Who is Cody Kessler? Meet the Browns' potential third starting QB of the season
The Cleveland Browns have had an inauspicious start to their 2016 season.
The Browns have lost two games, but more importantly they have lost two quarterbacks. After Robert Griffin III sustained a potentially season-ending injury in Week 1, Josh McCown injured his shoulder in the team's Week 2 loss to Baltimore. It appears to be serious.
Enter Cody Kessler.
Cleveland selected Kessler in the third round of this year's NFL draft after four seasons at USC, and on Sunday the 23-year-old rookie will apparently start his first NFL game.
Here's what you need to know about Cleveland's potential new starting quarterback.
He was a four-star recruit
Kessler played high school football at Centennial High School in Bakersfield, Calif., before committing to USC. Scout.com declared Kessler had the "strongest arm in California."
He was a really good high school basketball player
As a junior, Kessler averaged 29.5 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game for Centennial High School en route to Bakersfield Area Player of the Year honors. He became the first player to win the award in both football and basketball.
He was a three-year starter at USC
After riding the bench during his freshman season at USC, Kessler took over as full-time starter as a sophomore. He tossed 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions his first season, leading USC to a 10–4 record.
He once tossed six touchdowns against Notre Dame
In 2014, Kessler became the first quarterback ever to throw six touchdowns against Notre Dame. If Notre Dame schadenfreude is your thing, then watch Kessler pick apart the Irish secondary.
Kessler finished his junior season with 39 touchdowns and five interceptions, his best college season.
He was a Heisman candidate ahead of the 2015 season
SI put Kessler on its post-spring Heisman watch. ESPN called him a Heisman "dark horse." After throwing nearly 40 touchdowns in 2014, Kessler seemed like a good candidate for college football's most prestigious award.
Kessler's Heisman trophy campaign went about as well as Jeb Bush's campaign for president. Kessler's stats regressed in 2015, when he finished the season with a respectable 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions. After starting the season ranked in the top 10, USC finished the year a disappointing 8–6, including a loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl.
One QB expert said Kessler would be ready on Day 1
Kessler wasn't one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2016 NFL draft, but quarterback guru Steve Calhoun said on SI Now in April that Kessler would be ready to start on Day 1. (It's worth bearing in mind that he made this prediction before Kessler landed with the Browns.)
SI Now's Maggie Gray asked Calhoun why he thought Kessler and Dak Prescott (now the starting quarterback for the Cowboys) would be ready to start this season.
"Well you just look at their production in college. Look at some of the adversity they've gone through, so they can handle some tough times, a little bit of that rookie wall that some quarterbacks may hit during that first season," Calhoun said. "So just the mental toughness from that standpoint, I think they're able to handle that."
Steve Calhoun is a prophet, apparently.
Kessler was the sixth quarterback selected in this year's draft
The former Trojan was picked 93rd overall, after Jared Goff (No. 1), Carson Wentz (No. 2), Paxton Lynch (No. 26), Christian Hackenberg (No. 51) and Jacoby Brissett (No. 91).
Here's what Browns coach Hue Jackson had to say about Kessler at the time.
''This young man has pinpoint accuracy,'' Jackson said, according to the AP. ''He has great poise, pocket presence. He works at the game. Comes early, stays late. He's everything that I think you look for in a quarterback.''
He added: ''I was at the other young men's workouts, they were drafted earlier. But we really think this guy is the right fit for us.''
He earned limited preseason reps
Kessler played sparingly during the preseason, but his numbers weren't bad. Over four games, Kessler was 19 of 28 for 92 yards and one touchdown.
One potential area of concern: In limited action, he was sacked seven times. He also pulled a Dan Orlovsky and ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety against Green Bay.
His dad is a huge Dolphins fan
In an interview with Fox Sports West in 2013, Kessler was asked about his favorite football team. He said he didn't really have a favorite (I assume it's now the Browns), but that if he had to choose, he'd pick the Dolphins because his father is a big fan. He said he grew up watching Dolphins games with his dad.
Kessler's opponent on Sunday? The Miami Dolphins.