USC has a long line of producing NFL quarterback prospects such as Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley to name a few. Heading into the 2016 NFL draft, senior quarterback Cody Kessler looks to join this list as well. So far, Kessler has thrown for 74 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his career, and should continue to put up solid numbers as the college football season progresses.
Of course, putting up good numbers is important for any draft prospect, but it’s what is on the film that counts. And when analyzing his film, Kessler has several traits that make him somewhat of an intriguing prospect heading into 2016.
- Kessler is a three year starter in a pro style offense. His transition to the NFL will be a bit smoother than some of the other quarterback prospects in the 2016 draft, even though he has played mostly in the shotgun. Some of footwork is emblematic of NFL quarterbacks such as this 3-step drop against Arizona State.
- Kessler is mostly accurate on short and intermediate passes. Rarely will he miss his main target on passes under 10 yards.
- Smart and takes care of the football. He won’t make careless throws or decisions and will also at times go through his progressions as seen in this throw against Arizona State.
- Clean and quick delivery. His quick delivery allows him to throw well in anticipation
- Great athlete. When pressure builds up, he can escape the pass-rush and make plays with his feet.
- Kessler can also escape pressure and make difficult throws. He is very good at throwing on the run and USC will in fact implement many play fakes because of their confidence in Kessler’s ability to throw on the run.
- Over inflated stats. USC’s offense implements lots of screens and intermediate passes which bolsters his completion percentage. While Kessler’s stats may show that he threw for a lot of yards, most of the yardage were gained after the catch. And while Kessler has thrown for a lot of touchdowns, a lot of them were short screens in which the receiver or running back would haveto make a play. For example, a lot of Kessler’s touchdown passes were off short screens like this one against Stanford.
- Kessler also has a bad habit of staring down his first read. Fortunately for him, his first read is usually open. However in the NFL, defenders will be able to read Kessler’s eyes, jump and anticipate the throw. In this play against Arizona State, Kessler throws a near pick by staring down his first read. This throw is a pick in the NFL.
- Poor overall footwork. His feet are slow in the pocket and when pressure builds up, his feet are too antsy. Kessler also has small hands. And if he gets drafted by a team in colder weather, his small hands will get even smaller (hands shrink in the cold).
- The biggest question mark with Kessler is his arm strength and deep ball accuracy. Fortunately for Kessler, the USC offense doesn’t usually throw the ball past 15 yards. However, Kessler will struggle with accuracy if he has to throw downfield and will either under-throw or over-throw his main target. Overall, his accuracy on passes past 15 yards is very erratic.
Current NFL draft grade – Round 3-4
NFL comparison: Alex Smith
Kessler, like Alex Smith, is a smart and athletic quarterback. He has plenty of flashy stats, but the film tells a different story. Kessler is an overall raw prospect, who needs to be drafted in the right system to succeed. If Kessler is drafted as a developmental prospect, then he has a real shot at being a starting quarterback.