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NFL Draft Profile: Gunner Kiel

Once a lock for the NFL, Kiel is now on the fringes, but a team may want to gamble on him.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

By The Numbers (per nfldraftscout.com):

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 211 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.84 Seconds
  • Vertical Jump: 35”
  • Broad Jump: 9’09”
  • 3-Cone Drill: 7.47 Seconds

CBS Sports Position Rank: 26th QB

Projected Draft Position: Undrafted

This post would have had an entirely different tone two years ago. Kiel threw for 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns in a stunning debut season for the Cincinnati Bearcats and looked destined to be a quarterback taken somewhere during the NFL Draft. Perhaps he was never considered a first round talent or a potential one, but he was still projected to be a middle round pick, which is plenty respectable and can lead to big things. Just ask Dak Prescott.

But we are no longer living two years ago. We are living in the here and now, which is a time after Kiel suffered multiple injuries as a junior, did not play in UC’s bowl game following the 2015 season, left and then rejoined the team, lost his starting gig and then play sporadically as a senior. That’s not the type of resume that makes NFL scouts perk up, but its what Kiel is working with.

With an array of red flags weighing him down, Kiel is still an NFL Draft prospect, which speaks to his raw skill as a signal caller. He was exceptional as a sophomore for the Bearcats, as we just covered, and he still finished his college career with numbers that illustrate his ability to complete passes at a high rate, avoid interceptions and lead an offense. He completed 60.6 percent of 505 career pass attempts, tallying 6,835 yards and 56 touchdowns in his collegiate career. He also finished with a QB rating of 145.5 after three full years.

Aside from his actual results, Kiel is largely considered a player with the build and arm to succeed in the NFL. Whether or not he will ever become an NFL QB comes down to his ability to prove that his injuries are behind him and that he can return to being a consistent and efficient passer. He got a little bit of an opportunity to show that off during the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21, but he didn’t exactly put on a clinic, completing 4-of-7 pass attempts for 47 yards while also being sacked two times. It wasn’t a great showing, but, to be fair, the game was more of a defensive showcase, with a final score of 10-3 and a total of 542 yards combined between the two sides.

For what its worth, there are some metrics in which Kiel is considered a much better prospect than he is widely considered. Specifically, CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli ranks him as the No. 11 quarterback in this year’s draft class based on Fornelli’s own formula. Make sure to give those rankings and his explanation a read, as it is far from a perfect system, but it gives some indication that Kiel could be more successful than we now know.

Franchise quarterbacks can sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places, and Kiel has an outside shot at being taken in the last couple rounds if a team wants to take a gamble on the former five-star recruit. Odds are that won’t happen, but I fully expect Kiel to at least get a shot as an undrafted free agent. That’s when the real work will begin as Kiel will have the chance to prove himself and will need to step up to do so.