BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Nearly 24 hours after lamenting coming up empty in pursuit of a quarterback, the Cleveland Browns added one to the mix in the hope that maybe they’ll finally get lucky.
They turned this time to South Bend, Indiana where DeShone Kizer started 25 games for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame but struggled in his junior season and did not have the support of head coach Brian Kelly leading up to the draft.
Kelly said Kizer should’ve stayed in school and returned to Notre Dame for his senior season.
“To digest that is just to understand that there is a lot of room for improvement,” Kizer said.
And that’s quite O.K. with Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who was impressed that Kizer had already implemented some of the tips he’d passed along to Kizer during the draft process.
“He is very coachable. He wants to work at it, and I think that is what it is going to take,” Jackson said. “We will find out how good this guy can be over time.”
Kizer comes to Cleveland 52nd overall in the 2017 NFL Draft much to the delight of executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown.
“We went out and did our diligence on all the quarterbacks,” Brown said. “We felt like we knew him well and were surprised that he was there and available to us at 52.”
Thursday night the Browns passed on the opportunity to select one QB from Ohio in Mitchell Trubisky, who grew up 20 minutes east on I-90 from Cleveland. Drive 2 hours to the west and you’ll run into Kizer’s old stomping grounds at Toledo Central Catholic.
Kizer’s road to the NFL was as inglorious as the Browns’ recent history and his selection by a team desperately searching for an answer at the position has the feel of a match made in heaven even if it may take time for the dream to be realized.
“After making the decision to go to the NFL, there is an obvious connection between myself and their situation,” Kizer said. “From the experiences I was able to go through in this 2016 season, the experiences of going through the 2015 season and comparing them, from having some success to not as much success, I will be able to hopefully bring that over and continue to learn as much as I possibly can, and then try to do whatever I can to contribute to winning some games.”
Last year the Browns selected USC’s Cody Kessler in the third round – 93rd overall – which was followed by Hue Jackson’s now infamous, “you’ve got to trust me on this one” quote.
The Browns have tried year after year after year through free agency and the draft to find just 1 guy to get them through a 16-game schedule. Thew count is at 26 different starting quarterbacks since 1999 and they needed 5 QBs just to get through a 1-15 season in 2016.
At least with Kizer, at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he looks the part and has the arm.
“Obviously, he has the measureables,” Jackson said. “A big, physical quarterback who can make all the throws that anybody needs to make in the National Football League. He’s intelligent. So he has the characteristics that we’re looking for.”
Kizer joins Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan in the quarterback room but before anyone annoints Kizer as the immediate savior of the franchise, Jackson tempered those expectations a bit.
“We are going to give all of our guys an opportunity to compete,” Jackson said. “I think that is what it is all about. It is not about who is the starter and who is this. Let’s let these guys get here and learn our offense, spend time with myself and (quarterbacks) coach (David) Lee and go out onto the field and let’s see how it all turns out.”
The Browns ended their Friday night by selecting Charlotte defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with the first pick – No. 65 overall – in round 3.
“We thought he was one of the more physically gifted defensive tackles in the entire draft – strong, explosive and athletic,” vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry said. “Coming into the fall, he obviously dominated Conference USA and improved every year during his career. He was exceptional during the Senior Bowl week and responded well to the uptick in competition.”
The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder didn’t start playing football until he was a sophomore in high school. He lost nearly 100 pounds before taking up the sport and now was the first player from the school to be drafted.
“My goal was to just be the best,” Ogunjobi said. “When you are younger, people talk about the NFL as something they want to do. Me, I was still on the coach eating potato chips and playing video games. That wasn’t one of my dreams.”