Draft season never ends. Although the lights have turned off at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago and the lectern has been put away, teams are already setting their boards. With that in mind, Mark Schofield has an early look at the top QBs in the 2016 NFL draft.
Gunner Kiel – Cincinnati
An up-and-coming junior, Gunner Kiel is by no means an unknown commodity. Kiel was one of the top prospects in the 2012 recruiting class with offers from nearly every top school in the country, including Florida, Alabama, LSU and Southern California. Kiel settled on Notre Dame, but after redshirting his freshman year decided to transfer to Cincinnati, one of the schools that originally gave him a scholarship offer during his recruiting process.
After sitting out a year, Kiel made his Bearcats debut last September against Toledo, and turned in an epic performance. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 418 yards, and six touchdowns, in Cincinnati’s 58-34 win over the Rockets. The QB was impressive statistically in 2014, completing 60% of his passs for 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, but struggled in a few games, throwing three interceptions in a loss to Miami and three more in a one-score victory over East Carolina.
Kiel benefits from an offense that utilizes the screen game heavily, and a number of his throws come at or near the line of scrimmage. On short and intermediate throws, he displays solid arm strength, anticipation and very good ball placement, like he does on this throw against Ohio State:
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Facing 3rd and 2, the QB stands in the shotgun as the offense has 10 personnel on the field in dual slot formations. Ohio State’s defense counters with nickel personnel showing Cover 2 in the secondary. The Bearcats run a mirrored switch concept to each side of the field, with the outside receivers running deep curls as the inside receivers run quick out routes. Kiel shows good arm strength on this throw, from the right hashmark to the left sideline, and he places the ball perfectly, just over the outstretched arms of the underneath cornerback. What is also impressive is the timing and anticipation, as the QB begins his throw prior to the cut from the WR. This leads to a first down for Cincinnati.
The QB does struggle with accuracy on deeper throws, and needs to improve his decision-making from the pocket. But with his reputation and his impressive numbers, Kiel is already near the top of many draft boards. Another impressive statistical season and improvements in the pocket might result in him being considered a first-round pick.
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