49ers: Who would you draft? Kizer? Mahomes? Watson? Or Trubisky?

Recently on Niners Live, we discussed why the 49ers should proceed with caution on drafting QB Deshaun Watson. Now we turn our attention to a trio of quarterbacks in: Who would you draft? Kizer? Tribusky? Or Mahomes?

 

The NFL Draft is less than 80 days away and with Colin Kaepernick likely to opt out of his contract, via ESPN.com, not much else is on the shelf for the San Francisco 49ers, who are in desperate need of a signal caller. Wow. How ironic is that? Well, what’s behind door number #1? #2? And #3? Glad you asked. Niners Live will recap all three quarterbacks’ careers, strengths and weakness, and who’s the best fit for the 49ers. First up is the number 12 overall prospect, “Mitch Tribusky,” per cbssports.com

Mitch Tribusky, QB North Carolina — The former Mr. Football from Ohio, after redshirting his first year at North Carolina in 2013, played in a total of seventeen games as a backup to starter Marquise Williams in 2014, and 15 respectively. In 2016, Tribusky was finally able to secure the starting role, and impressed with 68.2% completions, which ranked third best among passers in power-five conferences. He set single-season school records for passing yards with 3,748 yards, 304 completions, 4,056 yards of total offense, and 30 touchdown passes while throwing only six interceptions to earn Third Team All-ACC honors. Per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, “Trubisky is a fine quarterback. He’s strong-armed, a good athlete and is the best of the bunch among the 2017 class of signal callers.”

NFL comparison: Matthew Stafford, via NFL.com.

Projected round: 1st

Strengths

  • Outstanding athlete with the mobility and body strength to escape pressure and extend plays
  • Shows consistent accuracy on short to intermediate passes
  • Reliable decision maker and limits low percentage attempts (only six interceptions on 446 pass attempts in 2016)
  • Prototypical QB size at 6’3” and 220lbs

Weaknesses

  • Tends to lock onto reads and stare down targets
  • Needs to improve his field awareness and better protect the ball when scrambling (four fumbles in 2016)
  • Only one year as starter, inability to unseat Marquise Williams as starter first two years is a concern

Next up behind door number two, Deshone Kizer.

Deshone Kizer, QB Notre Dame — Also a native of Ohio, the number 20 overall, per cbssports.com, prospect’s path to the draft featured a little more adversity than that of Tribusky. Taking over for injured starting quarterback Malik Zaire, who went out in the second game of the 2015 season, Kizer rose to the occasion exceeding expectations while showcasing some impressive mental toughness, and leading the Irish to a 9-2 record. Kizer finished his first year in 2015 with 2,884 yards, 21 touchdowns passing, and 520 yards rushing to go with ten rushing touchdowns. Kizer was a great fit in Notre Dame’s zone-read scheme and consistently held off competition from Zaire despite questionable support from Head Coach Brian Kelly. In 2016, Kizer did have a slight drop in production which warranted some criticism from some of the top draft experts. However, a lot of this could be attributed to losing four of his top five receivers, including Will Fuller, a left tackle who was a top 10 pick, Ronnie Stanley, and the Irish’s leading rusher C.J. Prosise.

NFL comparison: Steve McNair, via NFL.com.

Projected round: 1st

Strengths

  • Looks the part with desired height and developed build at 6’4” and 230lbs+
  • Above average arm strength with easy velocity to make every NFL throw
  • Highly intelligent both on and off the field with the horizontal and vertical vision to make whole field reads
  • Stands tall in the pocket with the durability to take punishment, even when scrambling

Weaknesses

  • Holds the ball at times, lacks sophisticated internal clock
  • Bad habit of relying on pre-snap reads and staring down intended target, leading to poor decisions
  • Ball security needs to be addressed with 13 career fumbles

Last, but not least, our dark horse candidate behind door number three is Patrick Mahomes.

Patrick Mahomes II, QB Texas Tech — Mahomes is ranked fourth among quarterbacks in the 2017 class, according to an anonymous NFC scout Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller recently spoke with. However, most recently, Chris Burks of Sports Illustrated had Mahomes ranked third. The son of the former major league pitcher of the same name has a big-league arm, and used it more than anyone else in college football in the past two seasons.  He earned the honorable mention All-Big 12 for the second straight year in 2015, starting every game and leading the FBS with 393 yards of total offense per game while amassing 4,653 yards, 36 TDs, 15 INTs, and a 63.5 completion percentage. Mahomes was a second-team, all-conference pick in his final year with Tech in 2016, leading the FBS with 421 passing yards per game, 5,052 total, 41 TDs, 10 INTs, and 65.7 completion pct. He’s also been a dual threat with his big-bodied frame standing at 6’3” and weighing 230lbs, with strong legs, scoring 22 times on the ground in his career.

Projected round – late 2nd – early 3rd

Strengths

  • Great touch and ball placement
  • Has good anticipation, throws, and going through progressions
  • Tough competitor, heart of a champion who hates to lose

Weaknesses

  • Footwork need improvement
  • At times tries to force throws, and throws off balance
  • Not much experience playing from under center

 I’ll leave you with this: 

After careful evaluation and a full in-depth breakdown of each quarterbacks’ overall value and upside, in my opinion, it would be a safe bet for the 49ers to take the chance on Deshone Kizer with the 34th pick overall in the second round. If he’s available #1 and #2, would he be worth coming up a few spots for? Great question. If you believe in his upside, then the answer is yes. While Tribusky has been pegged by most experts as the number one quarterback prospect thus far, his inability to take the starting job over from a guy who went undrafted as aforementioned leaves some room for questioning, to say the least. Could Tribusky be Kyle Shanahan’s version of Matt Ryan? Probably not. His one year of experience being a starter is simply not enough to validate reaching for him with the number two pick. Cbssports.com’s Dane Bulger highlighted Tribusky’s tendency to stare down receivers and not working through his reads, a trait that has become all too familiar over the past couple years for 49er fans as he declared him the number one player the 49ers should avoid in the draft.

Kizer, on the other hand, is simply wired right for the NFL with the mature work habits and unselfish attitude that NFL coaches are seeking. Though he still has some things to learn, he possesses the physical attributes and mental toughness scouts look for in a franchise quarterback. Kizer is currently the 20th overall prospect and number two QB on most draft boards. He would be a good value with an early second round selection. Does Kizer have a shot to be this year’s Dak Prescott? Possibly. Per Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com, more team sources are leaning toward Kizer because “they prefer his skill set.”

Mahomes very well could be the last resort/line of defense if the 49ers are not able to secure the services of Kizer. However, it would most likely be a late second or third round pick because the value is just not there. Could things change before the draft in April? Well, nothing is set in stone yet, and with the combine still to come, one of these prospects may emerge as the clear-cut front runner. However, for the time being, the best bang for the 49ers buck is going to reside with Deshone Kizer. Will they pull the trigger? Who knows? We’ll just have to wait till the draft to find out… 

On a Niners Live side note: Like always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.  

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor Niners Live.