A 4-8 season for Notre Dame and a difficult year for DeShone Kizer hasn't stuck to the Fighting Irish quarterback where his NFL draft hopes are concerned. At least, not where his standing among other quarterback prospects is concerned, per NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock.
Kizer rates as the 2017 NFL Draft's top quarterback prospect over No. 2-ranked Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes and Cal's Davis Webb in Mayock's initial positional rankings, which were posted on Tuesday. Kizer entered the draft as a redshirt sophomore following a tumultuous season for Notre Dame. At one point during the season, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly described Kizer's play as "unacceptable" and declared the quarterback job an open competition. Still, Kizer (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) had some brilliant moments in two years as Notre Dame's starter, and gives NFL scouts an intriguing combination of size, athleticism and arm talent to consider. He completed 212 of 361 passes last year for 2,925 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Nobody at the position, however, has the look of a certain franchise-changer. Mayock said last week that NFL clubs ought to be "scared to death" to invest a top-10 pick in the 2017 quarterback class.
Here are six other things we learned from Mayock's rankings:
2. Cook over Fournette. The running back class in this year's draft is sure to feature the Dalvin Cook-or-Leonard Fournette debate as a continuing theme in the coming weeks. Mayock, at least for now, is standing on the Cook side of the fence. He rated the former Florida State star as the top running back prospect in the draft over LSU's Fournette in his initial rankings. Though their styles are in contrast -- Fournette is bigger and more powerful, while Cook is more proven as a receiver -- they could both be dynamic pros.
3. Small-school swagger. At the wide receiver position, three of Mayock's top five are from outside the Power Five conferences: Western Michigan's Corey Davis (No. 1), FCS Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp (No. 4) and East Carolina's Zay Jones (No. 5). The latter two turned in impressive performances at the Reese's Senior Bowl last month. Clemson's Mike Williams and Washington's John Ross, a pair of fourth-year juniors, were Mayock's picks at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.
4. Robinson rated inside. Why is Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson not rated among Mayock's top offensive tackles? Because he's currently projecting the Crimson Tide's three-year starter as an interior lineman in the NFL. Although Robinson never played a down at center or guard while at Alabama, Mayock has him ranked as the No. 2 interior OL behind another prospect who would be making a switch from tackle to the inside: Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp. Meanwhile, in what is considered a thin draft class at the tackle position, NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks has Robinson rated as the draft's No. 1 tackle prospect.
5. Heavy Tide presence. Mayock ranks three players from Alabama as the top prospect at a given position (No. 1 TE O.J. Howard, No. 1 DL Jonathan Allen, No. 1 LB Reuben Foster), the most of any school, and six Tide players altogether, also the most of any school. Along with the aforementioned Robinson as the No. 2 interior OL, Mayock also ranked LB Tim Williams as the No. 2 edge rusher, and CB Marlon Humphrey as the No. 3 cornerback.
6. Strong secondaries. Three schools -- LSU, Washington and Ohio State -- placed both a cornerback and a safety in Mayock's top five. That's some serious NFL talent in three of college football's elite defensive backfields: Jamal Adams (No. 1 safety) and Tre'Davious White (No. 5 cornerback) of LSU, Budda Baker (No. 4 safety) and Sidney Jones (No. 1 cornerback) of Washington, and Malik Hooker (No. 1 safety) and Marshon Lattimore (No. 2 cornerback) of OSU.