DeShone Kizer’s confidence look shattered towards the end of his final collegiate season. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is the perfect man to rebuild it.
The 49ers seemingly have their Week 1 starter at quarterback in place following the signing of free agent Brian Hoyer but, if the indications of the pre-draft process are worth anything, then they are likely to add a rookie signal-caller.
Per Niners Nation, San Francisco conducted a semi-private workout with Deshaun Watston, is expected to visit with Mitchell Trubisky and met with DeShone Kizer.
Of the three, though, it is Kizer who appears be the one the 49ers are most focused on. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt reported Kizer had dinner with 49ers general manager John Lynch the night before his pro day.
San Francisco 49ers
That report came on the heels of comments from Lynch at the Combine in which he said Kizer “blew the doors off” in his interview.
Kizer, for his part, seems to have enjoyed his interactions with Lynch.
“It was awesome,” Kizer — per Niners Nation — said of meeting with Lynch to reporters after his pro day.
“Mr. Lynch and I have spent quite a bit of time together. We have gotten to know each other quite well. I look forward to what they do with the number two spot.”
Given the defensive talent available at the top of the draft, Kizer may be disappointed if he expects the 49ers to take a look at him at No. 2.
However, he is most certainly in play in the second round at No. 34, or if San Francisco elects to trade back into the first round.
It would take time for Kizer to learn Shanahan’s system, though he would have somebody to help him in Hoyer, but were he to land with the Niners he has all the tools to blossom into a top-level quarterback, providing he is able to adapt to the new scheme.
Kizer may possess the best ball placement of any quarterback in the draft and is able to throw with timing and anticipation. He can lead his receivers to the football with consistency and is adept at fitting the ball into tight windows.
Blessed with a very good arm, no throw is beyond Kizer and he can sling deep and complete passes from the far-hash mark with ease while showing the capability to put both touch and zip on his attempts.
Having also demonstrated a willingness to hang in the pocket and make throws under duress along with the awareness to maneuver around the pocket to buy time, Kizer is arguably the most polished prospect in terms of his all-round game. And, when you factor in that he is an underrated athlete who can do damage with his legs and throwing on the run, the ceiling for him seems extremely high.
Yet a dreadful end to his final year with the Fighting Irish raises concerns about Kizer, whose confidence seemed to completely disappear as Notre Dame crumbled down the stretch.
After a Week 5 win over Syracuse in which he completed 23 passes for 471 yards and a score, Kizer never topped 300 yards again and was benched for Malik Zaire in a defeat to Stanford in which he was intercepted twice.
Kizer’s benching was not permanent and he started all 12 games in 2016, but he never seemed to regain his poise following the Stanford loss and ended the year with a completion percentage of 58.7.
Blame can be placed on Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly for Kizer’s apparent lack of confidence. Kelly insisted on a time-share with Zaire during the thrilling season opener with Texas, a game that saw a spectacular performance from Kizer, who threw for five touchdowns, and that policy remained intact throughout the year.
But it is impossible to ignore the flaws Kizer displayed during his struggles last year. He would have spells where he would abandon his mechanics and footwork, with his accuracy evading him as a result, and telegraph throws with his eyes and feet.
Possessing both a tendency to often hold on to the ball too long and make bad, rushed decisions under pressure, whoever ends up coaching Kizer will have plenty of work to do ridding him of those bad habits.
For his part, though, Kizer has not given off the impression of a man doubting himself.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Kizer — per Irish Illustrated — said when asked if he is the best QB in the draft. “I’m pretty confident in my abilities. My ability to read defenses both pre and post snap, my ability to understand the game. My leadership traits that I was able to develop at Notre Dame has put me in a position to achieve my goal and play in the NFL.”
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His confidence in his abilities will only have been boosted by what was widely regarded as a strong showing at his pro day. However, the jump to the NFL remains a daunting one – particularly for a signal-caller who saw his last collegiate season end with a 4-8 record – but if Kizer has any concerns as he makes the transition to the next level, then the 49ers may well be the perfect team for him.
In Kyle Shanahan the 49ers have a coach who has gotten the best out of almost every quarterback he has coached.
Matt Schaub threw for a league-leading 4,770 passing yards in 2009 when Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Texans. He was in the same position when Robert Griffin III enjoyed his stunning rookie season in Washington and transformed Matt Ryan from a player many believed was a middling QB with the Falcons into a league MVP.
With Shanahan’s track record, any young quarterback going to the Niners should do so with great confidence he can iron out their deficiencies and maximize their strengths.
In that sense Shanahan is the antithesis of Kelly, a coach who instils belief in quarterbacks and gets results. That is exactly the kind of coach Kizer requires and makes the Niners one of the better fits for a quarterback who heads into the NFL with plenty of people to prove wrong.