Why the Slide?: DeShone Kizer

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

After an impressive performance against Texas to open the season, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer became a hot quarterback prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder showed a strong arm with athleticism and made some beautiful throws versus the Longhorns. That came on the heels of a strong debut in 2015. After that Texas game, Kizer had some up and down performances as the Fighting Irish had a down season. The defense played poorly, and while head coach Brian Kelly changed coordinators mid-season, Notre Dame failed to qualify for a bowl game.

In 2016, Kizer completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,925 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for seven touchdowns. That completion percentage was hurt by the “hurricane” game against N.C. State and his young wideouts dropping a plethora of well-thrown passes. 2015 was a better year for Kizer as he completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 520 yards with 10 scores on the ground that season. Kizer had a much better supporting cast in 2015, including first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley, first-round wide receiver Will Fuller, second-round center Nick Martin and third-round running back C.J. Prosise.

During the leadup to the 2017 NFL Draft, Kizer was the consensus fourth-rated quarterback, but teams across the league agreed that he had the physical skill set for the position with a lot of athletic upside. One national scout for a team that won the lottery with a young franchise quarterback a few years ago said that they thought Kizer was a top-of-the-draft talent and his flaws were correctable. Other scouts at quarterback-needy teams weren’t as big of fans. One college director from a team that took a quarterback in the top-13 picks said that they didn’t grade Kizer in Round 1 and was far behind Mitch Trubisky, Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

Still with those three quarterbacks going in the top-13 picks, one would think that Kizer wouldn’t have slid in the 2017 NFL Draft after the early run on quarterbacks. However, Kizer fell to the back half of the second round before being selected. According to sources, Kizer slid because teams across the league knocked him for his lack of consistency and decision-making. They also didn’t like how he played late in some games during 2016.

The Cleveland Browns ended Kizer’s fall when they took him in the back half of the second round. While the Browns are in rebuilding mode, I think that was actually a pretty good landing spot for Kizer. With Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, Kizer can develop as a backup and won’t be forced onto the field. Kizer needs developmental time, and the Browns can afford him that with those three quarterbacks able to play. Even though Kessler and Hogan are young, they are smart individuals who should help Kizer in the meeting room. Of course, the Browns have a good quarterback coach for Kizer to learn from in Hue Jackson. Once Kizer is on the field, he will have a good veteran offensive line to help protect him. Cleveland also has first-round talents at wide receiver in Corey Coleman and tight end in David Njoku for Kizer to grow with. The Browns could sit Kizer for the 2017 season and let him learn.

Currently, Cleveland has two first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and three second-round picks, so the organization will be bringing in more talent around Kizer. The team also might draft more quarterback competition for Kizer, so it is important for him to give the decision-makers some positive developmental signs as a rookie, even if he isn’t on the field. Overall though, Kizer has the chance to prove that he is a franchise quarterback as he went to a team in need of a future starter. He will get a shot to prove he is the Browns’ quarterback of the future, and thus Cleveland is a good opportunity for Kizer.

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