Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer has traits that will get people excited.
He has good size. He has the physical tools and arm strength to make every necessary throw in the NFL. He also has ability as a runner.
Like the other two players generally considered to be in the top three quarterbacks of this year’s draft (I analyzed Deshaun Watson in this piece, and I talked about Mitch Trubisky here), there are questions about him as a prospect. There are concerns about his throwing fundamentals, accuracy and ability to see the whole field. That’s not unusual; all college quarterbacks have issues to clean up when they enter the NFL. But teams will have to decide if Kizer’s issues can be fixed with coaching.
After watching his tape, here are the strengths and weaknesses of Kizer’s game:
Kizer really flashed as a thrower. He can sit on his back foot and drive the ball with velocity late in the down. He’s one of the best throwers in the draft class, a much more natural thrower with overall better arm talent than Trubisky.
Here’s a pass against Virginia Tech that shows Kizer’s arm strength. With an unblocked rusher coming in, Kizer drives a 29-yard throw to Equanimeous St. Brown.
Kizer also showed some instincts for being an anticipation thrower, with good timing. When he is comfortable in the pocket and gets a clear picture, he’s an excellent thrower with everything you’re looking for in an NFL quarterback. A 31-yard touchdown on a post route to Chris Finke was Kizer at his best: reading coverage, easy delivery, accurate throw.
Here’s another throw that teams should take note of. Against Duke, he threw a 44-yard touchdown to Kevin Stepherson. Duke had a lot of late secondary movement and disguised coverage, and Kizer handled it very well. He made an outstanding deep post throw against Duke’s late rotation from a split-safety look to “Cover 3” blitz.
Kizer showed some late-in-the-down pocket poise, working through progressions. There were snaps in which he showed comfortable pocket movement, sliding and re-setting. He can also make accurate throws on the run, and there can also be some read-option and quarterback run-game dimensions in the red zone with Kizer.
Kizer had a few plays that showed he needs to be refined and polished. Here’s an inexcusable interception against Duke, from his own end zone in the fourth quarter of a 35-35 game.
In watching Kizer, I wondered if he had “slow eyes.” At times he didn’t process properly and threw to the wrong receiver. That’s a concern, and he can be a little reckless at times with his decision-making under duress. His ability to be consistently effective in a muddied pocket – which he’ll face often in the NFL – is another concern.
There are times Kizer has some poor throwing mechanics. He can drop his front shoulder on his delivery, with his back leg lifting off the ground. There were times he was a little upright on his delivery, locking his front leg. He can drift at times when throwing to his left, which results in ball placement issues.
TRANSITION TO THE NFL
The physical tools Kizer has, along with his poise and composure, will entice NFL teams. But they’ll also have concerns about his decision making and consistent accuracy. Kizer was not a high percentage thrower at Notre Dame, which is always troublesome as a quarterback transitions to the pro game. He missed too many throws with poor ball location. Those things could be helped with improved mechanics.
I think Kizer will need hard and detailed coaching. His overall skill set will allow him to play in any NFL system, but he’ll need to speed up his decision making and clean up some of the other aforementioned issues to make a successful NFL transition.
More draft previews from Greg Cosell
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.