The Third Quarterback Taken in the 2015 NFL Draft Will Be ...
There should be no debate about which quarterback should be the third to have his name called during the 2015 NFL draft. Baylor’s Bryce Petty is the clear choice over UCLA’s Brett Hundley.
There’s just one big caveat. Petty is going to need a lot of time to develop before he can produce at the next level. But if given the time to correct a huge mechanical flaw—assuming you think it can be fixed—he could be worth the wait.
Petty looks the part of a franchise quarterback. He’s just shy of 6-foot-3 and is 230 pounds, with large 10-inch hands. He’s also a better athlete than you might think. Though he ran a 4.84 in the 40, he ran the short shuttle in 4.13 seconds and has a 34-inch vertical jump.
On the field, Petty’s production in Art Briles’ scheme was prodigious and predictable: he twice threw for over 3,800 yards and finished his career with 62 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He’s extremely comfortable in the pocket and can stop and reload if need be. He’s smart, clutch, well prepared and as tough as they come—he played nearly all of last season with two cracked vertebrae.
Now for the negatives: Briles’ version of the spread offense is extremely simple and features a lot of grip-and-rip throws behind the line of scrimmage; the deep routes are simplistic and often wide open. For all the criticism of Marcus Mariota’s easy throws, Baylor’s offense makes Oregon’s look like a complicated West Coast scheme. There’s very little reading in the Baylor scheme, meaning Petty (unlike Mariota) never had to scan across the field. Petty never played under center either, which will automatically plunge him down the draft board (if not entirely off some boards) for those teams that rely on traditional play-action and/or those that refuse to adapt their offenses for the rising college quarterbacks, nearly all of whom have been running some version of the spread offense since Pop Warner.
Those problems, however, are manageable. With patience and good coaching, there’s no reason to believe Petty can’t evolve into a pro-style quarterback.
Bu there’s still a mechanical flaw that led to Petty’s completion percentage being 62.0% and 63.1% in his two seasons as the starter. In that scheme, those numbers are borderline unacceptable. Petty should have been near or over 70%. Some will place the blame on Petty’s unheralded receivers, and that’s certainly part of the equation. But the bigger problem is Petty’s elbow position at the time of his release. He is terribly inconsistent with his elbow. When it’s at or above his shoulder, the proper position, Petty has terrific accuracy. Watch in these clips:
When Petty’s throwing elbow is low, he can spray the ball all over the stadium on every type of pass: short, medium and deep. It can lead to overthrows and underthrows, and passes wide of the target. Watch in these clips:
When Petty struggles with his accuracy, it’s difficult to see him as an NFL quarterback. Some talented QB’s just aren’t accurate enough to play in the NFL, and they rarely overcome that fatal flaw despite all of their other skills. There have been some examples of quarterbacks overhauling their motions, and Aaron Rodgers might be the best one. But the problem with Rodgers wasn’t the basics of his throwing motion. It was more about his ball carriage, which was way too high. He was given three years in Mike McCarthy’s strict regimen for quarterbacks to work out all the kinks (and there were some bad, early times).
That Petty sometimes shows the ability to throw with the proper mechanics suggests that he isn’t a lost cause. It was obvious that he honed his throwing motion before the combine, where he threw the ball just as good or maybe even better than Jameis Winston and Mariota. But a team can’t be fooled by early returns. Petty needs to be paired with a good teacher and given countless reps in order for the proper mechanics to become second nature. Failure to adequately give a young quarterback the practice reps to overcome this flaw risks regression.
Look at Blake Bortles’ rookie season. Even the Jaguars acknowledged that he needed to sit for a year in order to work through his issues. But then they rushed him into the starting job in Week 4, and by the end of the season he had reverted back to his bad habits and needs to be overhauled again.
If Petty can land with a team that has a veteran franchise quarterback with about two years left (like the Saints with Drew Brees, or Chargers with Philip Rivers) then he’s worth taking in either the second or third round of this year’s draft.
Hundley will need even more time to develop and the probability of that happening is much lower than Petty’s chances. In his final two seasons at UCLA, Hundley completed 67.2% and 69.1% of his throws in a more complicated system than what Petty ran, but Hundley is more of an NFL longshot because he’s slow with everything. From his drop-back and scanning the field to his delivery, he simply takes too long—and his mechanics are sloppy and vary from snap to snap. You can be a lot of things at the next level, but being slow to identify targets and slow to deliver the ball is a recipe for disaster. Just watch:
Hundley certainly has his positives. He’s 6-3¾ and 222 pounds, and the talent is there to tease a team into drafting him with hopes for a bright future. He’s athletic—he’s better running with the ball in his hand than dropping back—and he has the strength to make all the throws.
But Petty has the talent and the intangibles. Even with a major mechanical flaw that he may not overcome, he’s still the quarterback that should come off the board first after Winston and Mariota.
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