misses an open deep option to his left while opting to throw to a decently covered wideout streaking down the right half. What makes it interesting, though, is that Kizer still hits his guy with a nice ball that should have been reeled in for a TD.
Consider it an example of how talent can sometimes overcome bad decisions (though obviously not always—or even most of the time).
Speaking of talent, let’s close out the passing portion with 1 more impressive touch throw for a TD.
Finally, Kizer’s mobility matches up more with his college rushing stats than it does with his underwhelming Combine numbers. He won’t electrify you with his run skills, but he’s agile, fast enough and not afraid to attack the middle of the field and take hits.
Here’s a designed run for distance, something Kizer did often in Notre Dame’s read-option scheme …
And here’s an escape from a crowded pocket against a stellar Ohio State pass rush.
Kizer picks up only a few yards on a 3rd-and-7, but he shows how elusive he can be vs. rushers in the pocket. He also still looks to throw after evading the 1st wave, before conceding that he’ll need to take it himself.
Don’t get caught up in the argument of whether Kizer is the top QB in the class or closer to #4. That will be important for NFL teams to figure out, but it doesn’t matter all that much for us fantasy owners.
The abundance of question marks surrounding this group confirms that you should wait to pick any of them in your dynasty rookie draft—and then factor in situation at least as heavily as talent. Right now, I’d rather blindly take whichever top 4-5 QB lands with the Chargers or Saints than plant my flag on a specific player in the same draft slot.
Kizer should be fine from Round 3 on in rookie drafts, and comparisons with Steve McNair and Ben Roethlisberger show the ceiling. But most analysts also seem to think he should go somewhere in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft.
Kizer’s far from a sure thing who will be most attractive to a dynasty roster already set for at least 2017 (and ideally 2018 as well) at QB.
If he does achieve -- or even approach -- his ceiling, then Kizer should profile as a top-12 type of fantasy QB with the arm to deliver passing stats and the mobility to get the call near the goal line and create yards along the way. That said, I don't see Cam Newton-level fantasy upside here. I'd currently rather take a shot on Patrick Mahomes in the "talented but needs seasoning" category.