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.
Cody Kessler – University of South Carolina
Like Connor Cook, USC’s Kessler opted to forgo the 2015 NFL draft and remain on campus for his senior year despite drawing the attention of NFL front offices. As a second-year starter in 2014, Kessler put up phenomenal numbers under new head coach Steve Sarkisian. Kessler completed 70% of his passes for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. In his career he has thrown 59 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.
While Kessler does not possess a tremendous arm, he works efficiently from the pocket with anticipation, quality ball placement and the ability to squeeze throws into tight windows. Another trait that stood out when watching him on film was his knack for learning from mistakes quickly, sometimes during games. On this first play from last season’s game against Arizona State, Kessler makes a mistake on the throw to his running back and it results in a failed third-down try:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/KesslerVideoOne.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/KesslerVideoOneStill.jpg”]
Facing 3rd and 5, Kessler stands in the shotgun with the Trojans trailing by eight. The Sun Devils blitz, and Kessler tries to hit his running back on a swing route on the left. But the QB tries to make the throw without setting his feet and falling away from contact, and the pass ends up short. The RB tries to make a sliding catch but cannot complete the play and the Trojans fail to pick up the first down.
On their ensuing drive, the Trojans face a 3rd and 7. Kessler is in the shotgun again, and once more Arizona State sends extra defenders after the QB. USC’s running back runs another swing route to the left, and watch how Kessler stands in the pocket on this play:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/KesslerVideoTwo.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/KesslerVideoTwoStill.jpg”]
Previously, he short-armed this throw because he did not settle his feet. Here, Kessler stands tall in the pocket, steps into the throw and delivers an accurate toss to the running back and the play nearly goes the distance. You can assume that having heard an earful from his coaches on the previous swing route, Kessler was determined not to make the same mistake again.
With ideal size and multiple years of experience in a pro-style system, Kessler is an attractive prospect for NFL teams. One more year of refinement under Sarkisian could result in the USC quarterback near the top of draft boards next spring.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.