DeShone Kizer entered the NFL Draft early. Brian Kelly was not complimentary. One of his biggest media proponents, Mike Mayock, who is presumably in the know, summarily dropped him in his quarterback rankings. He has been accused of having the dreaded “diva qualities.” There’s a miasma around him.
Kizer could be the quarterback who falls out of the first round, despite having first round physical attributes and arguably the biggest upside. That may be the goal of teams creating the miasma around him. Falling may not be a bad thing for him.
If the goal is to make money, Kizer would have been silly to go back to Notre Dame with the rookie wage scale. The question is not whether another year with the Irish would have cemented a place in the Top 10 for him but whether doing that would matter. No one is getting a $50 million guaranteed deal out of college. A Top 10 pick gets the same contract as fullback Kyle Juszczyk just signed with San Francisco. The goal is to reach free agency sooner.
Quarterbacks who are drafted lower, play little, and show some tenuous signs of promise have tremendous market value. Brock Osweiler signed a huge deal last year. Mike Glennon signed one this year. The hottest name on the QB trade market right now is Jimmy Garoppolo. Second round picks aren’t tied down by fifth-year options. So, they get to free agency sooner.
Brock Osweiler went No. 57 overall in the second round in 2012, and played sparingly until he filled in for an injured Peyton Manning for half a season in the last year before he hit free agency. His contract paid him $21 million last year. He has another $16 million guaranteed coming for next year. He has total cash earning of $24.5 million through five years. That’s not far short of Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick in the same draft ($28.1 million). Osweiler will pass him next season.
Kirk Cousins, drafted by the same team in the 4th round of the same draft as RG3, is up to $22.7 million in career earnings after earning nearly $20 million being franchised last season. He will earn $23.9 million next season getting franchised. That’s without the big long term deal. We can check in next year with second-round pick Derek Carr, who becomes a free agent after next season, and will likely begin contract talks with the Raiders soon. He should pass the three guys taken ahead of him–Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater–in career earnings once he gets the new deal.
Back to Kizer. Let’s say he falls into the second round or lower. He’s 21, so he would hit the free agent market at 25, the same age Carson Wentz will be in year two of his rookie contract next season. There’s not that much difference between the contracts given in the late first round vs. second round. Kizer would be laden with the fifth-year option if he is taken in the first round (which affects negotiations and how soon teams will resort to a bigger deal), but would be free of it if he falls to the second round.
If Kizer does need time to grow, he could enter a better situation for him with less pressure where he doesn’t need to start right away. If Kizer develops fully, he’s like Carr ready to cash in earlier. One could also see a situation where he’s a backup, looks sort of viable in spot starting duty and becomes a sought after free agent, a year earlier.
Even if he’s not “ready,” Kizer made the right financial decision leaving Notre Dame. It would be one thing if he were a top five pick, but that’s unlikely. Even if the stink being placed on him sees him drop to the third or fourth quarterback taken, he’s still in a pretty decent position. Depending on the team and system, Kizer could be in a better one.
Of course, Kizer could be a total dud like Manziel, about to get exposed. In that case, you’d want as much money as possible up front.