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November 06, 2015

A look ahead to the 2016 quarterback class: Gunner Kiel edition

Eagles NFL
110615GunnerKiel John Minchillo/AP

Gunner Kiel likes wrist accessories.

In the NFL, you either have a franchise quarterback, or you don't. And if you don't, you have no chance unless you have some kind of historic defense like the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Buccaneers.

Those are two sentences I've typed a lot over the last few years, and it is a sentiment that Chip Kelly agreed with at a recent press conference. "Very rarely is a team successful that doesn't have really good quarterback play," said Kelly. "There's been some exceptions where it was just a defense for the ages and the offense was just kind of – you’re winning a game 7-0, or 6-3 or whatever. That’s the deal. Most of the time, the percentages are that when you get good quarterback play, you probably have a good football team."

Clearly, the Eagles have not gotten good quarterback play so far this season from Sam Bradford. Whether the Eagles opt to re-sign Bradford to some kind of contract extension or not, certainly the quarterback position will likely be in play for the Eagles during the 2016 draft. During the offseason, we started taking a look at some of the quarterbacks eligible to enter for the 2016 NFL Draft. In case you missed those, you can find them here: 

     • Michigan State's Connor Cook
     • Ohio State's Cardale Jones
     • USC's Cody Kessler
     • Cal's Jared Goff

Today, we'll take a look at Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel.

In 2012, Kiel was the #1 rated high school quarterback prospect, according to Kiel committed to Indiana, and then LSU, and then Notre Dame, where he enrolled before transferring to Cincinnati. He developed a reputation for being an attention-seeker, but he said he's the opposite in this piece by Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated.

"I hate attention. I hate talking about myself. I am just a regular, normal young adult who loves football. I watch cartoons and movies and play video games. I hang out with my friends. I play basketball and go bowling. That’s just how I am. That’s how I was raised.”

Hmmm... College transfer who doesn't like attention, and would rather play video games, watch cartoons, play basketball, and hang out with friends? So he's Nick Foles?

I watched a few of Kiel's games (vs Ohio State in 2014, Memphis in 2015, and Temple in 2015), and came away finding more positives than negatives to Kiel's game.

Things I liked:

• Very good size at 6'4, 215.

• Kiel has a very compact delivery and a quick release. In that regard, he's like the anti-Tebow, in that there's very little windup, and the ball is out quickly, often with zip.

• His accuracy is good. On the 2015 season, Kiel is completing a hair under 69 percent of his passes, despite a lot of drops (in the games that I watched, anyway) and the willingness to take a good amount of shots down the field (9.4 YPA). He generally does a good job with ball placement, hitting receivers in the hands in stride. But he's especially accurate on deep and intermediate passes, which is something we haven't seen in Philly for a while.

• He ran an up-tempo offense at Cincinnati, so the transition to a Chip Kelly offense would be a natural one.

• While he's not Cam Newton or Russell Wilson, he can run. Think Ryan Fitzpatrick or Matt Cassel in that regard.

Things I didn't like:

• He tries to drill everything in there. On screen passes, he'll often throw McNabb-style fastballs at receivers five yards away that will bounce off their hands or chest. And sometimes on deeper balls, he'll try to throw lasers when the more appropriate throw is to put some air under it and lead the receiver to the end zone. The arm strength on the lasers is impressive, but the results with a touch pass would be better. For example, against Temple:

• It appears as though he'll occasionally lock onto a receiver, and dictate where he's going to throw. Those plays have turned into picks going the other way.

Mixed feelings:

• Kiel doesn't seem to lack for confidence in his ability. He'll often throw to covered receivers, but put the ball in a place where (in theory) only his guy can get it. Of course, that can backfire at times. Twice against Temple, Kiel put passes in places where his receiver, and not the immediate guy defending him, could make the catch. However, on the deflection, another player made the pick. Like here:

And here: 

Those are clearly mistakes. However, he makes plenty of other throws like that, that are complete to his receivers. In college, receivers tend to get open far more easily, so to see a quarterback throw to covered targets looks like bad decision-making. However, quarterbacks who are used to throwing to wide open receivers in college often get to the next level ill-prepared for much smaller throwing windows. In the pros, you often have no choice but to make those throw to covered players. That is not going to be issue for Kiel.

(Note: The videos above were cropped together by You can watch Kiel's games on their site here).

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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