PFF scouting report: Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Below is the PFF draft profile for USC’s Cody Kessler, which incorporates PFF’s college grades and scouting intel from our team of analysts. To see all of PFF’s 2016 scouting reports, click here.
Position fit: Backup QB. Will need to prove he can overcome physical limitations.
Stats to know: +39.4 passing grade in 2014 was second in the nation, behind only Marcus Mariota. 2015 grade was only good enough for 20th.
What he does best:
• Accuracy. Had an accuracy percentage of 78.2, third-highest in the draft class, and higher than any of the top prospects.
• Executes from a clean pocket extremely well. Over past two seasons has thrown just seven interceptions on 635 passing attempts with no pressure, completing 73.5 percent of his passes.
• He is smart. Able to diagnose coverage, throw with anticipation and get the ball where it needs to go at the right time.
• Throws deep. For a player with an average arm at best, Kessler threw just one pick on deep passes this past season and had a 7:1 TD:INT ratio on deep (20+ air yards) passes.
• Arm strength. If Carson Wentz is at the high end of the arm-talent spectrum this season, Kessler is towards the other end of the scale. He doesn’t have an outright noodle, but his game needs to be more about anticipation and smarts than arm strength.
• 2015 regression. Kessler’s 2014 grade was the best of this draft class, and right up there with Marcus Mariota. Had he improved this season he would have had a grade rivaling Goff, but instead he took a major step backwards and looked markedly worse for USC. That raises a big red flag and is something of a worry.
• Inconsistent under pressure. At times, Kessler can navigate a cluttered pocket and look very good. At others the blinkers come down and he gets spooked, taking off to space and failing to slide away from the traffic and stay within the pocket.
• Average measurables at best. Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 220 pounds at the combine, and won’t get plus points for his athleticism.
Bottom line: Cody Kessler showed a lot of promise in 2014, but the drop in his play this season is a concern. He doesn’t fit the ideal measurable profile teams look for, but has shown the ability to overcome his relative lack of arm talent with high-level pocket passing ability. He is an accurate passer with the ability to throw with anticipation and reliability, but other aspects of his game have been more hit and miss. If he is going to succeed at the NFL level he needs to be able to succeed in the face of pressure consistently rather than sporadically, and eliminate the lows in his game, because he won’t receive the same chances as a higher-rated prospect.