Keeps eyes downfield and delivers passes in the face of pass rush
Steps into the pass rush to make completions downfield
Working through progressions
Good arm strength
Can make all the throws required
Throws a catchable ball
Can pick up yards on the ground
Has some pocket presence
Flashes tremendous accuracy on some throws
Good ball placement
Can audible into better plays for his offense
Can hurt defenses on the ground
Difficult to sack
Experienced against good competition
Passionate about football
Decision making can be inconsistent
Can get more consistent with accuracy
Can get more consistent working through progressions
Can get more consistent reading defenses, seeing underneath coverage
Will need to development working under center
Will need to improve footwork
Summary: Entering the 2016 college football season, the majority of the hype about 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 he wouldn't be the top quarterback prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft as 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 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 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 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.
The flaws in Kizer's game are consistency issues. Sometimes, his accuracy isn't fades and he can be prone to some overthrows. He 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.
In speaking to sources this fall, teams laid out some varying opinions of Kizer. Some teams believe Kizer is mid-first-round talent who will be a high first-rounder because of the demand for quarterbacks. Others didn't like him that loftily and felt his college system presented some issues. In this draft analyst's opinion, I would grade Kizer as a mid-first-round pick. I also wouldn't blame a quarterback-desperate team in the top 10 for taking him because it is so difficult to find franchise quarterbacks.
Player Comparison: Aaron Rodgers. There wasn't a player comparison that I really felt strongly about, but Kizer's skill set reminds me of Rodgers. Both have strong arms with the size and athleticism to hurt teams with their feet. They both can hold onto the ball long at times because they are hoping to make a big play. When Rodgers went through a rough stretch over the past couple of seasons, there were spots of inconsistent accuracy, and Kizer has that element to his play when things aren't going well. Both can also make beautiful touch passes downfield to beat good coverage or fire fastballs by defenders for completions. I'm not saying that Kizer will be as good as Rodgers, but if he pans out, his style of play could be similar to Rodgers'.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans, San Diego and Arizona
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 first-round picks.
The 49ers are also desperate for a starting quarterback and a face of the franchise. Kizer could fit nicely for Chip Kelly if Kelly returns in 2017, but even if Kelly leaves San Francisco, thet need a future starting quarterback as their current quarterbacks are dreadful.
Chicago could move on from Jay Cutler after this season as well. Kizer could be the Bears' future franchise quarterback to build around.
Blake Bortles is looking like he could be a bust for the Jaguars. Perhaps Jacksonville will not waste more time on Bortles and find an upgrade in Kizer. That will probably only happen if there is a regime change in Jacksonville that includes both the general manager along with the head coach - who has already been fired.
The Saints, Chargers and Cardinals all fall into the category of teams that have aging starting quarterbacks. Each one could consider drafting Kizer as all three are slated to be picking in the top 16 and getting their quarterback in Kizer could make a lot of sense for the long-term building of the team.