Following a disappointing performance at last month’s NFL Combine where he didn’t do much to help his draft stock, former Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer will have one more chance to impress NFL Scouts on Thursday at Notre Dame’s annual Pro Day. The would be senior in the fall who decided to leave early needs to impress those on hand to ensure he hears his name called on the first night of next month’s NFL Draft.
Heading into the Combine there was a lot of debate as to who was the best best, second best, and third best quarterback in this year’s draft class between Kizer, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and North Carolina’s Mitch Tirbisky. Heading out of the Combine, there was a lot of debate as to who was the best, second best, and third best quarterback in this year’s draft class.
None of the three quarterbacks – Kizer included – separated themselves from the pack and there is still debate as to where each will land when Roger Goodell starts calling name’s next month in Philadelphia. In Indy Kizer nailed the interview port as expected, but when it came to the on the field drills, Kizer was inconsistent with his footwork and accuracy. Problems that were recurring issues for him during an up and down junior campaign.
Kizer also didn’t measure particularly well. He didn’t run a great 40 yard dash at 4.83 and his agility drills all ranked among the worst scores of the quarterbacks participating. Agility drills and 40 yard dashes won’t deter NFL franchises from taking a chance on Kizer though so whether or not he improves on those scores on Thursday likely won’t matter much for him.
What NFL scouts and GMs will be looking at is whether or not Kizer displays better footwork and better accuracy. He will be throwing in a familiar environment with familiar receivers. Pro days are set up to make a quarterback shine. Just ask Jamarcus Russell who locked down the #1 overall pick in the 2007 Draft by having what some scouts called the best Pro Day they’ve ever seen. Did it help Russell at all in the NFL? Nope. It did, however, help his bank account by locking up that top spot though.
Kizer has been anywhere from the Top 10 to the 3rd Round (highly, highly unlikely) in mock drafts so scouts and analysts are all over the place on him. To make sure his selection is closer to the Top 10 than the 3rd round, Kizer needs to nail his drills on Thursday. Anything short of near perfection in such an environment could drop him below Watson and Tribisky on any draft boards where he isn’t already behind them.
Nailing his Pro Day would indirectly help Notre Dame. Having a highly draft quarterback is always good publicity for a program. Having that quarterback do well on the next level does even more good, but that isn’t something we’ll know for a few years. For now, having say a top 10 quarterback selection is something Brian Kelly and his staff can point to as a selling point on the recruiting trail.
Several Other Former Notre Dame Players Looking to Impress
Notre Dame only had a handful of attendees at the NFL Combine with Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell joining KIzer, but there will be a total of eight former players on hand Thursday including Kizer. Here’s a quick run through of who all will be auditioning for NFL futures this week.
- Scott Daly (LS) – Daly might not hear his name called in the draft, but like former Notre Dame long snapper JJ Jansen, he could find a home in the NFL. To do so he’ll need to impress scouts this week and go the undrafted free agent route.
- Tarean Folston (RB) – Folston could have come back for a 5th year but chose the NFL route with a crowded backfield. Folston is a late round possibility but might be more of an undrafted free agent type prospect after coming back rusty from an ACL injury this past fall.
- Chase Hounshell (TE) – Hounshell went the graduate transfer route to Ohio State this past fall but will take part in Notre Dame’s Pro Day just like Everett Golson did last year.
- Jarron Jones (DT) – Has the size and measurables of an NFL player but inconsistent play and questions on his commitment to football have followed him through the draft process similar to Louis Nix a few years back. He will definitely get drafted because of his size but it’ll be lower than his potential would suggest most likely.
- Cole Luke (CB) – ESPN has Luke ranked as the #232 overall prospect. There will be 253 selections in this year’s draft so Luke is on the fringe of being draft.
- James Onwualu (LB) – Onwualu is not likely to be drafted next month, but he has a good chance to find a home in the NFL because he can be a special teams maven and NFL teams find roster spots for players like that. The problem Onwualu likely won’t be able to overcome is the lack of a real position home on the pro level.
- Isaac Rochell (DE) – Rochell doesn’t jump off the film but he is a player who can find a NFL home for years. ESPN ranks him as the #177 overall prospect which would project him to be a 5th round selection.
- Avery Sebastian (SS) – The Cal graduate transfer never quite worked out for Notre Dame due to the same kind of injury problems that plagued him at Cal. He’ll give it everything he has on Thursday but it would be surprising if he was able to find a NFL home.
Of this group, only Kizer, Rochell, and Jones appear to be locks to be drafted. Luke would be in the next group of possible selections, but anyone else is looking at maybe the 7th round or undrafted free agency. While that might not be a great indicator of a strong program, Notre Dame got lucky that Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson will be practicing in spring football and not trying out for the NFL on Thursday.