Coming into the 2017 season, the goal for rookie DeShone Kizer was pretty cut and dry – convince the Cleveland Browns they have their quarterback of the future.
Heading into the 2018 draft with five picks in the first two round, Cleveland had to know without a shadow of a doubt whether or not it needed to invest one of these in a top QB prospect. The ideal scenario would’ve been for the Browns to feel comfortable enough with Kizer’s progress that they could use their higher picks to grab playmakers at one of their many other positions of need.
We are not living in this ideal scenario.
While Kizer has shown flashes of promise, he hardly looks like someone Cleveland could confidently build an offense around. As a result, the Browns have no choice but to go after another quarterback next April, preferably with the first overall pick.
On the surface, this realization shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Kizer is only 21-years-old, and it was determined before the draft he was not ready to be an immediate NFL starter. There was a chance that, given enough preparation and time on the sideline to learn, he could perform well in the final half of the season and convince Cleveland it could at the very least wait one year before determining whether or not he was the answer. However, this outcome seemed a bit lofty.
Unfortunately for Kizer, not one bit of this dream scenario came to fruition.
The rookie was thrown onto the field immediately, due mostly to the fact he was competing against Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler for the starting gig. A promising Week 1 showing was followed by significant regression, along with his being benched mid-game on three separate occasions. Kizer has thrown the most interceptions in the NFL (17), and his 53.9 completion percentage is at the very bottom of the league.
Even worse, he’s yet to notch a single victory. While this callout isn’t completely on him, he isn’t doing much to help the cause.
For the majority of the season, Kizer has shown a knack for buckling under pressure in the game’s most important moments. At times, he seems allergic to the red zone, as many of his most back-breaking turnovers occur the closer he gets to finishing off a drive.
This isn’t meant to completely bash Kizer, or even go as far as officially deeming him a bust. Recent showings against the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions hinted he could very well become a viable NFL starter.
As this point in the season, though, it hasn’t been enough to take attention away from his numerous blemishes. His strong performance against Green Bay was marred by an absolutely heinous overtime interception which eventually resulted in Cleveland losing the game. His trademark inconsistency has yet to be fixed, and he just seems unable to string together consecutive solid showings.
It should be noted the Browns deserve their fair share of blame for how Kizer has developed.
As mentioned, the front office did little in terms of bringing in legitimate competition for the starting gig. Meanwhile, coach Hue Jackson has woefully mismanaged the rookie, declaring him as his unquestioned starter just days before sending him to the bench in the middle of a game. We’ll never know if a better surrounding environment would’ve resulted in a more successful first year.
There’s always a chance Kizer bounces back from this rough rookie season and finally starts showing real progress. However, this shouldn’t dissuade the Browns from taking a quarterback early in the upcoming draft. There are significant standouts in the upcoming rookie class, including Josh Rosen and (potentially) Sam Darnold. Cleveland would be wise to use its first overall pick on one of these two.
As for Kizer, he simply hasn’t proven enough to convince the Browns they even remotely have a solution at quarterback. With just three games left in the season, he not only has too many question marks hovering over him, he also doesn’t have enough time to erase them.