BYOB: Bring Your Own Ball
If it weren't for Kurt Warner's unlikely underdog story overshadowing most other UDFA rags to riches journeys, one of the most unlikely rises from a "QB nobody" to become an NFL starting QB would be Jon Kitna.
Kitna's story is arguably even more unlikely, because Warner played at what is now the FCS level, while Kitna played at what was then an NAIA school.
Kitna was an UDFA in 1996. Only 6'3'' and 160 pounds coming out of high school, he essentially wasn't recruited at all. He played at Central Washington, a school that didn't offer scholarships, and says the only reason the school allowed him on the team was because they wanted to land a WR from his HS who was his best friend. Kitna was the 12th string QB when he got to college. Kitna had to bring his own football to practice, because the team didn't have enough footballs to go around. The OC for Central Washington was Greg Olson, who would later become an assistant coach for many NFL teams, including 2 stints with the Rams.
Kitna liked baseball more than football. The first week of camp, Kitna was so discouraged that he decided to quit the team and give up playing football. When he told his teammates that he was quitting, a senior WR on the team told him not to give up and said he had the talent to play, that he just needed to be patient. That conversation changed Kitna's mind and altered the course of his life. By the end of camp, he was the team's 3rd string QB. He redshirted that season.
Olson named Kitna the team's starter his redshirt freshman year and Kitna went on to start 4 years for Central Washington. He won an NAIA national championship.
Kitna didn't think he'd get a chance to play in the NFL and he knew that even if he got a chance his career would likely only last one season. Like Warner, Kitna is very religious and prayed for an opportunity. The head coach for the Seattle Seahawks, Dennis Erickson, invited his nephew who was a WR at Central Washington to workout for the Seahawks. Kitna came along and threw to the WR. Erickson was so impressed, Seattle signed Kitna as an UDFA and he got a practice squad spot his rookie season.
During this period, there was buzz that Seattle really liked Kitna and thought he had potential. He was sent to the WLAF (later known as "NFL Europe") to play for Barcelona. He was one of the most recognizable players in the league, leading his team to a World Bowl victory.
After apprenticing as Seattle's 3rd string QB, Kitna eventually became the team's starting QB in 1999. Seattle decided he wasn't good enough to be the franchise guy, trading for Matt Hasselbeck (who himself was only a 6th round draft pick.) Kitna was a starter for the Bengals and served as the mentor for a rookie Carson Palmer. Kitna was also part of the 0-16 Detroit Lions team, the season that set the stage for Matthew Stafford to become a Lion in the 2009 draft. Kitna finished his NFL career as a reliable backup QB for the Dallas Cowboys.
Ohio State QB, Kyle McCord, would need to take a big step forward in his development to be as good as Kitna. Experts are split on McCord, with one simulator ranking him as a 2nd round pick, but other boards listing him as a late round to UDFA prospect. I currently only have him graded as an UDFA, but we're talking about a player who has virtually zero starting experience in college, so that's to be expected. McCord is only a junior, so unless he has a huge 2023 season, he likely would be best served to stay in school another year and wait for the 2025 draft.
PFN mock draft simulator 9th QB, 54th overall (2nd round)
Shane Hallam 10th QB, 129th overall (late 4th to 5th round)
Jake Rigdon (Fanspeak) not ranked among 406 prospects (UDFA or not expected to be in draft)
Steve Shoup (Fanspeak) not ranked among 376 prospects (UDFA or not expected to be in draft)
BuffaloFAMBase big board 263rd overall (UDFA)
NFLDB 16th QB, 157th overall (5th round): 4.95 second 40 time. Nice touch on deep balls. Enough arm strength for tight window throws. Quick release. NFL arm, plus arm strength, zip to sideline from opposite hash. Anticipates windows and throws receivers open. Doesn't throw as well on the move. Mechanics sloppy when moved off his spot. Holds ball too long, heavy feet, a stationary target for pass rushers.
NFLMDD consensus big board 21st QB, 208th overall (late 6th to 7th round)
Ryan Fowler (TDN) big board 209th overall (late 6th to 7th round)
I don't think that McCord is overly impressive. Craig Krenzel (5th round 2004, Bears, Ohio State) was a better prospect than McCord, because Krenzel was a much better runner and had just as much arm talent. Krenzel was also ridiculously smart, he easily could have gone to medical school if he wanted to and become a doctor. Krenzel had a very brief pro career, largely ended by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. After football, he went into the insurance business.
Krenzel did make 5 starts his rookie season, but the results were ugly. He completed 46.5% of his passes, 3 TDs, 6 INTs, 5.7 yards per attempt, a high 15.3% sack rate, an incredibly low 52.5 passer rating, and 8 fumbles. Amazingly, the Bears actually won 3 out of his 5 starts, a combination of the Bears having a good defense and facing teams who also were playing backup QBs. One of Krenzel's wins came against Kurt Warner and the NYG.
Name: Kyle McCord. Turns 21 years old in September of 2023. True junior.
School: Ohio State. Communications major. Conference All Academic team in 2022.
Size: Listed 6'3'' tall, 215 pounds. Sports Illustrated 6'2 3/4'' tall, 222 pounds, 4.73 second 40 time.
5 star recruit from NJ, played HS ball in Philadelphia, PA. Had a division 1 scholarship offer prior to his freshman season in HS. Dad played QB at Rutgers. Was HS teammates with Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Jeremiah Trotter Jr., has played with Harrison since they were sophomores in HS.
Leg injury in HS in 2019.
One career start (vs Akron in 2021 season.)
Career stats: 41 for 58 (70.7% completions), 606 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 4 sacks, 2 fumbles.
Struggled in spring game 2023. Locked in QB competition with Devin Brown. Both McCord and Brown were top 50 overall recruits in the nation. Brown didn't play in the spring game, because he had an injured finger on his throwing hand.
Focused, level headed, all business in interviews.
Confident in his own abilities. Intelligent.
Sound mechanics. Efficient and compact delivery. Balanced on follow through. Consistent accuracy on basic throws. Understands the proper aiming spot to lead the WR away from defenders instead of leading them into danger. Throws a catchable ball. Has some touch. Nice 35 yard deep fade down sideline for a TD. Good touch on 38 yard pass.
Demonstrates ability to sift through progressions properly and on time, sorting through information to read the coverage. Against vanilla coverage rotation, demonstrated understanding of where to attack the zone. Throws with anticipation.
Composed and calm in pocket. Doesn't strike me as a player who gets too high or low or lose his focus.
Checks the ball down to use his RB appropriately.
One of his "misses" appeared to me to be a miscommunication with the WR where the QB threw the pass to the correct spot, but the WR did not come out of the break at the proper angle.
Next to impossible to do a fair evaluation of him, because his only start was when he was a true freshman. He's similar to Sam Huard, there just isn't enough tape to watch.
Extremely inexperienced, has yet to be a starter in college. Potentially could improve if he gets regular playing time.
Body still developing. Has some strength, but can still physically mature and add more muscle and definition.
Just like Justin Fields and CJ Stroud, McCord was the beneficiary of phenomenal OSU receiving talent in 2021. Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., that's 5 first round WRs. He didn't just have an NFL level WR group, he arguably had a Pro Bowl level WR group. If McCord becomes an NFL QB, he might never have a WR room as strong as the one he played with at OSU. In addition, OSU was stuffed with NFL talent at OL, RB and TE. It was an NFL team wearing college uniforms. To say that Akron was outclassed would be a massive understatement. More like a glorified scrimmage practice, not an actual game. Ryan Day treated it almost like a scrimmage, because he could have pulled McCord at halftime with OSU comfortably ahead, but continued to play him, because he said McCord's 1st half performance was "just average" and wanted to give him more work. Stats vs Akron inflated by 85 yard pass where defense semi blows the coverage, leaving the WR wide open, then WR weaves through defenders in open field to create huge YAC.
Poor quickness. Lacks short area movements to buy split second extra time in pocket, limited athleticism to escape the pass rush. Too linear inside the pocket, in that he climbs forward, but lacks feel and instincts for how to slide laterally to use available space. Repeatedly will stand in one spot in middle of pocket instead of feeling the rush out of the corner of his eye and taking one step to the side, resulting in moderate pressure that QB very easily could have avoided. Doesn't seem to matter if QB should have stepped to his left or to his right, this problem shows up in either situation. All he had to do was slide forward to split defenders and avoid the rush, but just stood in one spot and ate the ball for a sack.
Not a quick twitch athlete. Even just carrying out a simple play action fake, isn't fast setting up and getting the ball out. If his read takes him from one sideline all the way to a checkdown towards the opposite sideline, QB is not fast or clean with his footwork to get pass out quickly and smoothly. Moved off spot, tries to hit shallow drag route under pressure, but misses and throws INT instead.
Slow. Not explosive or fast running. Heavy legs. Not very useful on read options or designed QB runs. Won't threaten the defense much as a scrambler.
Mixture of inexperience, lack of athleticism and shaky decision making results in him putting ball into dangerous spots, risking INTs. Tried to force pass on move, nearly throwing INT when 2nd CB dropped under the route. Basic rotation, defense drops safety as robber into middle and QB nearly throws INT directly to the S, nearly a devastating game management error given the time left on clock and field position. Eyes stuck too long on primary, didn't get down progression to lower reads when he was moved off spot and pressured.
Average arm talent. Insufficient ball velocity to drive comeback route past CB in tight coverage. Unimpressive velocity driving the ball to the sideline from opposite hash. Ball doesn't have a tight spiral. Nearly had pick six on outbreaking route as CB undercuts the WR. Not enough arm to zip passes into zone voids if window is tight. 25 yard pass left way too far inside, on wrong side of CB.
Unable to layer throws to work ball up and down over zone defenders. Trajectory of the pass is too flat. This concerns me, because it is a sign he has both average touch and average arm strength.
Wildly inaccurate on throws at the very beginning of his 2021 game, but I'll cut him some slack, because he was probably very nervous. No eye discipline, just staring down WRs, but that's to be expected for a true freshman.
Doesn't have the "magic eye". Some players, they seem to have a spark, they know how to play the game. Russell Wilson had it back when he was still playing at NC State. Other QBs, they don't inspire confidence that they are going to make it and become special players. McCord talks a good game in interviews, but when he's been on the field, it is like the moment is too big for him, he hasn't stepped up and put his best foot forward. He still has a couple more years in college to prove himself, but I don't feel like I can rank him higher until he shows us more. The very little he's put on tape so far isn't good enough.
McCord patiently waited for his turn behind CJ Stroud, but now it isn't guaranteed that he'll be Ohio State's starter. If McCord fails to win the starting job, I imagine that he'd transfer to a different school for the 2024 season.
As always, Ohio State is projected to be one of the top teams in the country. ESPN ranked them 5th in the nation. OSU plays Notre Dame (ranked 13th), Penn State (ranked 8th) and Wisconsin (25th), but as usual, the true "big game" is at the end of the regular season, on the road at Michigan on November 25th.
OSU has a new offensive coordinator this season, former Buckeye WR, Brian Hartline, promoted within the staff. Hartline played in the NFL and will provide continuity, but he's also never been an offensive coordinator before.
Leading Ohio State to a National Championship presumably would greatly enhance McCord's resume and could send him flying up draft boards. First order of business, however, is he has to hold off the other QBs and win the starting job.