After months of pointless chatter and a night spent waiting, DeShone Kizer’s NFL Draft experience ended Friday night when the Cleveland Browns drafted the former Notre Dame quarterback with the 20th pick in the second round, the No. 52 overall selection.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Kizer will have the opportunity to earn the starting job for the franchise less than two hours from his hometown. The Browns trotted out five different quarterbacks in 2016, only two of which remain with the team. Rookie Cody Kessler played in nine games, throwing for 1,380 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception while fellow rookie Kevin Hogan threw for 104 yards and two interceptions in four games.
The Browns have since added Brock Osweiler in a trade with the Houston Texans, though that trade was largely-viewed as a cash-for-picks swap, with the Browns “paying” for picks by taking on Osweiler’s contract in which he is owed $47 million over the next three seasons, including $16 million this season.
A year ago, the No. 52 pick (linebacker Deion Jones to the Atlanta Falcons) received a four-year, $4.546 million contract with a $1.506 million signing bonus.
Hall of fame running back and Browns legend Jim Brown announced the selection of Kizer at the draft festivities.
Speculation a year ago pegged Kizer as an early first-round pick. As the draft approached, projections of his slot varied widely, many including a second-round status. Despite first-round theatrics leading to three quarterbacks going in the first 12 picks Thursday night, Kizer had to wait another day before learning where he will start his NFL career.
Kizer made the most of his time in the spotlight in Philadelphia, utilizing the cameras to raise money for the Andrew Weishar Foundation (AWF). Named in honor of the older brother of Kizer’s former teammate and Irish tight end Nic Weishar, the AWF provides resources to families with young children or young adults battling cancer.
Leading up to the draft, by no means did Kizer anticipate being the first quarterback off the board.
“There is a lot of growth for me,” he told ESPN Chicago 1000 FM’s “Kap and Co.” earlier in the month. “There’s a lot of growth for everyone in this draft. There’s a lot of guys out there who had to make big adjustments as they move into the NFL, and I know it. That’s why I’m not the No. 1 quarterback guaranteed walking into this draft as we speak.”
Whether Kizer was the top quarterback entering the draft or not, Irish coach Brian Kelly has argued Kizer has the highest ceiling of this quarterback class, though he also made it clear Kizer’s development next year could have and perhaps should have occurred at Notre Dame.
“He needs time,” Kelly said to Brady Quinn on SiriusXM in early April. “… Two years of college football is not enough to go in there and lead a pro franchise to the Super Bowl.
“For those that have the opportunity to draft him and give him an opportunity to grow and learn, I think he’s got the best skillset of the quarterbacks coming out.”
It should be noted here, perhaps with a touch of irony, the Browns also drafted Quinn—also a former Notre Dame quarterback and Ohio native—10 years ago.
The draft’s first round seemed to be setting up nicely for Kizer to hear his name Thursday when the Chicago Bears traded three picks to swap spots—moving up one position—with the San Francisco 49ers to draft Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina. Suddenly, getting a quarterback Thurday night would clearly cost a premium.
Before long, the Kansas City Chiefs moved up 17 spots to grab Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 pick, and the Houston Texans moved from No. 25 to the No. 12 slot to take Deshaun Watson of Clemson. Both the Chiefs and the Texans gave up 2018 first-round picks in addition to their original first-rounders in order to move up for the quarterbacks.
Kizer turned professional with two years of college eligibility remaining. He finished his Notre Dame career with 5,809 passing yards and 47 career passing touchdowns in only 23 starts (and 25 total games). In the 2016, he completed 212 of 361 passes for 2,925 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. He added 655 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 101 carries—not counting sacks as rushing attempts and yards lost rushing as the NCAA does.