Over the next two weeks, we're breaking down the Browns' 2017 NFL Draft class — from Myles Garrett to Matthew Dayes — and how they might contribute next fall. *
**DeShone Kizer finds himself firmly mixed in the Browns' quarterback competition, which should come to something of a head in training camp later this month.
Kizer, the former Notre Dame star whom Cleveland tapped in the second round of the NFL Draft, offered plenty of promise throughout offseason workouts, showing off the arm talent and pocket presence that led some to believe he'd be a top-10 pick. But Kizer (6-foot-4, 233 pounds) will be the first to say he remains a work in progress as he leans the ins and outs of playing at the next level.
How was his spring? Kizer had several impressive throws that caught the eyes of news reporters observing from the sideline. He also had plenty of rookie moments that watched him misfire passes, including a pick-six to linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. during mandatory veteran minicamp.
So in an effort to comprehensively evaluate Kizer, head coach Hue Jackson had the rookie take reps almost exclusively with the first-team offense. Both described that plan as a valuable learning experience. "I think we all have the same mindset in the sense of this is all a learning game for me and trying to put myself in position to compete one day," Kizer said. "I think Coach believes that it is best for me to get out there and learn from the guys who have been doing it for a while."
Kizer also impressed Jackson, the front office and members of the news media with an unusual degree of introspection and "self reflection" in assessing his strengths and weaknesses. "I've always told the quarterbacks, this league will bring you to your knees," Jackson said last month when asked of that dynamic.
"Probably should start down there everyday, so you've got to have that, that characteristic that you just mentioned. It's a tough league and things don't always go your way all of the time. You just got to keep working through it. That's good to hear that he has that. I've always felt that about him, it's good to know that you guys have noticed that." **
They said it**
"I think I'm still learning what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. I can't really put my hand around everything, but t I know that I've learned so far that it takes a lot of responsibility. You have to understand who you are, where your team is, how that club is moving forward. Understand the environment you are around. And try to be your best to maximize it all and try to go out and win games." — Kizer on adjusting to the NFL
"He's a guy who has played really good football. Various people and I have talked about how he obviously didn't have the year that he wanted to have last year and he recognizes that. But he has tremendous skills to work with, rare skills and traits to work with." — Browns EVP of football operations Sashi Brown on Kizer's inconsistent junior season at Notre Dame
The Cleveland Browns draft DeShone Kizer at No. 52 in the 2017 NFL Draft.
What to expect in the fall?** When training camp starts in 20 days, Kizer will continue to compete against Cody Kessler, former Texans starter Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan to be the Browns' starting quarterback. Jackson gave Kessler, who started eight games as a rookie in 2016, the first crack at the job in OTAs and added the other signal callers would have to take the job away from him.
That takes us back to Kizer, who's poised to take another jump forward after another six weeks to study the playbook and refine his footwork, among other technical dynamics of playing the position. Before the Browns broke for summer, Kizer spoke of the need to become more consistent player if he's to earn a starting role this fall. "Consistently understanding the plays, consistently making the right checks, consistently putting the ball in the check-down the right way," he said, "and all of that comes with reps."
Indeed, Kizer will have the chance to make his case at training camp. But there's no rush — neither from him nor the coaching staff — to put him on the field if he's not ready. "I'm not in a position to even consider myself in a competition," Kizer said in June, "but now after getting this base and getting the reps I have gotten in the last couple weeks, I think that by the time training camp comes around, with a little more work over this month off, I'll be ready to compete with these guys and see what I can do."