Where Kansas State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein fits in the NFL is a picture that was further blurred after his performance against Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night.
The issues that have plagued Klein since suffering a concussion against Oklahoma State continued to rear their ugly head against the Ducks, as Klein struggled to read the defense both pre- and post-snap, never able to get himself, or the Kansas State offense, going (h/t Yahoo! Sports).
Klein finished the game 17-of-32 for 151 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions through the air, adding an additional 30 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Against an Oregon defense that had been surrendering more than 380 yards of total offense to the opposition, that Klein and the Wildcats fell nearly 100 yards shy of that mark (283 total yards on the night) is just another indication that Klein is going to struggle mightily with the speed of NFL defenses.
As it is, Klein is viewed more as a project than someone who can step in and play in the NFL, even as a backup, right away.
While Klein's throwing arm is strong, he has a noticeable hitch in his throwing motion that works against him. He's not a pocket passer, often scrambling at the first sign of pressure.
After his performance against Oregon, the comparisons some have made between Klein and Tim Tebow look to be all the more accurate—and damning—to Klein's future in the NFL.
It also makes what ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said in a conversation with his fellow draft expert Todd McShay all the more feasible (via the Dallas Morning News):
Phil Savage is a great guy that handles the Senior Bowl now in terms of selecting the players. What I think Phil is going to look at is a position change to a wide receiver entity. Todd and I have talked about that a lot, not playing quarterback in the NFL. Go down to Mobile, Alabama to show he can catch the football. He did it as a [freshman] when he caught a touchdown pass at Kansas State. He’s 6-5, 226 pounds. I think given that opportunity, Todd, to play that receiver position, would maybe help him become a little bit of a higher draft choice. Certainly, I don’t think he’ll be a quarterback in the NFL.
Such a move certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented, and Klein, at 6’5”, 226 lbs, would be a matchup nightmare for opposing cornerbacks.
But it’s been three years since he caught a pass, and aside from that time off, questions about his hands and whether he has the top-end speed necessary to get separation from NFL cornerbacks and safeties, will conspire against him on draft day if a position switch is what a team has in mind.
There’s no question that Collin Klein is an excellent football player.
But whether that translates to the NFL remains to be seen, and he did nothing to silence his critics with his performance against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.