Scouting the Senior Bowl: Cody Kessler, QB, USC

kesslerCody Kessler, the redshirt senior quarterback from the University of Southern California, has been selected to participate in the 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl.  He’s making the right choice by participating in the game, as his stock as a NFL Draft prospect is far from set.  One thing’s for sure:  He needs to have an overwhelmingly good week in order to enter the “Day 2″  discussion.

Kessler enjoyed a productive final season as a Trojan throwing for 3,315 yards and 28 TDs (with 6 INTs).  He completed over 67% of his passes and added four TDs on the ground.  For his career, Kessler surpassed 10,000 yards passing with 87 TDs.  He had a better year in 2014 when he set school records for completion percentage (69.7%) and completions while tying the school record for TD passes (39).  His accolades include Pac-12 honorable mention after the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Physically, Kessler barely meets the position’s minimum requirements.  He is unofficially listed at 6’1″, 215. One of the most important aspects of the Senior Bowl for him, oddly enough, will be the weigh-in.  If he checks in under 6’0″ tall, the consequences could be catastrophic for his draft stock.  I don’t think he’ll fall short of the 6-foot line, but I can’t say for certain that he’s any bigger than that.  He has the same physical makeup as a guy like Aaron Murray (Kansas City Chiefs) who checked in at 6’1”, 207 lbs at the Scouting Combine.

Athletically, Kessler is an adequate movement guy in the pocket but he’s far from a threat with his legs.  He possesses a decent internal clock and knows when to tuck and run away from chaos, but it will be more of a challenge for him in the NFL where the EDGE talent is simply more athletic and more ‘quick-twitch’ than the average PAC-12 roster.  Kessler isn’t a sitting duck, but don’t draft him with the theory that he’ll make plays on the move.

As a passer, Kessler has average to slightly below average arm strength and will struggle to make the challenging sideline passes in the NFL.  He’s competent in the short and intermediate passing game, but simply lacks a consistent or strong enough arm to push it downfield beyond 20 yards.  Much of his production came by the way of quick hitting passes or check downs; his film does not display a player who is willing to take chances downfield.  His accuracy tends to fluctuate a bit, but he’s a reliable passer in the <20 yard game.  He gives his receivers a chance to run after the catch and places the ball in a generally catch-able zone.  He’s also safe with the football, as the games I reviewed didn’t display many ‘near-INTs.’

As stated above, Kessler has a good feel for the pass rush and his presence in the pocket is generally calm and composed.  He’ll hold the ball a tick too long at times, but his film predominantly displays the mental clock of an experienced starter.

Overall, Cody Kessler looks like a late-Day 3 draft pick who will enter camp as a potential No. 3, developmental quarterback.  I believe his physical traits are limited and it’s unlikely that he will ever mature or develop into a NFL starter, but that doesn’t mean that he is without value.  He’s an experienced quarterback who eventually can find a role as the No. 2 behind a deeply entrenched starter.