March 23, 2017
By John Heisler
It's day 109 in DeShone Kizer's bid to become an NFL quarterback, in a business where another opinion about him seemingly makes air only about every 10 seconds or so.
And so, with Kizer on display and throwing the football on Notre Dame's Pro Day Thursday at the Loftus Center, yet another round of thoughts and reactions hit the airwaves and the social media circles.
Draft experts make all this every bit of a full-time business in the run-up to the April 27-29 NFL selections in Philadelphia.
The only consensus is that Kizer is somewhere in the quarterback mix with Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes--and maybe all four will end up, in some order, as first-round picks.
Maybe the most noteworthy--and noticed--comment to date on Kizer came from new San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch at the NFL Combine: "This whole thing is not just about an interview, but if you were grading him on that alone he blew the doors off. He's an impressive young man ... his film's very impressive."
Pro Football Weekly on Tuesday offered this: "Notre Dame QB and NFL Draft prospect DeShone Kizer is as talented a QB as there is in the QB class. Kizer looked like a top-three QB in 2015, but his play slipped in 2016 with a less experienced supporting cast. He has great size and athletic ability to extend plays or run. With the right coaching, and offensive weapons around him, he can be a great NFL quarterback."
Mock drafts? Is there anyone is America who has not published one?
Bleacher Report Monday said Kizer would go 13th to the Arizona Cardinals. International Business Times Wednesday also predicted the Cardinals as the destination for Kizer.
Rob Rang on CBSSports.com the previous Monday suggested Kizer would be selected 25th by Houston.
Looking for some sort of consensus? SB Nation has it covered, updating daily a consensus of not 10, not 15, but 69 mock drafts--everybody from ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to NFL.com and the Los Angeles Times and lots more.
SB Nation in Wednesday's update said 7.2 percent of the drafts had Kizer (of Toledo, Ohio) headed to his near-hometown Browns, 24.6 percent listed him 13th to Arizona, 14.5 percent sent him to Houston at number 25 and 5.8 percent said Kansas City would select him with the 27 th overall pick.
Kizer went through the paces (he did not run the 40 or do other agility drills but he did throw to a handful of Irish receivers including former Notre Dame wide-out and current University student body president Corey Robinson) Tuesday in front of representatives from 19 NFL teams (five from San Francisco--including Lynch--three each from Chicago and Detroit, two each from Pittsburgh and Washington).
Kizer weighed in at 237, a bit below his listed number, and charted a bit above 6-4 for an official height. NFL reps also provided scouts with numbers for his hand (10), arm (32 7/8) and wingspan (77 7/8). Lots of current and a few former Irish players--and most of the current Notre Dame coaching staff and football administrative staff (including Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick)--showed up to support and sometimes cheer. One of the NFL assistants on hand was former Irish defensive lineman Anthony Weaver, now the Texans' defensive line coach.
A Jacksonville Jaguars scout first invited Kizer to help throw in the defensive back portion of the workout, then at 12:02 p.m. Kizer and his receivers took the field. In 25 minutes they worked their way through virtually every throw to every spot on the field, working off a script Kizer orchestrated with quarterback "guru" Zac Robinson, a former Oklahoma State quarterback and New England Patriots draft pick.
"Anybody need to see anything else?" asked Robinson of the NFL personnel.
When Kizer was done throwing, he finished the day by taking short and long snaps from Irish center Scott Daly.
"If that's what it takes to get drafted, I'll punt, hold, whatever it takes," said Kizer.
Kizer chatted for a few minutes in a group with Lynch, McShay and Kelly before heading to the showers.
A couple of former Irish quarterbacks now on the Notre Dame staff--Tom Rees and Ron Powlus--could particularly appreciate Kizer's thoughts and emotions.
"I was very confident in what I put out there today," said a businesslike Kizer after the workout. "Overall, I thought I did a good job. I appreciate the guys that came out to help me. It's another opportunity to show my arm strength and other things I've been working on. It's all about consistency in this league--anything I can do to prove I can be an accurate passer all the time is going to help me out. The experiences and responsibilities I had at Notre Dame are things teams like to see.
"Teams put a big question mark on the season we went through last year. I've offered my two cents on last season, and now a lot of teams are moving on to what I have to do to be a consistent thrower. You have to be accurate to win games. I've tried to express the work I've put in, identifying who I am as a passer and cleaning up the footwork and mechanics to be as accurate as I can be."
Kizer, who has been training (including swimming) in Orange County in Southern California, said he knows few specifics about his weeks to come--and that he really hasn't had a home base of late: "I've kind of been living out of a suitcase. But I'll hop on a plane anywhere now to visit a (NFL team) facility."
He added: "This was my last opportunity to put on the ND today and we had a good time doing it. It was about having fun and showing what we could do. This was a huge checkmark for us today and now you look forward to the next step.
"The stage Notre Dame gives to a college quarterback is as big as it gets. You're going to represent a great institution, you're going to play on national television every week, you have media days like this, you're asked to speak at local events -- and all of those experiences help prepare me to be at the next level. I've been very blessed to be in the situation I have been as the starting quarterback here the last two years."
In many ways, the NFL Combine and today's event are just the beginning. One of Kizer's representatives from Athletes First (in Laguna Beach, California) is former Irish player and coach Kyle McCarthy (also a northern Ohio product from Youngstown). McCarthy suggested Kizer's weeks to come will include a series of visits to NFL teams and another series of additional individual-team workouts in South Bend.
More opinions, more projections and lots more mock drafts to come.
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been covering the Notre Dame athletics scene since 1978. Watch for his weekly Sunday Brunch offerings on UND.com.