The 2017 off-season is starting to ramp up following the conclusion of the Super Bowl but, for many, draft evaluation has been in full swing for the past few months.
The Chicago Bears currently have a projected $55 million in cap space but will likely expand well into the $70 million range after cutting Lamarr Houston, Eddie Royal and QB Jay Cutler. Yes, the Bears will likely be moving on from Cutler, the team's franchise quarterback the past eight seasons.
With the Bears expected to move in a different direction at quarterback, it's an ideal time to have the third overall pick. GM Ryan Pace outlined the quarterback position as the most pressing need on the roster. He has touched base on trade options, such as Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s unlikely Pace will be able to out-bid the two teams in front of them, the Browns and 49ers, without severely overpaying for a third-year player with two career starts.
If Pace passes on Garoppolo and address other options in free agency, such as the secondary, there’s a good chance he will spend one of his top two picks on a franchise quarterback.
With that said, let’s take a look at the first and likely best fit for the Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft.
QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Kizer has two years of collegiate experience at Notre Dame, during which he threw 695 total passes. While he wasn’t the starter in each of his 25 appearances, lack of experience is not an issue.
The junior did not put up video-game-type numbers in either season but had an impressive 2015 campaign (2,880 pass yards, 21 TDs, 150.1 rating) and played well at times in 2016, although he did struggle during the second half, as did the entire 4-8 team. Kizer's supporting cast last season played a large role in his inconsistencies, as there was a big gap in talent from the prior year after losing WR Will Fuller, RB C.J. Procise and LT Ronnie Stanley, two of whom were first-round picks.
Kizer is a dual-threat QB that averaged a touch under 500 rushing yards per season in college. Physically, he checks out as a big-bodied, athletic quarterback with a strong arm. Durability should not be a concern at the next level due to his style of play but in terms of development, Kizer is still raw in many areas.
- Good Athleticism: With 997 rushing yards in two years as a starter, along with the ability to keep plays alive inside and outside of the pocket, he's top-tier in terms of athleticism.
- Very Good Arm: Kizer has a cannon and is not afraid to use it. With better footwork, those 40-50 yard throws will travel further. He has the second best arm in the class, behind only Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes.
- Overall Size: Size is a concern for some of the other top QBs in this draft, like UNC's Mitch Trubisky and Clemson's Deshaun Watson, but not with Kizer. He checks all boxes here.
- Pocket Presence: This stood out to me during my extensive film study. While no college product is complete, particularly a quarterback, Kizer’s ability to step up in the pocket with pressure in his face is at the top of this class. He’s a pass-first quarterback, for the most part, which also will help at the next level.
- Quality Deep Ball: By no means does this mean he has a consistent deep ball but when he uses good footwork and that arm, Kizer’s ability to live down the field will be a big value.
- Runs NFL-style System: This is something that has been a sizable knock on many recent early round passers. While Kizer did take many snaps out of shotgun, he was forced to read both sides of the field and go through his progressions, something few college quarterbacks are asked to do these days, which gives him an upper hand on the majority of this class.
- Ball Placement: Kizer’s 58.7 completion percentage has been troubling for most but with a closer look, his ball placement overrode any concerns I had about overall accuracy in a bad offense. This is something that will only improve as his mechanics get better, especially in his lower body.
- Load and Release: Kizer’s ability to load quickly with little wasted effort is another quality trait that will speed up his development. While his mechanics aren't consistent, Kizer has a lot with which to work.
- Footwork and Lower Body Mechanics: As impressive as Kizer’s arm and upper-body mechanics can be, his footwork is an issue. When throwing, bad habits such as throwing off his back foot and lead foot placement have led to many off-target throws.
- Accuracy: This goes hand-in-hand with footwork. While his ball placement is valuable, his accuracy is an issue due to inconsistent footwork.
- Internal Clock: While he often shows good pocket presence, there were many times where his internal clock was running a second or two behind, which led to unnecessary sacks and hits.
- Large Wind Up Tendencies: Kizer is able to load well consistently and his releases are very quick but he has a large, pitcher-like wind up at times. Since he’s still developing a better internal clock, a shorter overall throwing motion will lead to less sacks and less missed routes.
- Moving Through Progressions: Being in a pro-style system, Kizer was forced to go through his progressions, which he often does well, but there are too many times where he struggled to make the right read.
- Mentality: Decision making has been an issue for Kizer. While some of that can be attributed to poor lower body mechanics and his receivers, some of it appears mental. There were too many games this year in which he let a lead slip away or made a crucial mistake in a big moment.
There are many who feel the 2017 quarterback class lacks Top-5 overall talent, and justifiably so. As part of that, Kizer’s pre-combine evaluations have been a mixed bag. He has all the physical tools and ability teams look for in an early round, franchise-type quarterback but with a poor team around him and numbers that don’t pop, it makes for a tough evaluation.
For Kizer, his performance at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine could make or break his stock. He's not a sure thing, just like any prospect, but there is an extra level of risk involved due to his collegiate situation, especially when using the third overall pick in the draft.
Overall though, Kizer is closer to a finished product than most, with two years of solid production and high-end physical ability to go with it. It’s also worth noting that the Bears have done extensive live scouting on him, among other passers.
Much like the rest of this year's QB class, Kizer would likely benefit from a half a season or more serving as the backup, which will help him learn the offense and allow him time to refine the weak areas of his game. If the situation calls for him to start, though, he should have no problem playing at a serviceable level, if not far better, from Day 1.
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)null