KIZER’S SOFT LANDING
DeShone Kizer was the fourth quarterback chosen in the NFL draft – second round, 20th pick, 52nd overall.
That was a disappointment for Kizer, which he created by gaining weight, failing repeatedly with the game on the line in ‘16, turning in a poor NFL combine performance and a middle-of-the-road Pro Day, and then declaring “aspirations” that sounded more like predictions.
Nothing Brian Kelly said was anything different from what the NFL already knew. Kizer had two years of eligibility remaining. Obviously, he needed more college work to fine-tune his game.
And yet even if the Browns had selected him with one of their three first-round draft picks instead of Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku, Kizer would still be entering a situation in Cleveland with a chance to move up the depth chart in competition with Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Brock Osweiler.
What’s the difference? The obvious – money – of course, which means the Browns have less invested in Kizer as a second-round pick than they would have if they had tabbed him in the first.
But when it comes to competing for and winning a starting job in his rookie season, first or second round really doesn’t matter at this point. )Frankly, shame on Kessler and Osweiler in particular if they don’t beat out Kizer.)
For the long-range benefit of Kizer’s career, he would have been better served if he could have come in as a backup to an older quarterback like Carson Palmer with the Cardinals, Drew Brees with the Saints or Philip Rivers with the Chargers.
But in the short term, this worked out extremely well for Kizer, sans first-round/guaranteed money. What an opportunity, which is why those who say “he made a mistake; he should have come back” are speaking mainly from their own perspective, not Kizer’s.
Opportunity is knocking right now. He’s well-positioned to take advantage of it. Will he? Probably not because he’s not NFL-ready. But this is the situation he craved. Now he has to live up to it.
TALENT DRAIN ABSORBERS
You’ve probably heard the phrase “talent drain” as much as you need to this week (and last) following our annual post-NFL draft story and much discussion (initiated by me) on The Four Horsemen Lounge.
I’ll leave the topic – I promise -- after a couple final thoughts.
There are those who can absorb significant personnel loss and those who cannot. Those that can absorb it: Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Stanford, Florida State, Clemson, Navy, Boise State, Wisconsin are some of the schools that come to mind.
Ohio State lost 16 starters following the 2016 season. Twelve of their players were drafted, predominately juniors. They went 11-2 and went to the playoffs. Clemson lost eight of 11 defensive starters following the 2014 season…and played for the national championship.
Notre Dame clearly is not one of these teams under Brian Kelly. We saw the striking difference last season after the Irish had one of their better drafts, losing two first-round picks, two second-rounders, two third-rounders and a fourth.
The flip side is that when the Irish under Kelly don’t incur massive losses (2015 with Ben Koyack the only draft pick), they’re pretty good. This has the makings of one of those upswings.
One final comment on each of Notre Dame’s 12 upcoming opponents before we start delving into our First Rate talent evaluations this summer.
- Temple lost as much if not more talent than Notre Dame.
- Georgia lost three-fifths of its OL, most of its WR corps, and its top three DBs.
- Boston College incurred very little talent drain.
- Michigan State lost multiple veterans that led the team to great success pre-2016. Plus, off-the-field issues have mounted. Yet Mark Dantonio remains one of the top 10 coaches in college football.
- Chuck Martin has his most veteran team in four years at Miami (Ohio), although he lost his DEs.
- North Carolina lost its QB, RBs, WRs and its defensive coordinator.
- USC lost 60 percent of its OL and most of its offensive skill positions, but not its defensive front seven…or QB.
- N.C. State returns eight- or nine-win talent with a head coach that generally can’t defeat winning program.
- Wake Forest not only lost its defensive coordinator, but four NFL-caliber defenders.
- Miami had nine drafted and four free agents.
- Navy is Navy. Notre Dame will have difficulty beating them.
- Stanford lost two first-round draft choices and a great kicker. Another double-digit season likely awaits.
ON THE CUSP
All spring, you heard/read the Irish Illustrated staff’s opinion about Notre Dame’s interior defensive line heading into the summer of 2017. It wasn’t exactly complimentary.
Well, things are changing – perhaps not fast enough to significantly improve Notre Dame’s defensive interior line play in ’17 – but changing nonetheless in a positive fashion.
Darnell Ewell and Kurt Hinish arrive this summer. I still believe Ewell can make a difference this fall. Hinish likely will need more time.
The Irish have a verbal commitment from Jayson Ademilola, who is a legitimate four-star prospect.
Notre Dame should land Ja’Mion Franklin (Ridgely, Md.), who will announce his decision on July 1.
P.J. Mustipher (Owings Mills, Md.), the brother of current Irish center Sam, appears to have narrowed his choices down to his brother’s school and Ohio State. Under normal circumstances, Ohio State would be the prohibitive favorite (and may still be). But the Notre Dame lure is great.
There are others on Notre Dame’s list that are more longshots, but the possibility exists.
Take Ewell, Hinish, Ademilola, Franklin and Mustipher and insert them into the equation, all by 2018, and our bitching and moaning about Notre Dame’s interior defensive line should abate.
The safety position may not be far behind. For all the complaints about the safety play this spring, the Irish still have athletic talent in Nick Coleman, Jalen Elliott, Devin Studstill and early-entry freshman Isaiah Robertson, the latter of which has a very good chance of being better than the other three. Mike Elko will find a way to field a capable if not difference-making unit.
Verbal commitment Derrik Allen (Marietta, Ga.) is legitimately one of the top safety prospects in the country. The Irish are solidly in the battle for four-star Houston Griffith (Bradenton, Fla.), who, in my opinion, has much greater upside at safety than cornerback.
Michael Dowell (Lakewood, Ohio) has not received an offer from the Irish. But that could change for a young man very interested in receiving that offer. He has good athleticism, body control and change of direction. He plays the safety position with some cornerback skills.
Again, there are others at safety that will get a long look from the Irish staff.
Put that puzzle together and we shouldn’t be ripping on the safety situation much longer.
Let’s say Notre Dame lands Kevin Austin, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Chase Cota to go along with previously-committed wideouts Braden Lenzy and Micah Jones.
How would you rate them one through five? I’d have to put St. Brown No. 1 because he’s been spectacular against real quality high school competition. Personally, however, I believe (at this point, prior to their senior seasons) that Austin and Lenzy can be comparably effective on the collegiate level.
I love Cota’s game, although he’s not as shifty as St. Brown, Austin and Lenzy. I’m not sure Jones has the speed or athleticism to play the W position at Notre Dame, which could work out well for him as a slot-aligned receiver in Chip Long’s offense that favors big over small outside the tackles.
When you read this, start a thread on The Four Horsemen Lounge entitled Rating Wideouts (or add to the one already started).
Here are mine: 1. St. Brown, 2t. Austin/Lenzy, 4. Cota, 5. Jones. St. Brown, Austin, Lenzy and Cota all should be real quality college receivers, regardless where they end up.
ODDS AND END(ZONES)
• Michigan had 11 players selected in the NFL draft, including five within the first 95 picks, and, at last count, seven free agents inked. Keep this in mind when you see one of those ridiculous “way too early” top 25 stories. Not saying Jim Harbaugh’s squad can or can’t absorb the losses, but we don’t know that yet.
• Enough with the “way too early” stories, such as the “way too early 2018 NFL draft.” Not the stories themselves, which are premature but fun to read, but the phrase itself. Sports journalists as a whole need to come up with a new phrase. It’s obviously not “way too early” if you’re writing these stories over and over and over again.
• NFL first-round draft busts prediction:
-- No. 2 Mitchell Trubisky (Bears) – Please. A hole or six exists on that putrid defense.
-- No. 8 Christian McCaffrey (Chargers) – Not a bust per se, but the No. 8 overall pick? It’s a very physical game up there.
-- No. 10 Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) – Also not a bust per se, but not all gunslingers become Brett Favre. In fact, almost all of them don’t. Andy Reed as head coach helps.
-- No. 18 CB-Adoree Jackson (Titans) – Slot receiver? Return man? I get it. NFL cornerback? Nope.
-- No. 28 DE-Taco Charlton (Cowboys) – Won’t have the physicality to succeed at a high level.
• NFL first-round draft steals:
-- No. 6 S-Jamal Adams (Jets) – He should have been the Bears’ choice…and they wouldn’t have had to trade away picks to get him.
-- No. 17 DT-Jonathan Allen (Redskins) – Robbery past midway point of first round.
-- No. 25 S-Jabrill Peppers (Browns) – I think…Have to find a position for him first.
-- No. 31 LB-Reuben Foster (49ers) – At No. 31, grand larceny.
• Manny Machado said something interesting following the absurdly drawn out beanball war between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox. (I get the baseball protocol, but this all started with an innocent slide by Machado into second base that led to an unfortunate – but brief – injury to Dustin Pedroia.)
To paraphrase, Machado said the batter comes to the plate with a bat and the pitcher has the baseball. If Machado uses his bat in retaliation, he would be suspended for a year (and maybe life). But a pitcher can throw a baseball 95-to-100 m.p.h. at the head of a batter and get a two-game suspension.