When it comes to the future success of the Cleveland Browns as a franchise, it goes without saying that no one person will hold the keys to a better tomorrow more independently than whoever that first franchise quarterback ends up being—something that they literally have not had since they re-entered the league in 1999.
It has not been for a lack of first-round draft picks. Most recently, they drafted Johnny Manziel in 2014, and Brandon Weeden in 2012. Brady Quinn was also taken in the first round in 2007, and Tim Couch was the first-overall pick in 1999 when they returned to the league. The first three listed were all taken with the 22nd-overall pick, clearly a horrible place to grab a quarterback.
There have been plenty of quarterbacks added outside of the first round as well, of course, with Cody Kessler seeming so far to be the best of that bad bunch after a decent rookie season a year ago following his selection in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
But that didn’t prevent them from drafting another quarterback high in the draft this year, adding Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer with the 52nd-overall pick—that was after they drafted three players in the first round already, so they were sort of playing with house money at that point.
But there is a fair chance that Kizer ends up starting sooner rather than later. Already he has been seeing a decent amount of time with the first-team offense. Even when he is not going first in drills—he recently executed an 11-on-11 session on the final day of minicamp behind Kessler and Brock Osweiler—he was still out there with the first-team personnel.
His position coach, David Lee, was asked about his latest quarterback in the room, and he couldn’t help himself in a way in talking him up. While he said that Kizer has a long way to go in terms of mechanics and consistency, what separates him is “big-play ability”, saying, “that’s what that dude’s going to give this football team if he ever becomes the starter one day”.
“But we don’t know that yet”, he cautioned, all the while describing him as “in that mold” of Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco, though to be fair the reference was framed in the context of “a big, strong guy” in the AFC North.
“He’s smart, he can run, he can move”, Lee continued. He’s not Tyrod Taylor, but he can run and make plays. He’s got a great future. He’s just a long way from being ready”. And then he quickly added, “but he’s climbing on it and he’s making progress”.
The quarterbacks coach said that he is specifically working on adjusting Kizer’s lower-body mechanics, with his long stride throwing off his accuracy. He said that when all parts are in sync while in motion, “he’s got the most beautiful release and whip in his arm”.