Deshone Kizer Flashes Improvement at Notre Dame Pro Day. Was it Enough?

Deshone Kizer is jockeying for draft positioning with Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina and Deshaun Watson of Clemson right now.  On Thursday he did himself some good by flashing some improvement from his uneven NFL Combine performance, but he still left scouts with some doubts.   The question still remains as to where he ranks in the quarterback pecking order right now.

At the NFL Combine Kizer was inconsistent with his footwork and as a result struggled with accuracy.  He showed off his big arm, but that was never in doubt.  On Thursday, Kizer showed improvement in the footwork department according to ESPN’s Todd McShay.  His accuracy, however, was still an issue although part of that can at least be attributed from a rather lackluster group of receivers to throw to.

Ok, so first the good.  Kizer’s footwork was improved.  That was very big for Kizer today as no one has any doubts that he can bomb the ball down the field with ease.  Throughout the 2016 season, however, Kizer’s footwork was inconsistent leading to those occasional (sometime more than occasional) errant throws that should have been easy for a quarterback like Kizer.

The bad from today is that Kizer was not perfect and in many ways Pro Days are set up to showcase the best a player has to offer.  This wasn’t a typical Pro Day for one of the draft’s top quarterbacks though.  None of Kizer’s top targets from the 2016 season are draft eligible at this point so his receiving options were very limited.

The NCAA does allow for underclassmen like Josh Adams and Equanimeous St. Brown to participate in Pro Days but to do so they have to surrender one of their 15 spring practices. That wasn’t going to happen with all of the changes to the Notre Dame offense this off-season.

That left Kizer to throw to Chase Hounshell, Amir Carlisle, and Corey Robinson along with running backs Jonas Gray and Tarean Folston.  Kizer never played with Gray, hasn’t throw to Carlisle in a game in over a year, and Robinson has been retired since the spring.  Hounshell, who had gone the graduate transfer route for his senior season, was never much of a receiving threat during his time at Notre Dame.

The lack of receiving options for Kizer was not lost on scouts and analysts in attendance.

Deshone Kizer was good enough and showed enough improvement that he could have changed a mind or two but his draft stock is still very much where it was when he announced his decision to leave Notre Dame in December.  Kizer is not a Day 1 NFL ready quarterback, but he has the highest ceiling of all the quarterbacks in the draft this year.  Brian Kelly said as much on Wednesday after Notre Dame’s third practice.

Unlike Dabo Swinney who has proclaimed that passing on Deshaun Watson was like passing on Michael Jordan, Kelly gave a pretty honest assessment of Kizer.  One also has to wonder of a rather bold statement like Swinney’s rings as hollow as the ridiculous statements from Lavar Ball these days.

Regardless, the questionremains, is there a NFL team ready to take a chance on Kizer with their 1st round pick who has the patience to wait for Kizer to develop?

The San Francisco 49ers sent their new GM John Lynch to South Bend to get another up close look at Kizer.  Lynch spoke glowingly of Kizer following the interview portion of the Combine, but would the 49ers be willing to take Kizer with their #2 overall pick or was Lynch in South Bend to scout Kizer in the event that he is still around when they draft in the 2nd round?  With Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on their roster the 49ers are in dire need of a franchise quarterback and with Hoyer around they have  a veteran capable of starting the 2016 season while Kizer develops.

The Chicago Bears were also in attendance and they have reportedly already set up a private work out with Kizer.  The Bears cut polarizing quarterback Jay Cutler and then raised eyebrows by giving some big money to journeyman quarterback Mike Glennon this off-season.  There are reports Thursday night that the Bears are on the verge of adding another poloarizing quarterback to their roster – Mr. Butt Fumble himself Mark Sanchez.

Like the 49ers, the Bears have a veteran – maybe two now – on their roster capable of playing until Kizer is ready.  With all of the Notre Dame fans in the Chicagoland area, Kizer would also help create buzz for a franchise in dire need of it.  As a Notre Dame fan, it would also be pretty sweet to have Kizer take a starting job eventually from a former Trojan like Mark Sanchez.

NFL.com’s Gil Brandt thinks that Kizer’s showing on Thursday was enough to cement his status in the back end of the 1st round.

I think he finds a home at the back end of the first round somewhere. Certainly after Thursday, he’ll have a lot more private workouts lined up. The 49ers, who took Kizer to dinner Wednesday night, had GM John Lynch and Director of Player Personnel Mike Williams in attendance. The Steelers, who own pick No. 30 in the first round, sent offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

As of now, Kizer is not in either Todd McShay or Mel Kiper Jr’s 1st round mock draft.  He is, however, still the #1 quarterback on the board according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Mayock, a former NBC color commentator for Notre Dame games.  Their opinions matter very little in the grand scheme of things though.  It’s the opinions of people like John Lynch that will matter.  Only time will tell if Kizer showed enough improvement on Thursday to solidify himself as a 1st round pick.

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