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When should the Browns play Kizer?

There have been two very different sides taken towards the Browns drafting DeShone Kizer in last week’s NFL Draft. There is a camp of people that believe the Browns dropped the ball and failed to seriously address the quarterback position in the draft for the second straight year, and there is a camp of people that love that the Browns waited and let Kizer fall to them in the second round. Some of them believe that Kizer has the most potential upside in the draft and the other quarterbacks had too many questions about them to be taken as high as they were. No matter how you feel about Kizer, the big question that looms over the organization is how soon they should give him a chance to start.

If you have followed the NFL since 1999, you already know that there are two constants in Cleveland: The team cannot seem to find a decent quarterback, and their failure to do so has caused them to uncompetitive since their return. By most expert accounts, the team has improved themselves from a talent standpoint in free agency and the draft, but there is a good chance that they are still a long way from contending for a division title or the playoffs. This means that the Browns will probably pick near the top of next season’s draft as well, and there are expected to be many more highly rated quarterbacks in next year’s class. The dilemma is that if the Browns don’t give Kizer a sufficient amount of playing time to see what they have in him, they will be forced to use their first pick in next year’s draft and possibly even more assets to try to get the quarterback they want next season.

Having too many good quarterbacks hasn’t ever really been a problem in the NFL, but if Kizer turns out to be a great player, the Browns could better use their top pick next year on another position of need. They would also have the option of trading down (which they love to do) to acquire more assets to improve the team. I don’t think there is a high likelihood that Kizer makes everyone a believer after one season, but it’s always better to have more information when trying to make good decisions.

Kizer is big, strong, and can make all the NFL throws, but he has also shown a lot of inconsistencies in his footwork, ability to get rid of the ball, and overall performance during his time at Notre Dame. He has had some great games and big highlights, but he also led a prestigious program to only a 4-8 record last season and had his leadership abilities questioned. By most accounts, he has come to Cleveland a humbled man, and he says he is ready and willing to be shaped and molded by Hue Jackson to try to become the franchise quarterback the team has been looking for since he was born in Toldeo in 1996.

Kizer’s size, frame, throwing ability, and experience playing in the Midwest make him the prototype quarterback to play in the AFC North. I think the team should bring him along gradually to let him learn the offense and how to prepare in the NFL. Obviously a lot will depend on how Cody Kessler or Brock Osweiler is doing at the helm and what Kizer looks like in camp and practice, but ideally I’d like to see the Browns think about giving him a look around midseason. The only reasons to deviate from that plan would be if he came in and shocked everyone by looking great in camp and the preseason like Russell Wilson did with the Seahawks, or Kessler or Osweiler had the team looking good enough to compete for the playoffs. However, I think both of these seem like pretty unlikely scenarios at this point.

Starting Kizer around the middle of the year seems like a good idea because it would allow him to prepare and observe for several weeks, but it would also give the Browns ample time to try to see what he could do as the starter and give him some time to adjust from mistakes and show some consistency. Most people believe that Hue does a good job working with quarterbacks, but I think that with the mechanics issues and adjustment to the NFL it will take Kizer awhile to prepare. If the team gives him half a season to show what he’s got and he isn’t able to take control of the job, the team can then use their top pick and other assets if needed to try to get a guy that is seen as having more potential to be a franchise quarterback.
Obviously, I would love to see Kizer play great from the start or even show a lot of promise after taking over in the middle of the season, but after following the Browns closely since their return in 1999, I’ve become kind of a pessimist when it comes to the team figuring out that position. It would be great if the Browns’ front office was able to prove that for once they actually were the smartest guys in the room, and they got their franchise quarterback in the second round without giving up big assets. However, I still want them to have the information they need to make the decision to go after a high-profile quarterback in next year’s draft if that’s needed.

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