If you haven’t followed my work over the last decade or so, perhaps you don’t know that I tend to go against the popular opinion. I refuse to believe hype on players if I have evaluated and come out less than impressed. Hype such as Marcus Mariota being worth a massive trade up by the Philadelphia Eagles, or even being a first round pick. Perhaps you haven’t read my views on Mariota yet, so here you go.
But this article isn’t about Mariota. It’s about the lack of respect and that Brett Hundley gets for being a quality quarterback. I am not here to make excuses for anyone, but there is a lot that people are overlooking with Hundley.
Let’s talk about his measurables. Hundley came into February’s NFL Scouting Combine at 6’3 226 with very solid 10 1/2 inch hands. Running a 4.63 forty yard dash, Hundley showed his down field speed, while also showing nice agility with a very impressive 3.98 second 20 yard shuttle. His frame is exceptional and his big hands help to protect the football when things get a bit rough in the pocket. Overall physically, Hundley has absolutely everything you need in a franchise quarterback. But can he play?
Let’s start with his opportunities for improvement. The biggest concern with Hundley is the fact that he got sacked a ridiculous 125 sacks in three years. I’m going to throw out some stats out here that some are going to say are excuses, but if you know anything about college football, they matter significantly. Let’s take a peak at the offensive lines that Hundley has had the um… pleasure of throwing behind.
Freshman Season – Xavier Su’a-Filo (So.), Greg Capella (Jr.), Jake Brendel (Fr.), Jeff Baca (Sr.), Brett Downey (Sr.)
Sophomore Season – Simon Goines (So.), Xavier Su’a-Filo (Jr.), Jake Brendel (So.), Caleb Benenoch (Fr.), Torian White (So.)
Junior Season – Conor McDermott (Fr.), Alex Redmond (So.), Jake Brendel (Jr.), Scott Quessenberry (So.), Caleb Benenoch (So.)
So, what does this tell us? This tells us that Hundley had the same center for three seasons, a stud and eventual second round pick on the left side in Xavier Su’a-Filo, and as a freshman, an underwhelming eventual sixth round pick in Jeff Baca. Other than that, this offensive line was seemingly new every single season, having little time to gel, while also facing top tier NCAA schedules.
As a freshman, Hundley was sacked 52 times on 479 drop backs, for an abysmal 9.2 drop backs per sack. The number improved slightly in Hundley’s sophomore year having 10.5 drop backs per sack, while taking a small step back as a junior with 10.3 drop backs per sack.
His junior season was still productive completing 69.1% of his passes, despite suffering a sack every 10 attempts, dealing with an offensive line ranked 115th in the nation with an awful Adjusted Sack Rate of 74.8, and an even worse sack rate of 15.7% on passing downs, ranked 128th in the country. (Stats courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com)
So the next question is how many of these sacks were due to Hundley holding the ball too long, struggling to read through his progressions, or moving out of the pocket and running into sacks while trying to extend the play? Unfortunately we don’t have a quantitative statistic that can show those numbers. Common sense tells us that a quarterback that can complete 69.1% of his passes against the seventh ranked schedule in nation according to the Jeff Sagarin rating system, likely isn’t fully to blame for such petty sack statistics.
If I can make a quick comparison, Marcus Mariota in 2014 averaged a sack on every 14 drop backs playing against the 20th ranked schedule, which includes his matchups against #2 Florida State and #4 Ohio State. To add to Mariota’s success, he had the luxury of playing with three seniors on the offensive line, including two of which are likely Top 100 draft picks in Hronis Grasu at center and Jake Fisher at left tackle.
But this isn’t about comparing Mariota and Hundley. I’ll save that for a rainy day. This is about Brett Hundley and the flack he gets for taking so many sacks.
What I will say is that there are times in which Hundley struggles to get the ball out on time, but the sacks that he took while at UCLA are much more to blame on extremely inconsistent offensive line play who seemed to gel in getting a push in the run game, but couldn’t pass protect to save their lives. Luckily, Hundley got to rely on the play action a bit more as a junior thanks to the help he received from Paul Perkins running the ball for 6.27 yards per carry.
But there’s only so much the run game can do when you have a 10 win team with a defense that barely finished in the Top 50 overall, and had you playing with almost no lead. Funny how nobody seems to recognize UCLA’s 11th ranked first round rank in 2014 while playing having an offensive strength of schedule rank of 3rd overall in the entire nation. UCLA’s ability to sustain drives of 10 plays or longer was lacking, something that one can speculate could be affected negatively by the 120th ranked starting field position in the NCAA in 2014.
Yet it’s funny how Hundley led the team to 29 wins in three seasons, including two bowl wins in his previous two seasons.
So what else is being said about Hundley that’s keeping him out of the first round discussion? He’s said to be inaccurate throwing on the run. This one is hard to dispute because he does tend to throw across his body at times, and lets the ball sail more often than not. While Hundley is a tremendous athlete that can make plays with his feet, he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently make smart decisions with the ball when leaving the pocket and that surely is a problem. The issue with this opportunity is that it’s absolutely fixable. This is fixable by improving his footwork overall which could use a touch up.
The guy has a great arm and can make all of the NFL throws. He puts good zip on his passes and can make the ball stick in the receivers hands. But at times when he sets up to throw, he gets happy feet and will make off-balance throws. But can you blame him for the happy feet? I mean look at the tape, as the pocket collapses regularly for him barely giving him time to get through his progressions (that he has shown the ability to succeed with), and forcing him to settle for a check down, or to take off and make a play with his feet.
Here are a couple videos that may help you see just how often the pocket collapses. (Thanks to DraftBreakdown for the excellent videos)
My own personal problem with this article is that it seems like I’m making excuses for Hundley’s lack of top tier success at the college level. But I won’t apologize for something that’s accurate because he lacked true weapons at receiver, lacked veterans on the offensive line, and seemed to always have to play with a collapsed pocket.
One legitimate knock on Hundley is that he attempts to do too much and I blame that on the fact that he’s a 21 year old kid who started on an offense without a lot of talent overall. It’s completely natural for the star quarterback and highly anticipated recruit to come in, take over the offense and attempt to be a player while under the national spotlight on a week to week basis. People said that guys like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford tried to do a bit too much as well, and while I will not compare him to any of those quarterbacks, the depth chart situations offensively for Luck and Wilson were above average at best, although Luck benefited heavily from an offensive line that could keep him upright.
Nobody seems to remember his clutch ability, completing 129 of his 173 passes (74.5%) for 11 touchdowns and two interceptions when the team was losing by no more than 14 points. As a matter of fact, if you want Hundley to work on something, it’s his ability to manage the game when leading by more than a touchdown, in which he completed just 62.9% of his passes, another opportunity that is more than manageable.
The fact is that Hundley is a winner. He took a program with fringe bowl eligible talent to three bowl games in his three starting seasons and helped be the positive change that this UCLA program needs. Hundley and UCLA’s success was a big factor in them landing an 11th ranked recruiting class for 2015, which is a massive improvement of the 2011 recruiting class in which Hundley was featured that was ranked 45th in the nation.
He’s an exceptional person on and off the field and a role model for the youth that follow the NFL, something he never seems to get praise for because everyone is too busy talking about just how amazing of a person Marcus Mariota is (which is true, but unfair to withhold from multiple players).
Clearly there are some opportunities for Hundley, the biggest being his footwork and his ability to step into his throws to make consistent passes over the middle of the field. It is a concern, but it’s also something that a brilliant kid with exceptional intangibles and physical ability can work on. After a strong pro day on March 10th, a strong combine, we will see Brett Hundley drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Will he in front of Marcus Mariota? He should be, but that’s not a guarantee at this moment.
It’s time for some of you to take a reality check and give this kid a chance. The talent, ability and ceiling is through the roof. A great coach can take Hundley and make him a superstar. Don’t listen to all of this “he’s a backup at best” nonsense because this prospect has everything you want in a quarterback: leadership, intangibles, physical ability, toughness and that moxy.
Get ready to hear Brett Hundley’s name called in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft and if you are surprised, then it may be a good idea to go watch some film.