Green Bay Packers: QB DeShone Kizer Could Be a Diamond in the Rough

DeShone Kizer

QB DeShone Kizer of the Cleveland Browns looks downfield, as LB Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers applies pressure during their 2017 game, won by the Packers 27-21 in overtime.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Green Bay Packers was pretty busy the past few days, as he and the team first hosted free agent defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

On Friday, Gutekunst then made a trade with a former associate of his with the Packers, general manager John Dorsey of the Browns, as the Packers traded cornerback Damarious Randall for quarterback DeShone Kizer, plus a swap of picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds.

The trade means that the Packers will have the first pick in both the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2018 NFL draft and that the Packers will most likely not select a quarterback in the draft.

In terms of Wilkerson, the former New York Jet is still making a tour of other NFL teams, but has not made a decision yet on where he will play. The Packers have the advantage of having Mike Pettine as their new defensive coordinator, as it was Pettine who was Wilkerson’s first defensive coordinator with the Jets.

Pettine pushed hard for the Jets to select Wilkerson in the 2011 NFL draft, as the Jets selected him with the 30th pick of Round 1.

While Pettine was his coordinator in 2011 and 2012, the Jets were ranked fifth and eighth in total defense in the NFL, while Wilkerson put up good numbers as well, as he had 118 total tackles, eight sacks, one safety, six passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

Time will tell if Wilkerson will end up as a Packer, but according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the visit by Wilkerson to Green Bay went very well.

In terms of the trade to acquire Kizer, the Packers decided that they have seen enough of Randall’s inconsistent play and also his behavior with the coaching staff.

Case in point, in Week 4 last season versus the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, Randall was benched because of his play and then later was told to head to the locker room because of a heated argument on the sideline with a coach.

After that game, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, a number of veteran players on the Packers told head coach Mike McCarthy to release Randall. But the coaching staff stood by Randall and kept him on the team

Randall was drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft with the 30th pick of that round. Randall had an up and down three-year career with the Packers. At times, he looked very good, but he also struggled with injuries, plus had a number of blown coverage assignments during his time in Green Bay.

Bottom line, Gutekunst and Packers saw a diamond in the rough with Kizer and shipped the enigmatic Randall to the Browns, where he gets to reunite with a couple of people in the Browns front office who were in that same capacity with the Packers when Randall was drafted by the Packers. I’m talking about Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith.

With the addition of Kizer to the Packers, the future of Brett Hundley with the Packers is now in doubt. At the NFL scouting combine, McCarthy did not mince his words when talking about the play of No. 7 in 2017 and the way he was coached.  “Brett Hundley wasn’t ready for what he needed to be ready for,” McCarthy said.  “That’s something that we have to learn from, and that stings.”

It’s also important to note that McCarthy did not keep quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt after the season.

At the time of the 2017 NFL draft, the Packers reportedly had Hundley on the trading block and nearly moved him at one point according to Demovsky. Part of the article says this:

The Packers dangled their backup quarterback on the trade market and came close to making a deal on the second day of the draft. Now it appears they’ll likely hang on to him for another year, but expect them to move him before he enters the final year of his contract in 2018. They believe they can get much more in return than the fifth-round pick they invested in him in 2015.

That might not be the case after the way Hundley struggled at times during the 2017 season in relief of an injured Aaron Rodgers. Hundley was 3-6 as a starter and he threw nine touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions for 1,853 yards. His passer rating was just 70.9.

Hundley was also sacked 29 times, as he had trouble moving around the pocket and going through his reads.

Hundley did run for 270 yards and two scores, but he just couldn’t lead the Packers down the field consistently due to his passing deficiencies.

The Packers expected much more from their third-year QB.

That is also why it has been rumored that Hundley was almost traded recently to the Tennessee Titans according SB Nation- Music City Miracles, via a tweet by my friend Jersey Al, who has some excellent sources.

My guess is the Packers will end up moving Hundley now that Kizer is aboard. The Packers have been high on Kizer since the 2017 NFL draft when the Browns selected him in the second round with the 52nd pick of the draft.

The Packers were considering selecting Kizer themselves with the 33rd pick of the draft, but instead picked cornerback Kevin King. According to Pro Football Rumors, via a tweet by Ian Rapoport, the National Insider for NFL Network and NFL.com, the Packers were definitely considering Kizer with the 33rd pick.

In college at Notre Dame for two seasons, Kizer threw 47 touchdown passes versus just 19 picks for 5,805 yards. Kizer also rushed for 997 yards and 18 more scores.

NFL scout Chris Landry liked what he saw of Kizer prior to the 2017 NFL draft. In fact, on Landry’s horizontal draft board, which ranks players regardless of their position, Landry ranked Kizer 29th on his board. He gave Kizer a mark of 6.4, which means a potential starter and an early second round grade.

at Notre Dame Stadium on September 24, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.

DeShone Kizer

This is what he said about Kizer in his scouting report:

Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer measured in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-4 1/4-inch and 233 pounds.

His hands are 9 7/8-inchs and may have the most upside of any in the draft but perhaps also the lowest floor. He is built like Carson Palmer but in big moments has performed like Jay Cutler.

Kizer posted a passer rating of 154.7 when using play action in 2016. That play-action passer rating of 154.7 was tops in the country. However, that mark takes a terrifying drop to 85.5 — 62nd in the country, when Kizer was not involved in play action. Legitimate questions as to his pro-readiness have emerged during the draft process, including those of accuracy on the outside and mental makeup. He hasn’t played well under pressure and while the physical tools are all present, his issues are between the ears. The natural instincts for the position and pure arm talent are there if he can land in the right system with the right coach.

He has slow eyes while deciphering the defense. Kizer has all of the traits evaluators look for and played with poise and composure, but the inconsistencies stood out. He is a tick late on a number of decisions when working off his primary read. That plus inaccuracy on outside throws that should be made at the pro level should incite pause for an NFL evaluator.

Kizer is a two-year starter who had a career passer rating of 98.6. He cranks the ball through the tight windows. He’ll stand tall in the pocket. When he’s under pressure he doesn’t move in the pocket as well as you would like.

I see the athleticism and arm talent, but I wonder if he can take hard coaching. Things went downhill in a hurry at Notre Dame.

I think you have to go back and look at the 2015 tape to fully appreciate him. He can make all of the throws and he’s athletic. Plus, he has won some big games during his time there. I know it got a little sideways for him (in 2016), but he can play. I believe he is one of the top three in this class. Kizer is a big, athletic passer with arm talent and movement skills but has played a lot of bad football with the game on the line in the fourth quarter this year. Like all QB’s it is how he is trained in the league and his work ethic and coachability that will determine his success or failure.

There is no doubt that Landry saw a lot of very good attributes while scouting Kizer. Qualities like his size, his big arm and his excellent mobility.  But Landry also saw some flaws that need to be corrected.

In 2017, as rookie quarterback with the 0-16 Browns, Kizer started 15 games and threw 11 touchdown passes versus 22 picks (led the NFL) for 2,894 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of just 60.5, plus Kizer only completed 53.6 percent of his passes.

While that was a tough rookie campaign for Kizer, it’s important to note that left tackle Joe Thomas played in only seven games last season. That’s a big hole to fill from Kizer’s blindside, especially when that player has gone to 10 Pro Bowls and has been named All-Pro six times like Thomas has.

This is what Landry said about the recent trade with Randall going to the Browns and Kizer coming to the Packers:

The Packers acquired DeShone Kizer from the Browns in exchange for CB Damarious Randall.

The deal also includes a pick swap. With Tyrod Taylor coming in and an early-round rookie likely to follow, the writing was on the wall for Kizer in Cleveland. That said, this move is likely a blessing for the 2017 second-round pick, who will get a chance to develop behind one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Despite his rocky rookie season, the book is not closed on Kizer as a starting quarterback. With Kizer on board, the Packers could look to move on from Brett Hundley, who was overmatched as a starter last season.

I certainly agree with Landry on that assessment of his. The book is not closed on Kizer as a NFL quarterback and also that the Packers will indeed try to move Hundley via a trade. If that happens, I could also see the Packers bringing in an experienced free agent NFL quarterback, perhaps someone like Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins, who played under Joe Philbin (now offensive coordinator for the Packers) for couple of years when he was head coach for Miami.

It’s important to have a steady NFL veteran in the wings if Rodgers is unfortunately hurt again. Similar to what Matt Flynn did back in 2013 when Rodgers was hurt.

Still, it’s also very important that the coaches get Kizer ready to play. That means hours of film study in the Green Bay quarterback school, which will now be led by new quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr., formerly of the New York Giants coaching staff.

Cignetti not only has to teach Kizer how to prepare as a NFL quarterback, but he also has to earn the trust of Rodgers, who was not a happy camper when the Packers did not bring back Van Pelt as quarterbacks coach.

McCarthy and Philbin have to be part of this teaching process as well. Plus, Rodgers needs to lend support and also his knowledge to Kizer, which is something he has always done for his backups when he was not playing due to injury throughout his NFL career.

Bottom line, Kizer has all the tools to be a very good NFL quarterback. At first glance, looking at his stats in Cleveland, the addition of the former Fighting Irish star doesn’t look too appealing.

Nor did the acquisition of a quarterback named Brett Favre in 1992 for a first round draft pick look too promising. After all, Favre had thrown two interceptions in just four attempts as a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons back in 1991. Favre registered a passer rating of 0.0.

But then general manager Ron Wolf saw enough of Favre’s quarterback play at Southern Mississippi to make the trade.

Brian Gutekunst II

Brian Gutekunst

Apparently Gutekunst saw much of the same of Kizer with his overall play at Notre Dame and with some of the bright moments of his play with the Browns in 2017.

Now I’m not saying Kizer will have a Pro Football Hall of Fame career like Favre had, but he certainly has the attributes to be a fine NFL QB.

Based on the 2017 NFL draft scouting report of Landry, one of the best of the best in the scouting business, Kizer has all the ability in the world to be an effective quarterback in the NFL. For that to happen, as Landry also said, Kizer needs to be trained well, have a strong work ethic and be coachable.

That all should happen in Green Bay, with the coaching staff (McCarthy, Philbin & Cignetti), plus learning from and watching Rodgers.

Time will tell if Kizer is indeed a diamond in the rough for the Packers, but the athletic ability is definitely there for that possibility to occur.

5 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers: QB DeShone Kizer Could Be a Diamond in the Rough

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