*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available. 

Of the 20+ quarterback prospects that I have studied in detail so far for this 2016 NFL Draft, I would have to say Cody Kessler is probably the worst…the worst among the ‘name’ QB prospects. He simply does not belong among the top QB names for this NFL Draft. It’s always amazing to me what wearing certain uniforms can do for your draft status—you would think that we would’ve moved past this many, many years ago, but honestly, if you play for certain schools at certain positions, scouts and analysts are a moth to a flame. It is amazing how many people see what they want to see, or how their minds deceive them.

I could attack Kessler from a physical standpoint, as he measured only 6’1” at the Senior Bowl. However, I am not as radically against shorter height measurements as I used to be. My anti-Kessler stance is from watching him play, as well as looking over his numbers—but more from watching his play.

Cody Kessler is just not a good quarterback prospect for the NFL. He has awful mechanics, and a very subpar arm. Sure, put him in a position where he has USC’s O-Line blocking against Idaho, and he’s an experienced enough, talented enough quarterback to make successful throws to his stud receivers. No doubt, Kessler can play quarterback well enough at the college level in most games. It’s when the competition gets amped up, and there’s a bit of a pass rush, that Kessler starts falling apart.

Under pressure, Kessler often throws from too wide of a stance, or off his back foot—and he has nowhere near the arm strength to be trying to do such things. Kessler has one of the worst arm-strength/arm-speed visuals that I’ve seen in this QB class, or any other. It’s just not NFL-like. I’m not a huge ‘arm speed is everything’ guy, but when you look at some of Kessler’s throws—you can’t believe he is a starter of note at a major college program.

Basically, Kessler has survived/thrived in college by being a one-read/no-read of the defense quarterback surrounded by a nice offensive line and very good/great weapons to work with. Kessler can run your offense. He can drop back a few steps and fire slants or screens, or identify the one-on-one coverage streaking down the sidelines and heave one up for grabs. He’s not incompetent—he’s just not an NFL quarterback. He rarely read defenses at USC. When he did come off preset targets, he usually played it safe—didn’t challenge tight windows, preferring to dump passes off. He does not have the body size or arm to throw successfully under duress or while moving outside of the pocket, so he had to play within himself. Credit to him—he did not often try to do things he wasn’t capable of that often. Matt Barkley was a similar failed USC QB, but I think Barkley believed his hype, and forced throws…Kessler ‘game manages’ his own self.

To me, the single biggest reason Kessler will not make it in the NFL is because of his long, dramatic windup to throw passes. Some top college QB talents look like they’re literally throwing a lightweight dart and shooting it out of a sophisticated blowgun—a quick pop. Kessler looks like he’s throwing a medicine ball downfield half the time, especially when he’s under any kind of pressure. He dips his arm and, almost like an old-fashioned baseball pitcher, cranks it up before his release—it’s just not good. It’s not smooth or rapid—it’s easy to read for high-end defenders.

Kessler is not built for the NFL however you want to slice it. I can already tell that I’m going to be incredulous when some NFL team wastes a draft pick here. They’ll probably waste one within the top 150 picks, and I’ll lose my mind. I have no idea how anyone could watch Kessler work at USC and think that there is an answer for any quarterback issues they might have. However, there has been more than one NFL coach that actually believes in Case Keenum, so I’m sure Kessler will get plenty of opportunity. Kessler is the poor man’s Case Keenum, which is to say he has no business being in the NFL.


Cody Kessler, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:

In his final 12 college games, Kessler sported a 6–6 record. Over his final 10 college games, he threw for 270+ yards in a game just one time. His college career finished with a whimper, rather than an upswing.

If the quarterback is the player on a team who is the ‘straw that stirs the drink’, what does it say that so many football analysts and fans were constantly burned by how poorly USC played the last three seasons? Kessler as the starting quarterback for the past three years for USC has been with six different head coaches in that span. Some people will say, “How could anyone expect him to thrive under that chaos?” I would say, he has headed up the band of USC disappointment and the subsequent coaching carousel the past three years. USC football has gone from respected, coveted coaching spot to closer to laughingstock, and thing of the past. To me, it’s no coincidence that Kessler was heading up the team while that happened—Kessler is not taking a team to another level.

In Kessler’s 10 games versus college teams with a winning record in 2015, excluding a more cupcake matchup with 9–4 Arkansas State, Kessler posted a 4–6 record with 1.4 touchdown passes per game, throwing for 300+ yards just one time, averaging just 230.7 passing yards per game. It’s just not good enough with the weapons that he had around. Actually, he maximized his output given his non-NFL talent…he got a solid college career out of a talent that should have landed him at smaller schools.

Kessler measuring at 6’1” at the Senior Bowl does some serious damage to his NFL Draft prospectus. That’s the kind of height the NFL will shy away from, and unless you're pretty mobile, it isn’t a great help seeing the field from the pocket at the next level either. It’s not damning, but it hurts—and then combined with all the other issues Kessler has...it starts to make him draft-toxic.

I would also like to quickly add that he rushed for -425 yards in his college career, and I know that sacks count as rushing yards, but I just wanted to note that number and also point out that Kessler runs like a 100-year old man with the ball. There is no quickness whatsoever.

The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Cody Kessler Most Compares Within Our System:

Our computer scouting models thinks that Cody Kessler and Case Keenum are almost identical twins. I can’t argue a bit. Actually, to me, Case Keenum was a much better college quarterback. Kellen Moore may be a better match for Kessler—experienced, nice college quarterbacks who labor to throw the ball at the next level.

QB Grade






Adj. Comp. Pct.

Adj. Yds per Comp

Adj. Pass per TD

Adj. Pass per INT


Kessler, Cody










Keenum, Case










Aplin, Ryan


Arkansas St








Brockman, Casey


Murray St








Housewright, Tayl.










Moore, Kellen


Boise State








Sunseri, Tino










Karam, Jacob









*“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.

**A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going onto become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite.

QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys.

2016 NFL Draft Outlook:

Some scouting services have already caught onto Kessler and started writing him off. His unimpressive week at the Senior Bowl killed off any hopes he had for many talent evaluators. However, among national football analysts who really don’t study the prospects, but more rank name recognition, some of them still have Kessler as a top 10 quarterback prospect who will be drafted in the top 150 picks. I just don’t see how that’s possible. My mind says Kessler should not be drafted, but, using my NFL goggles, I assume he will be at some point.

If I were an NFL GM, I would not have Kessler on my draft board, because what’s the point? I would also not have him as someone to call as a UDFA after the draft. To me, there is 0.0% NFL action here.

NFL Outlook:   

I assume Kessler will get drafted, and probably later in the draft, so he’ll most likely be cut prior to the 2016 season but get put on the practice squad. He’ll probably kick around on some practice squads for a couple years before he is forgotten in time. I don’t think he’ll ever take an NFL snap in his career, unless he falls into a situation that has a crisis force a fourth- or fifth-string quarterback to play. A Matt Barkley career…only Barkley is a touch more NFL-ready. That’s sobering.