Here are the quarterbacks who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. For Part 2, CLICK HERE.
C.J. Beathard, Iowa (6-3, 219): Beathard had the Hawkeyes in the national championship hunt for much of the 2015 season, as he threw for 2,809 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions on 61.6 percent accuracy. He wasn’t as good as a senior, though, slipping back to 1,929 yards, 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a completion rate of 56.5 percent. Beathard, a big-time high school quarterback in Tennessee, was slated to go to Ole Miss. A coaching change sent him to Iowa. He went 21-7 as a starter.
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His father, Casey, is a country music songwriter. A brother, Tucker, is a country singer. He didn’t know it at the time, but Beathard became part of a famous Kenny Chesney music video.
Beathard became a father just before Christmas.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee (6-3, 216): Dobbs, who started 35 games in his career, was voted an all-SEC second-team selection as a senior. He threw for 2,946 yards with 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 63.0 percent accuracy and finished 20th in the nation in passer rating. If that wasn’t enough, he rushed for 831 yards and 12 more touchdowns. Dobbs finished his career with 7,138 passing yards, 2,160 rushing yards and 85 total touchdowns.
Is football the equivalent of rocket science? Dobbs might be the guy to ask. He majored in aerospace engineering and interned with Pratt & Whitney, where he worked on the manufacture and service of aircraft engines for the United States government.
“My decision to major in aerospace engineering was solidified by two early experiences — a visit to Kennedy Space Center when I was in elementary school and my selection for the ACE Academy in middle school. The Space Center visit was the spark that helped me identify my passion for aircrafts. Then a few years later, I had the privilege of participating in the Atlanta OBAP (Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals) ACE Academy. Partnering with the Tuskegee Airmen, this organization mentors youth and promotes educational opportunities in aviation/aerospace. The Academy was the flame that introduced career opportunities in the fields. After that summer, I knew that I wanted to study aerospace engineering in college. I want to design airplanes and one day run my own company building them.”
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech (6-2, 238): Junior. Evans had one sensational season for Virginia Tech. He threw for 3,546 yards with 29 touchdowns, eight interceptions and 63.5 percent accuracy. He wound up ranked 17th in passer rating. He also was the Hokies’ leading rusher with 846 yards and 12 more touchdowns. Evans played for Air Force in 2013 but sustained a torn ACL. He then spent two years at junior college before his one year with the Hokies. “I applied a lot of the things I learned at the Air Force Academy when I moved here,” Evans said. “When you are new, you have guys who jell with you quickly and others who are still trying to figure out who you are as a person. I had to prove myself to some of the guys. There are so many lessons that I’ve learned along the way, that I would be on the phone forever to explain it all. The ups and downs have helped me become a better man, a better person.”
Evans is a natural competitor. He’s one of nine children; Evans has six brothers and two sisters. “As a matter of fact, when I went to school, I was told to stop competing so much, because I got so animated.”
The youngest of the boys is 9-year-old Nathaniel. When Nathaniel was a baby, he rolled onto his stomach while sleeping and stopped breathing. Today, he uses a wheelchair and can’t speak. “I look up to him and say, ‘Man, if he can push through what he’s going through and still smile and laugh, then nothing’s too hard for me.’ ... I can’t have a bad day. Not with what my brother’s going through. He’s fighting through a lot right now, so it’s never a bad day when I have someone like that to look up to.”
Brad Kaaya, Miami, Fla. (6-4, 210). Junior: Kaaya ended his career ranked No. 1 in school history with 9,968 passing yards and third with 69 passing touchdowns. As a senior, he had career-best figures of 3,532 passing yards, 27 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions, and 62.0 percent accuracy. Kaaya finished 21st in passer rating. Starting as a true freshman, he was the first player in Miami history to top 3,000 passing yards in three straight seasons. Unlike most quarterback prospects, Kaaya played in a pro-style scheme. “You see a lot of guys come from offenses that are not as complex,” he said, where they “look to the sideline to get the call and go exactly where the coach is telling them to go. I had a lot of ability to change a play, a lot of pro-style concepts, pro-style reads, even pro-style run checks.”
Kaaya knows fame. His mom is an actress. You might remember the line, “Bye, Felicia.” That was from his mom, Means Kaaya. "Bradley's not judgmental,” she said. “He knew it was work and where my fame came from. We'd get swamped at the grocery store when he was a baby. He knew I stopped acting and everything I was about I put into him. He always respected that, 'Wow, she could be doing other things.' 'Yeah, I could be doing other things, but I'm out here with you, dude.'" The story of Kaaya's rise resembles so many other prominent prep quarterbacks. There's dedication, there's privilege, there's talent, and then come the scholarship offers.
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame (6-4, 230): Redshirt sophomore. Kizer is a dual-threat quarterback. He started 12 games in 2016 and finished with 2,925 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. He completed 58.7 percent of his passes and ranked 31st in passer rating. Kizer was second in rushing with 472 yards and scored a team-high eight touchdowns. Kizer departed Notre Dame with a 12-11 record as a starter. The player who replaced Malik Zaire after a season-ending broken ankle led two fourth-quarter road comebacks in 2015, getting the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl after just missing the College Football Playoff. He was the accidental hero of the most famous college football program. But he never hit that level this season. In eight games, Kizer had the ball in the fourth quarter or overtime with a chance to win or tie it. Notre Dame won just one of those games.
Kizer doesn’t have to look far for motivation. During his redshirt season, his girlfriend, Eli Thatcher, had a baseball-size tumor removed from her neck. The 17-hour surgery put an end to five years of symptoms that had escaped diagnosis. “I don’t think many adults could handle it as well as he did as a college freshman, competing for a spot at Notre Dame, competing in the classroom at Notre Dame,” Kizer’s high school coach said. “You throw it right in spring ball, when the spring game was coming, and she was having her surgery and what not. But that’s what he’s like. He’s the kind of kid who can handle multiple things that are very tough, and he prioritizes them very well also.”
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M (6-0, 215): Knight, a graduate student, transferred from Oklahoma to Texas A&M for his senior season. He threw for 2,432 yards on 53.3 percent accuracy with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In three seasons at OU, Knight threw for more than 3,500 yards with 25 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, but he was beaten out by Baker Mayfield in 2015. “I just missed playing football, and this has given me an opportunity to get back on the field,” Knight said at midseason, when the Aggies were 6-1. “This is going to be something that I look back on 20, 30, 40 years from now and just want to say, ‘Hey, it was a blessing.’”
At A&M, Knight missed two games in November with an injured right throwing shoulder but returned to throw three touchdowns against LSU in the regular-season finale and three more touchdowns against Kansas State in the bowl game. Knight’s twin bother, Connor, was a long snapper at Oklahoma. He is also part of this draft class. The twins played together for years, making this year unusual. “Me and my twin were bigger kids growing up, and we would have to bring our birth certificates to T-ball games to prove our age,” Trevor said. “Some parents would get a little upset because I would hit an inside the park home run, then my brother, who is a little bit bigger than me, would hit it over the fence every at bat.”
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota (6-3, 232): Leidner started 41 games, posting a 25-16 record. He put up some big numbers with all of that playing time — 7,287 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air and 1,495 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground. Leidner, who piled up a total of 8,882 yards, ranks second in school history with 580 completions and fifth with 56.4 percent accuracy. Not bad for a player the Gophers didn’t initially see as a quarterback. “When he came to a one-day camp, we actually put him at tight end,” said Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach in 2010, Jim Zebrowski. “He was a good quarterback. We wanted to see if he could be a versatile kid.”
As a senior, Leidner completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards with eight touchdowns and rushed for 366 yards and 10 more scores. Leidner tossed three touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions in Big Ten play. It was a disappointing final year after there were such high hopes entering the season.
Leidner’s brother, Matt, is a center for the Gophers. “We don’t fight as much on campus as we do back home, especially with our youngest brother [Jake],” Mitch Leidner said. “But in the end, we are brothers, and I’m lucky to be able to share my college experience with him on and off the field.” As a junior in 2016, Matt made his first career start and was named to the AP’s All-Bowl team.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.