Sunday, September 28, 2014

UCLA QB Brett Hundley Scouting Report

I took advantage of my proximity to Arizona State's campus and enjoyed Thursday night's Sun Devil football game versus UCLA. I went primarily to see Bruins QB Brett Hundley who's got a shot to go in the first round of next year's NFL Draft. I wasn't the only one there to see Hundley. Two dozen NFL scouts were there, among them was 49ers GM Trent Baalke, Chargers GM Tommy Telesco, and Rams GM Les Snead. We left impressed.

Hundley stands 6'3" and weighs in at about 220lbs. It appears he's added weight to his frame since last year when I did some rudimentary film study of him in case he were to enter the draft. I had concerns about how thin and wiry he was and whether his body could stand up to an NFL beating. That was one of the things that caused Teddy Bridgewater to fall. While a potentially fragile build isn't a death sentence on its own (yeah, Bridgewater is skinny but he was the top QB on my board last year) it does factor into the evaluation and I was glad to see Hundley had added mass. He suffered a hyper-extended elbow a few weeks ago but
 it was more of a freak thing than damage caused by typical football contact. Hundley isn't built like Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton who are essentially human obelisks, but I feel better about his ability to stay healthy than I did last winter.

So the frame is there and so are the physical skills. Easy arm strength, touch when it makes sense, drive when he needs it. He can make all the throws and while the release isn't the quickest, it's not Byron Leftwich water wheel slow. There are times when Hundley's mechanics break down a bit, his arm action gets shorter, like a catcher's, and he one hops receivers. He does it when he rushes throws and it doesn't occur that often. Hundley's passing accuracy is also solid, if unexceptional. He struggles to throw across his body to his left, consistently throwing behind receivers on drag routes from the strong to weak side but this might be able to be corrected with improved footwork in these situations.

Speaking of footwork, Hundley's is mostly fine, if a little slow. He transfers his weight into his throws well and rarely throws flat footed. He doesn't have the in-pocket elusiveness of a Tony Romo or Mike Vick and is more the statuesque-type after he completes his drop back. His a long strider, so while he does have good straightline speed it takes him a while to get there. Like Donkey Kong in MarioKart. The athleticism comp here, for me, is Alex Smith.

What stood out to me was Hundley's willingness to stand in the pocket and go through his progressions. Many times Hundley's gaze would traverse one end of the field to the other before finding the most impressive of these was a play in which Hundley dropped back, went through his progressions, recognized the defense was zone, felt the pocket collapsing, climbed the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield (something he struggled with last year) and delivered a strike to a receiver who was just crossing into a hole in the zone. Hundley will have to do a better job of identifying who will be open based on his presnap reads because he can't hold the ball as long as he does at the NFL level, but the mental tools are clearly here for a good decision maker.

There are a few issues though they're not fatal. Hundley doesn't seem willing to make stick throws in man to man coverage. In the NFL, QBs have to make on-the-numbers throws vs tight man coverage all the time. Even if the receiver hasn't created much separation. Hundley isn't willing to throw the football into decent 1-on-1 coverage. He's going to have to learn to place the football in spots only his receiver has access to in these situations, because they're commonplace in the pros.

It's not flawless, but the package is great and I like Hundley more than I liked a good deal of recent early round QBs (I like him more than I liked Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel, EJ Manuel, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill) and have a strong first round grade on him right now while I acknowledge more film study will e required.

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