DeShone Kizer has been hyped up as the quarterback with the “most upside” in this year’s draft class. Said Mike Mayock from NFL.com back in February, “He is 6-5, 235. He has that kind of prototypical franchise quarterback look, a Phillip Rivers type…if he gets everything right.” ESPN’s Todd McShay echoed those sentiments after watching Kizer’s pro day at Notre Dame: “This guy [Kizer] makes some throws that [Mitch] Trubisky and [Deshaun] Watson cannot make. But Kizer also misses a lot of throws that typically you wouldn’t see from Trubisky or Watson. I think probably he has the strongest arm. He has the biggest upside of all of these quarterbacks.”
But my takeaway all along has been this: with all that “upside,” how come he didn’t produce in college? In only two years under center for Notre Dame, Kizer was just 12-11 as a starter. That includes last season, when he led the Fighting Irish to a horrible 4-8 record. And it’s not like Kizer beat any quality opponents, either. Notre Dame’s only quality win last season came over Miami, who finished a respectable 9-4. Their other three victories came against Nevada, Syracuse, and Army. Don’t confuse any of those teams with Alabama…or even Alabama A&M.
In total, Kizer finished with just a 2-5 record against ranked teams in his career. And even that is deceptive. Each of those wins came in 2015, for one thing, while the first came against a Georgia Tech team that ultimately finished 3-9 (the only reason they were ranked is because it was Week 3 and they were coming off a strong season). The latter was against Temple.
Admittedly, Kizer’s career numbers don’t look bad: 47 touchdowns to only 19 interceptions; 60.7% completion percentage; 18 rushing touchdowns. But Kizer had issues protecting the ball last year, throwing interceptions in eight of Notre Dame’s twelve games. He also was terrible in the fourth quarter. In seven of the Irish’s eight losses, Kizer had the ball late in the fourth and could not deliver. Let’s look specifically at three of his performances:
- Week 3 vs Duke: Tied at 35 midway through the fourth quarter, Kizer throws an interception that leads to a Duke field goal. On Notre Dame’s next possession, the offense only manages one first down, effectively sealing the win for Duke.
- Week 7 vs Stanford: Up 10-0 at the half, Notre Dame’s following six offensive possessions go as follows: Pick-six, interception, three-and-out, safety, three-and-out, fumble. Notre Dame lost 17-10.
- Week 12 at Virginia Tech: After leading by 17 at one point, Kizer goes 1-11 in the fourth quarter as Virginia Tech storms back to win 34-31.
I would’ve expected Kizer, with all that size and arm strength, to have played a little better in his final season before entering the NFL…(watches replay of 1-11 fourth quarter against Virginia Tech…recalls loss to Navy…4-8 record in his final season at Notre Dame)…OK, maybe I would have expected him to play a lot better!
But it appears that general managers are finally coming to the same realization. Kizer is now firmly behind Mitch Trubisky (who rumor has it could go number one overall to the Browns…which would be stupid), Deshaun Watson, and Pat Mahomes on many draft boards. He may even be drafted behind California’s Davis Webb.
All of this isn’t to say that Kizer still doesn’t have the potential to be good. Hell, if I saw a 6’5″ guy like him in person launch missiles down the field in a practice, I’d be impressed, too. But the reality is that Kizer underachieved greatly in college. At best, he’s worth a mid-second round pick, and only for a team that is desperate for a quarterback.