The top two NFL Draft quarterback prospects – Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – have been locked in all year. The race for the third quarterback taken is where the debate begins, and Mark Schofield has reviewed the film on Bryce Petty, Garrett Grayson, Chris Bonner, and Taylor Heinicke. Now, he turns his attention to UCLA QB Brett Hundley.
Brett Hundley was a three-year starter at quarterback for the UCLA Bruins, taking over the offense as a redshirt freshman. In 2012, the young signal-caller completed 67% of his passes for 3,740 yards and 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He exploded onto the national stage quickly, running 72 yards for a touchdown on his first play from scrimmage in the season opener against Rice. He followed with a four-touchdown performance against Nebraska in his second start, and over the course of the season guided the Bruins to a 9-5 record and a Holiday Bowl loss to Baylor.
In 2013, Hundley turned in similar numbers, completing 67% of his throws for 3,071 yards and 24 TDs against only nine INTs. UCLA finished with a 9-3 regular season record and defeated Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. The QB notched nine multiple-touchdown games as a sophomore, including three touchdown passes against the Cornhuskers, New Mexico State and Cal.
In his final year on campus, Hundley guided the Bruins to a 10-win season including an Alamo Bowl victory, while posting impressive numbers. He completed 69% of his passes for 3,155 yards and 22 scores while throwing only five interceptions. He suffered a minor elbow injury in UCLA’s third game against Texas, but returned the following week to throw four touchdowns as the Bruins routed Arizona State 62-27.
By year’s end Hundley was UCLA’s all-time leader in touchdown passes with 75 (breaking Cade McNown’s previous record of 68) and total offense with 11,713 yards (breaking McNown’s record of 11,285). He was named to the All-Pac-12 second team behind Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota. He also finished his UCLA career with a 3-0 record against cross-town rival USC.
Tale of the Tape
Hundley looks the part of an NFL quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 inches and weighing 226 pounds. He is very athletic, with the speed and quickness to escape a collapsing pocket and either evade or run over defenders. Hundley competed in all of the drills at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine and posted some impressive numbers, including a 4.63 40-yard dash and a 3.98 20-yard shuttle. His shuttle was the best time posted by a quarterback at the Combine, and the only time under 4 seconds posted by a quarterback.
Hundley also participated in positional drills at the Combine and later at UCLA’s Pro Day. He was invited to ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s QB Camp, where he was put through positional drills, film, and whiteboard work with the coach-turned-analyst.
Hundley does not have a history of significant injuries, with just the previously mentioned elbow injury earlier this season against Texas on a run early in the game.
What He Does Well
Hundley might possess the strongest arm in this year’s draft class. He displays tremendous velocity on many routes, and can put touch on the football to drop the ball into small windows down the field. On this play against USC, he delivers a strong throw from the pocket on a comeback route:
Despite his double-clutch, Hundley is able to reload the football and deliver a powerful pass to his receiver on the outside. Notice how he finishes the throw, driving through his front foot on the delivery.
Here is another comeback route from the USC game. With the football on the right hash mark, Hundley delivers another high-velocity throw to the other side of the field, where his receiver is standing near the numbers:
Note the strong turn of his shoulders during his delivery and how the resulting torque in his upper body generates power in the pass. His front shoulder pulls him through the throw, but his back shoulder snaps around during the release point very well.
This throw on a crossing route against Arizona is another example of Hundley’s arm strength:
The quarterback does a good job of climbing the pocket on this play, gliding toward the line of scrimmage on the balls of his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. He then drives through his front foot on the throw, delivering a strong pass to his receiver on a deep crossing pattern. This is Hundley at his best.
The quarterback’s strong arm also enables him to make the back-shoulder throw with confidence. The next clip contains two examples of how UCLA used this strength to their advantage:
The back-shoulder play is difficult to defend because it is quite hard for a defensive back to stop and break back to the football in time. Hundley’s arm makes it tougher still. The first pass in the clip falls incomplete, but the second play illustrates the role arm strength plays in completing these throws. When the receiver stops to look for the football, the defender immediately follows suit. But the throw arrives before the defensive back fully turns around, negating any chance of the defender breaking up the pass.
In addition to arm strength, Hundley has the ability to put the right amount of touch on the deep throws, placing the football precisely where it needs to be. On this first play, Hundley delivers a pass with pinpoint accuracy on a streak route, and only a tremendous defensive effort prevents the long completion:
In this next clip, a well-executed pump fake gives UCLA a chance for a big play:
Hundley’s pump fake is safe, as he keeps both hands on the football while showing the defensive back the throwing motion. This eliminates the risk of a fumble while still influencing the cornerback out of position. Hundley then uncorks a 49-yard pass with ease, dropping it right into his receiver’s waiting arms.
Even when receivers are not wide open, Hundley is aggressive. On this play he finds the receiver along the sideline with a cornerback and free safety both converging:
Despite minimal margin for error, the connection is made as Hundley’s pass squeaks through the tight throwing window between the defenders.
Hundley is a very athletic quarterback, with the quickness and footwork to leave the pocket when necessary, the speed to run away from defenders, and the strength to take on defenders in tight spaces. In this first example, UCLA faces a 3rd-and-long in the fourth quarter against Arizona:
The Wildcats blitz a linebacker. Hundley recognizes the blitz and, in response, breaks through the line of scrimmage and races into the secondary. Hundley makes one defensive back miss a tackle, and then fights two more defenders at the first down marker to pick up a fresh set of downs at a critical point in the contest.
This next play is from UCLA’s season-opening contest against the University of Virginia. The Bruins face 3rd-and-goal late in the third quarter while trailing by four points:
The Cavaliers blitz and the quarterback tucks the football, breaking through the A Gap. Hundley runs over one a safety on his way to the go-ahead touchdown.
While this is a very athletic play by the signal-caller, it also demonstrates how at times he is overly eager to give up on the pass and become a runner. With the defense blitzing, the quarterback’s first priority should be to find a hot read or mismatch in the secondary to exploit. Hundley, however, tucks the ball without giving the play a chance to develop.
Another play from the contest against USC illustrates how Hundley operated in UCLA’s system. With the offense in the red zone, Hundley runs the read-option. He fakes the handoff to his running back while the offense sets up a screen look on the outside. The quarterback keeps the football and scampers into the end zone for a touchdown:
The defense commits to both the run fake and the screen look, leaving the middle of the field open for Hundley’s run. The quarterback displays good speed here on his race to the goal line.
Hundley ran an offense at UCLA that built the majority of plays off the read-option and play-action. UCLA’s scheme was designed to create mismatches at the linebacker level for receivers and defensive backs, giving Hundley a lot of one-read plays to utilize. According to Lance Zierlein, 54% of his passing attempts in 2014 were within six yards of the line of scrimmage, and 29% of his throws were caught behind the line of scrimmage. As he transitions to the next level, Hundley needs to demonstrate he can work through progressions and throw the ball downfield consistently.
Hundley is very inconsistent operating in the pocket. At times, he displays poise in the backfield, deftly gliding from pressure and climbing the pocket while letting the play develop. Consider this play from the USC game, at the end of a well-executed two-minute drive:
Trojans defensive lineman Leonard Williams (#94) generates pressure on the edge. But the quarterback slides forward, rather than vacating the pocket, and delivers a strong throw on the post route for a touchdown. This play is an example of Hundley at his best in the pocket, and was good enough to be recognized as ITP’s college offensive play of the week.
However, this is not always the case with Hundley in the pocket. We have already seen this on the touchdown run against Virginia: The quarterback immediately ran when blitzed, when he should have looked to make a play in the passing game.
Against Utah, Hundley is again quick to vacate the pocket:
UCLA experienced offensive line problems in 2014, and Hundley was sacked 38 times during the season. But his tendency to look to run first is not a recent development:
On this play from UCLA’s 2013 matchup with Washington, notice how quickly the quarterback looks to escape the pocket. He first tries the left of the formation, but then breaks forward toward the line of scrimmage. Hundley only manages a two-yard gain.
To succeed in the NFL, Hundley needs to be the quarterback he was on that play against USC: one who can stay alive in the pocket while continuing to scan downfield.
Footwork and Mechanics
Another issue facing Hundley is mechanical, specifically his footwork and his throwing motion. With respect to his footwork, watch the drop he executes on this next play:
This is not so much a dropback as it is a shuffle. The quarterback doesn’t use proper fundamentals and never fully completes the drop or gets his feet set. He then looks to break the pocket quickly, before surveying the field. He picks up the first down thanks to his athletic ability, but this footwork is unacceptable for an NFL quarterback.
Hundley operated almost exclusively from the shotgun in college, but there were a few examples of the prospect lined up under center:
He again fails to execute a proper dropback, shuffling into the backfield and never setting his feet. His footwork is far from polished and suffers in comparison with some of the other quarterbacks in this class, such as CSU-Pueblo’s Chris Bonner.
In addition, notice that Hundley keeps the ball low on his chest, rather than near his shoulder. It is more evident on this next play ‒ and likely something you’ll notice if you go back and watch some of the previous plays again:
Keeping the football low on his chest – rather than up near his shoulder – creates a windup/hitch in Hundley’s delivery. The positioning of the football forces him to bring the ball up near his right ear as he begins to throw. Compare his throwing motion to that of three other quarterbacks in this class: Garrett Grayson, Jameis Winston, and Bryce Petty. While the other three players all have mechanical issues of their own, each keeps the ball in a tighter resting position than Hundley.
Footwork and mechanics are clearly on Hundley’s to-do list. Here are two clips from his recent session with Jon Gruden. On this first, he throws a quick curl route from the shotgun. Notice the better ball positioning in the moments before the throw:
By keeping the football closer to his right shoulder, Hundley releases the ball quicker and avoids the windup/hitch element that was present in college.
On this next play, Hundley uses a three-step drop from center to throw a streak:
While still less than ideal, the quarterback’s footwork on the drop from center is much better than the examples shown earlier.
Colin Kaepernick or Geno Smith – Because of the limited offensive scheme at UCLA and the obvious mechanical flaws in his game, Hundley needs time to develop. He must refine his footwork, mechanics, and pocket skills.
Sitting for a year (or more) and improving his mechanics and pocket skills ‒ together with his arm and athletic ability ‒ might eventually result in a player similar to Kaepernick, another quarterback who benefited from time on the sideline.
However, if pressed into action early, the inconsistencies that he was able to mask in college through a combination of scheme and athleticism will be exposed in the NFL, similar to Smith’s experience in New York.
Because of the inconsistencies in the pocket and his mechanical flaws, Hundley earns a third round grade, and projects as a player who must improve significantly to become a starter at the NFL level. However, his athleticism, arm strength, and potential might be enough for a team to reach for him in the second round.
Ideally, he will be drafted by a team with an entrenched but aging starter running an offense that suits his abilities, like the Dallas Cowboys. If given time to refine his footwork and mechanics, and learn an NFL offense and progression system, Hundley can grow into a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.