With Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston both slated as early first-round selections in the 2015 NFL Draft, teams choosing later are sifting the potential quarterback options. Mark Schofield offers a comprehensive prospect profile of Baylor QB Bryce Petty.
After earning Baylor’s starting quarterback spot in 2013 as a junior, Bryce Petty performed well in Art Briles’s system, completing 62% of his passes for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Petty’s numbers fell a little during his senior campaign, as he completed 63% of his throws for 3,855 yards,29 TDs, and seven INTs. The Bears rose as high as #4 in the playoff rankings following a 61-58 victory over TCU, but lost the next week at West Virginia and fell to #12. Petty and his teammates finished the regular season with an 11-1 record but were left out of college football’s first four-team playoff and ended up in the Cotton Bowl, where Petty’s Bears lost a thriller to Michigan State, 42-41.
Tale of the Tape
A full participant in the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, Petty measured 6’3” and 230 pounds with an arm length of 31 7/8 inches and a hand size of 10 inches. He clocked in at 4.87 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and notched a vertical leap of 34 inches.
What He Does Well
Petty is a big, athletic quarterback with great arm strength, capable of making powerful throws on all routes – including patterns along the sideline and outside the numbers:
Facing West Virginia, the QB is in the shotgun with a trips formation to his left, and Baylor implements the stick concept on the outside. The receivers run a fake screen, wheel and curl combination. Petty pump-fakes a throw to the sideline on the screen route, and delivers a strong throw – off his back foot – to the curl route up the seam.
This play against the Mountaineers results in a long touchdown:
The Bears have a trips formation to the right, with Petty in the shotgun. For this play the receivers to the right run a slant, curl and wheel route combination. The quarterback throws the wheel route off his back foot, but finds his receiver in stride downfield for a long scoring play.
Against Kansas State, Petty shows off his arm strength on this outside curl route:
Petty is again in the shotgun with a trips formation to his left and the football on the right hash mark. The middle receiver runs a deep curl route breaking outside, away from the football. The timing on this very long throw is perfect and the quarterback shows exceptional arm strength:
Petty hits the receiver coming out of his break, and the WR evades the first tackle and picks up additional yardage after the catch.
Petty is deadly on throws 20 yards or less, as shown in another example from the West Virginia game:
Petty executes the read-option play-fake and pulls out quickly, using a fast release to get the ball outside to his WR on a curl route. Again he makes a perfectly placed throw: chest-high and right between “the numbers.” The combination of arm strength and accuracy work well to set up the receiver for yards after the catch.
Here is another beautiful throw from Baylor’s victory over SMU:
This might be my favorite pass by Petty. The route is another curl breaking to the outside. SMU shows Cover 3 defensively, and Petty has to get the football over the linebacker in the underneath flat zone. The QB drops the throw in perfectly, just above the outstretched arm of the LB and in front of the cornerback. With the football on the right hash mark, the route brings the WR outside the numbers. Once again, Petty’s displays an accurate, strong arm on this throw.
Finally, this play from Baylor’s 2013 victory over Oklahoma:
The offense is in the red zone, and Petty stands in the shotgun with a trips formation to his left. Oklahoma’s nickel defense uses Cover 1 in the secondary. Petty sees the slant route from the trips and places the throw perfectly, leading his receiver towards the goal line.
While Petty does not possess the pure speed and athleticism of Marcus Mariota, the Baylor signal-caller has the athletic ability and strength to keep plays alive with his feet, and he can carry the ball effectively in the read-option game. Take this first example, from the West Virginia game:
Following the snap Petty looks to his WR split wide to the left. The secondary has this receiver blanketed in coverage, so the quarterback rolls to his right to buy time for his secondary options. As he breaks the pocket, Petty finds a downfield receiver on the scramble drill delivering a strong throw to the sideline for a nice gain.
My only criticism of Petty here is the usage of his left hand. The quarterback is too lax with the off-hand as he breaks the pocket, which can lead to fumbles and turnovers. For a good comparison see Andrew Luck’s left hand in the pocket, outlined in this recap of Indianapolis’s wild-card victory over Cincinnati.
Here is another athletic play, from Baylor’s victory over Kansas State:
The Wildcats blitz a defensive back off the edge and he bursts into the offensive backfield untouched. Petty deftly avoids the defender and uncorks another strong throw along the sideline to a wide receiver on a deep curl route.
Petty brings a lot to the table as a ball-carrier and was a vital weapon in Baylor’s read-option game. This play from the Bears’ 2013 victory over Oklahoma is just one example:
He meets the running back at the mesh point and decides to keep the football. Petty breaks through three arm tackles and works into the secondary. He makes a strong cut to the sideline to pick up more yardage before finishing the run in bounds and taking on two defenders.
The fact that Petty played nearly all of last season with fractures in his back speaks for itself. But I cannot in good conscience mention his fortitude without including this play from the West Virginia game:
Baylor is in the red zone, but trails by 13 with just over four minutes remaining. Petty executes a quarterback draw and, once he breaks the line of scrimmage, cuts to the sideline. Then he gets helicoptered to the turf, reminiscent of John Elway in Super Bowl XXXII. But the QB pops right back up and tosses the football to the referee, like he doesn’t have two cracked bones in his back. That impervious approach inspires teammates on both sides of the football.
Areas to Improve
One of the first things Petty must overcome as he transitions to the professional game is the knock that he is a spread-system quarterback. The majority of his plays in college were one-read passing plays, with, or without, a rushing component. Baylor’s offense is designed to simplify the quarterback’s reads and exploit mismatches in the one-on-one game.
While Petty can, at times, come off the first read and make a throw to a different receiver (see the scramble and throw against West Virginia discussed earlier), he must demonstrate the ability to read a coverage and work through a progression system to find the open receiver.
Petty took only 48 snaps under center in 2014. During both his time at Baylor and even in high school, the quarterback operated nearly exclusively out of the shotgun. He needs to refine his footwork in the three/five/seven-step dropbacks from under center. As previously discussed, his footwork at the combine showed room for improvement.
From the film, the weakest part of his game was consistency in the deep and vertical passing game. Frankly, it was maddening to watch. In 2013 and 2014, over multiple games, Petty missed a number of big plays downfield to open receivers. On some passes, he badly missed the target. Here is one of many examples from the West Virginia game:
Not only is this a poor throw, he displays insufficient situational awareness. Baylor faces 4th and 7 on this play, but the QB does not even keep the football in the field of play to give his WR a chance at making a catch. Instead, the throw sails to the outside, striking the front pylon and falling incomplete.
Here are two plays from the SMU game, in quick succession:
On first down Petty has a WR wide open on a go route to the right, but simply overthrows him. Then after a short gain on second down, Petty has another WR wide open on a go route to the left, but again the throw sails out of bounds.
Finally, this play from Baylor’s 2013 victory over Oklahoma demonstrates his erratic nature in the vertical game:
Petty is in the shotgun with a slot formation to his left. The inside receiver runs a wheel route, getting open along the sideline, but Petty’s throw drifts hopelessly out-of-bounds.
Petty needs to shore up this aspect of his game as he moves to the next level.
Petty benefits from the overall weakness of this quarterback class. He might be the third QB to come off the draft board, but he is likely a third-round selection. Given the questions over his ability to operate in a pro-style offense, and the flaws in his deep passing game, he is a bit of a project as he transitions to the next level. A team currently established at the position might select Petty and give him a few years to learn and develop.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.