Quarterbacks are hoping to answer questions at NFL combine workouts

Published 1:41 pm Saturday, March 4, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer has spent months getting in shape for the NFL’s annual scouting combine.

Between the workouts, he’s been fine-tuning the little details. On Saturday, Kizer will have a chance to show the scouts what he’s learned in the film room, what he’s fixed on the field and explain why he should be the first quarterback selected in this year’s draft.

“I was able in that first couple of weeks to go back and watch every game a couple of times, and we’re still watching those games as much as we can to clean up some of the issues that I had to make, those plays that are going to put us in winning positions,” Kizer said Friday in Indianapolis. “I just didn’t make enough plays.”

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Kizer finds himself in similar company — all the quarterbacks in town for the combine appear to have something to prove. None of them are currently in the discussion to go No. 1 overall, and it’s unclear whether any will even go in the top 10.

After Kizer led the injury-plagued Irish into playoff contention in 2015, his first season as the starter, Notre Dame went 4-8 in his second season. With that drop off, the prototypically sized, strong-armed Kizer is being viewed as a flawed player with significant questions.

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky started only 13 games at North Carolina before giving up his final season of college eligibility to enter the draft, so experience is an uncertainty there. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes II need to convince scouts they won’t be the next big busts out of spread offenses. And Baylor’s Seth Russell must prove he’ll be healthy after sustaining injuries — he says he’s “about 80 percent” right now after

Russell started nine games last season before dislocating his left ankle against Oklahoma.

“It’s about 80 percent right now,” he said. “I’m confident with it. I’ll throw (Saturday). It probably won’t look too pretty, but who plays at 100 percent.”

There are more subtle questions, too, like how to evaluate college players with unprecedented statistics, or how to assess immeasurable qualities like composure and leadership.

“I think at the quarterback position, there’s a lot of intangible things that go along with it,” Chicago Bears coach John Fox said. “It’s not just the strongest arm or the tallest guy or the quickest guy. There’s so much that goes into it. And then it does take a minute to develop. Basically, he has to control everything, especially in the NFL.”

Finding the right guy on draft day has proven difficult — even when choosing between seemingly can’t-miss prospects.

In 2012, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the clear favorites to go first and second overall in the draft. After they did, both led their teams to the playoffs as rookies, but only Luck has returned to the postseason since.

Trubisky is currently the front-runner to be the first quarterback selected, but where and when he goes is unclear. Of course, things could change dramatically by April 27 if Kizer, Watson or another player delivers an impressive offseason performance.

Scouts may get a rare opportunity to compare the top three — Trubisky, Kizer and Watson — side-by-side in rapid succession this weekend.

“It’s going to be good to match up against those guys,” Trubisky said. “I think we have a really good class. So it’s going to be good to get out there on the field, run, do what we’ve got to do and just throw the ball around the yard. It’s just another day of playing football.”

Perhaps the biggest day of their football lives — and one Kizer has been eagerly anticipating from the moment he left Notre Dame.

“In this last two months, I’ve been able to refine everything I’m supposed to refine, really own who I am as a passer, really buy into a bunker mentality,” he said. “Not taking any marketing deals, staying off social media, staying out of the spotlight to make sure I can perfect my craft. I’m really very confident in who I am as a passer and who I am as a quarterback.”