Kizer got a chance to start at quarterback for Notre Dame as a redshirt freshman in 2015 when Malik Zaire had surgery on a broken ankle to end his season. The big-bodied, athletic passer played well given his lack of experience, completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns. Kizer earned the starting spot coming into the 2016 season, as head coach Brian Kelly saw the young man's potential. He started the season strong (five touchdown passes against Texas in the opener) but fell into a midseason slump that saw him benched for Zaire at times. He threw for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns for the 4-8 Irish last year, and received sufficient positive feedback from NFL sources about his ability to leave school.
Big quarterback with a big arm. Can make all of the throws. Has step and crank power to drive throws into the seams. Has the arm talent and willingness to challenge safeties on both intermediate and deep throws. Looks the part with thick frame to withstand NFL punishment. Over the top delivery creates tight spirals. Has powerful grip allowing for aggressive pump fakes to move defense around. When he's comfortable, will tie feet with his eyes as he scans the field. Adequate drive accuracy. If he feels a completion is imminent, he'll stand in and take a punishing shot. Strong, authoritative runner with the speed to hit a big play with his feet. Two-way threat in the red zone. Posted 18 rushing touchdowns over last two seasons.
Gets stuck on primary read missing out on early openers around field. May not have eyes or compact release to spot and hit flashing targets. Can be too reliant upon arm strength over mechanics. Wants open throwing window rather than operating with early anticipation. Can improve in leading receivers and throwing stationary targets open. Too hesitant. Gets caught in pump fake vortex at times. Quick to drop his eyes and halt progressions when pocket warms up. Inconsistent decision-maker. Showed dreadful lapses in judgement that lead to interceptions. Too willing to make off-balanced heaves. Benched against Stanford. Had at least one interception in 15 of his 23 starts. Will take a sack despite having ample time to read and throw.
Sources Tell Us
"I could tell you he should have gone back to school, but he also has some things you can work with. We need to find out how he will handle the board when our coaches put him through different reads. That's going to be huge for him. He's a bright kid, but I'm not sure he sees what he needs to see all time." - NFC midwest area scout
The comparison to Steve McNair could raise eyebrows, but that is based primarily on size, mobility and arm strength. The aforementioned traits often land a quarterback in the first round, but Kizer's second-half drop in production combined with inconsistent decision-making and accuracy should be a speed bump for teams ready to jump in head-first on the traits. Kizer has the ability to become a quality starter, but has to improve his ball placement and field vision first.