We’re back this morning with another Q&A with the college blogs. Today we’re checking out recent second round pick, QB DeShone Kizer.
The folks over at One Foot Down were kind enough to answer a few questions on Cleveland’s new quarterback. Check it out below.
1. Kizer was the 4th QB off the board, how did you (or ND faithful) view him when ranked against the other QBs?
The relationship between DeShone Kizer and ND fans was a bit of a rollercoaster. He was an unknown to the majority of us before the 2015 spring game. I think I had only really heard his name because I took an interest in his then-girlfriend, who was undergoing a serious surgery to remove a tumor from her neck. He had an absolutely atrocious spring game. He was 1-for-5 for 3 yards and got tagged for a safety. A safety! In the spring game!
When Malik Zaire went down in the second game of the 2015 season, the overwhelming feeling was one of dread. But then Kizer ascended in ways I think few of us foresaw. I still contend that 2015 DeShone Kizer was the best quarterback available in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for him -- and for us -- 2016 happened. (We'll get into that more in question 2.)
Here's the deal with Kizer and the other QBs as far as I saw it: Kizer slipped on draft boards because of his personality. Anonymous NFL personnel were unkind in their evaluations. He was a "diva." He "wouldn't put in the work" because he was "committed to building a brand." He was "thin-skinned" and a "prima donna." It seemed irrelevant that he had projected the exact opposite persona for the past three years to beat writers in South Bend. The perception was now a reality. Hell, Albert Breer lumped Kizer in with Joe Mixon and Cam Robinson as all facing "off-field problems"!
Now, the other quarterbacks were certainly scrutinized. My sense, however, was that scouts were nitpicking them about strictly on field performance. Deshaun Watson throws too many picks. Pat Mahomes has bad footwork. Quarterbacks can work on and fix any on-field issues and then show NFL clubs in private workouts how much they progressed. How can you erase someone's perception of you as a diva? (Kizer did himself zero favors by not choosing his words more carefully when talking about aspiring to have Tom Brady's mind and Cam Newton's body.)
This is not to say DeShone Kizer had his on-field issues as well. He had an underwhelming NFL Combine, and that's before all of these personality issues allegedly surfaced. (Recall that San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch said Kizer "blew the doors off" in their Combine meeting.)
2. Lots of people say he has ideal size and arm strength for an NFL QB, but may not see the field well. What are his biggest areas to improve upon at the next level?
The scouts-turned-analysts loved to hammer on his completion percentage. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah pointed out that there were only two NFL quarterbacks who completed less than 60 percent of their passes and were on a losing team -- which is what Kizer did in 2016. I don't know if it's exactly fair to include the game played in the hurricane. If you take that out, he's just above 60 percent.
To me, what was more troubling was that Kizer seemed to fatigue right when he was needed the most. He had a completion percentage of 72.3 percent in first quarters last year. It was 48.2 percent in fourth quarters. (His 201 numbers are far more consistent across quarters.)
Unfortunately, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock summed it up best: "When the game got in the fourth quarter and the pressure got on, he played his worst football. He was trying to do too much."
Kizer was also way more inaccurate when he was moving and didn't have the opportunity to set his feet. His footwork needs improvement, but -- a) it improved between the Combine and Pro Day and b) you could say that about pretty much every college quarterback. For what it's worth, Kizer has said Hue Jackson offered him tips before the Browns even drafted him that helped him with his footwork and accuracy.
In the same vein of "trying to do too much," a lot of fans -- myself included -- were frustrated by the number of sacks Kizer seemed to take. Yes, the offensive line underperformed based on expectations. Yes, the wide receivers were fresh faces who weren't running crisp routes. But Kizer tended to keep the ball and try to make a play instead of chuck it away and live to die another day.
His interceptions tended to be one of two issues:
1) He overthrew his receiver. Missing high isn't bad when it's one-on-one down a sideline. It's terrible when you're throwing pretty much anywhere else.
2) He doesn't account for the defensive back that sneaks underneath. I think I saw him throw the same pick multiple times.
3. Looking at his 2016 season, he had a pretty abysmal second half of the year. What happened?
To me, the whole shooting match after Texas was pretty underwhelming. Kizer had several problems, precipitated by his coach's decision not to name a starting quarterback until the second game of the season. He played very well in Austin despite rotating with Zaire, but eventually made Brian Kelly second guess his decision. Kelly inserted Zaire in the second half of the mid-season Stanford game, which ended up resolving absolutely nothing but kind of crushing Kizer's confidence.
Again, as Mayock said, Kizer wilted when it came to strapping a struggling team on his back and prevailing no matter what. The defense did him absolutely zero favors and the special teams' play was equally depressing. Kizer helped the team build big leads, only to watch them slowly dissipate as he struggled to move the ball after the opposing defense made its halftime adjustments. When he had to drive the team down for a game-tying score, it almost never worked out.
4. The Browns plan to be patient with him. If he's able to sit and develop, what type/caliber NFL QB can he be?
History suggests the Browns won't be as patient as they say they will. But I'll take your question at face value: Kizer definitely needs time if he's going to be a success in the NFL. He's 21 years old. He cannot put an underperforming franchise on his back and turn them into a playoff team. He needs to improve his footwork, especially when backpedaling after taking a direct snap from center. He needs to rely less on brute arm strength and develop sound mechanics that he can repeat effortlessly a million times. And he needs to absorb all that comes with being an NFL quarterback and put all of his talk about being the most prepared quarterback into action. I think with a good mentor -- perhaps Hue Jackson -- and an opportunity to watch the game from the sidelines at first, he could be a dependable starter. I'm personally hoping for him to have a career like Steve McNair, but I had similarly high expectations for Brady Quinn. And look where that got us!
Again, many thanks to andrewwinn for taking time to answer these!