• Bret Rumbeck

Draft Analysis: DeShone Kizer

There’s something about watching Notre Dame football that tugs at my heart strings. It’s probably because their colors are very similar to Turlock High, so it feels a bit like watching an old game film. But the Turlock High Class of 1998 never had a quarterback that was 6’4, 233 pounds that could sling the ball around Joe Debly Stadium.

Like other quarterbacks in this year’s draft, DeShone Kizer is leaving college early with 25 games under his belt and two remaining years of eligibility to make the Scrooge McDuck-like money in professional football. That alone would make me question Kizer, Trubisky and others in their team interview: Are you leaving college to make a million dollars because you learned all you could at this level? Dak Prescott started nearly 50 games and took over 1,100 pass attempts before entering the draft. What makes you better than Dak?

I have to wonder if a few years from now, we see an in-depth article discussing why four years of college football is a greater indicator of NFL success than a strong arm or statistics.

Kizer is a streaky quarterback. My notes for the game films I watched started out the same:

  • Good footwork

  • Stepped into the throw; accurate

  • Roll left, threw across the body with excellent ball placement

  • Look left, comeback right: Touchdown

  • Roll right, levels read: 12-yard completion

  • Can shake off defensive linemen; size will be helpful in the NFL

  • Got the exact look he wanted vs. Cover 2; receiver dropped the ball

However, you can time Kizer’s fundamental breakdown like an atomic clock. Once the third quarter started, my notes on his play shifted:

  • Ball placement seems sporadic

  • Is he locked on left before the snap?

  • Did not gather feet, ball is way off target

  • Footwork breaking down; lower body not set

  • Pushing the ball into coverage with a back open in the flat; stop trying to make the big play!

  • Spending far too long in the pocket waiting for something to develop

  • Taking too many sacks

As we’ve determined in a previous analysis, every player coming into the NFL is flawed in some way. Kizer’s lack of experience and rough fundamentals don’t put him in a position to start for a team this September. But, he has a consistent release and arm strength. His ability to move around in the pocket and shrug off a hulking defensive lineman is similar to Ben Roethlisberger. And keeping plays alive like this can end up in big plays for the offense.

You have to respect a quarterback who wants the pressure of the win on his shoulders. Let him make that huge throw 50-yards downfield for the game-winning score. To hell with the field goal, we’re winning this thing by a touchdown.

After three bad seasons of 49ers football, I’m all for that kind of mentality. I want to see our next quarterback throw game-winning scores.

Too often, Kizer wanted this kind of pressure on his shoulders. He had options short, but hung in the pocket for far too long, trying to over-extend routes that were covered. He’d take a sack or scramble and throw an incomplete pass.

An NFL coach will have to train Kizer to get that quarterback timer in his head: Read one is covered – hitch up. Read two is covered – hitch again. Read three is covered – run it.

Notre Dame’s last drive against Stanford last season was Kizer at his best and worst. He’s forcing throws, not scanning the field and holding onto the ball for far too long. I’m not sure the offensive breakdown on the last drive: poor play calling, poor quarterback play or a combination of both. But Kizer looked frustrated on the last few plays in the red zone.

I have no problem with athletes getting angry; showing emotion lets me know you’re human. But in the middle of a drive is not when to look at the sideline and throw your arms up like you’re not sure what’s going on. Those other ten men in the huddle are looking to you to lead, not to whine.

Pro Football Focus also commented on Kizer’s lack of game-winning consistency: “Had a chance to either tie or win the game with the ball in his hand in six games this season and failed to convert.”

Kizer was another player I wanted to like after watching the film, but he’s simply not a high first-round talent right now. Like Trubisky, a lack of significant college experience will hurt him early on in the NFL. Another 225 attempts, and learning to play from under center, could have made Kizer’s next year’s number one overall selection.