An uneven, losing season at Notre Dame did little to dampen the Cleveland Browns’ enthusiasm for DeShone Kizer. The Browns drafted the two-year starter with the 52nd overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, hoping he can become their franchise quarterback.
Kizer’s draft stock fluctuated this spring. His performance in the NFL Draft Combine’s athletic drills was underwhelming, but then then he somewhat redeemed himself by showcasing a powerful and accurate arm when asked to throw in front of scouts. His workout at Notre Dame’s pro day was more of the same — questionable measurables, but the ability to throw the hell out of a football.
One thing that’s not in question? His sense of style. Kizer donned a gorgeous, lavender-Sasquatch suit on Thursday night, supporting the Andrew Weishar Foundation in the process.
Why has Kizer’s personality overshadowed his on-field play?
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly didn’t help matters, suggesting Kizer could have benefitted from another year at Notre Dame. And then Kizer took it to another level.
“Imagine taking (Tom) Brady’s intellect and Brady’s preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton’s body,” he told USA Today. Why can’t I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me. That’s what’s driving me now.”
He’d later claim those quotes were taken out of context, but that wasn’t enough to prevent him from sliding further down draft boards while players like Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky rose.
Kizer’s pre-draft workout reputation — disappointing with flashes of potential — describes his college career as well. The Fighting Irish struggled in 2016, finishing 4-8. And while their quarterback posted a solid 26:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he acknowledged his culpability in Notre Dame’s spiral from bowl team to meme.
“Out of those eight losses, probably seven of them we have an opportunity to, within the fourth quarter, go down and score,” he told ESPN’s Jon Gruden. “Quite frankly, if you’re going to win those games, then the quarterback has to make those plays. So quite frankly, I just didn’t make enough plays in this past season.”
He shows flashes of talent — making big throws, understanding where to put the ball, finding open targets -- but he also gets caught trying to do too much. Kizer is a frustrating passer with the potential to be much more.
Why did Kizer fall in the draft?
Kizer is unlikely to be an impact starter from day one in the NFL, although he tried to entice the Chicago Bears to snap him up with the No. 3 pick, wearing a Chicago (the band) t-shirt during his workout in South Bend. He’s a dynamic passer who can fit the ball into windows and effortlessly crank passes downfield, but he needs to work on his accuracy and consistency. After completing nearly 63 percent of his passes as a sophomore, that number dropped to 58.7 percent last fall.
He also struggled to anticipate big plays downfield, cycling through receivers rather than trusting an opportunity will open up as routes develop. Part of his struggles, though, might be attributed to a depleted receiving corps. Will Fuller, now with the Texans, was his biggest threat in 2015, and no one adequately filled the void in 2016.
That combination of inconsistent talent and outspoken ego may have scared teams off. Kizer is unlikely to contribute as a starter in his first year as a pro, and franchises may have been concerned about his locker room presence. Players like Kizer have the liberty to boast and soak up media attention when they’re starting, but not as a backup.