Bryce Petty: Beyond the Hype

Bryce Petty is the latest in a line of successful Baylor quarterbacks. Many have said that he may be the most skilled passer of the bunch, and he certainly was able to lead his team to plenty of points.  Still, putting up big numbers and being a big time prospect are often two separate things, so I took a look at his game against Texas Tech (video courtesy of the excellent work done at Draft Breakdown).

Any Bryce Petty scouting report must start before he even takes the snap, as that is where he does nearly all of his reads. He looks at a defense, assesses the situation, and as long as nothing drastically gets altered, he makes his decision of what is going to happen on the play before the ball reaches his fingertips. On this play, Petty is able to recognize that there is no help over the top on the left side of the field. With his slot receiver matched up against single defender, he can see that it is a favorable passing position.

Petty goes through the zone read fake, and recognizes that the slot defender is settling into a zone. He immediately fires a great ball to his slot receiver, and the ball gets there before the safety on the other side of the field can get over to his spot to break up the pass.  Afterwards, the receiver does enough to make the safety look bad and get into the end zone. This is a great throw from Petty, but it is also a very good job of recognizing a favorable matchup before the snap.

Bryce Petty loves the deep ball, and that does not mean that he is simply a quarterback who isn’t afraid to attack downfield. I mean that, in the sense of, if he could marry the deep ball, he would. If there is not a safety over the top on a fly route, he will throw that ball 99% of the time (that number maybe low). He is willing to take chances down the field. In cases like this one, it is a good thing.

Even though the safety badly misplays this ball, it is still a perfect pass from Petty that drops right into the receiver’s hands.  His deep ball accuracy is a very impressive skill. Still, he throws it down the field into good coverage more than I would like as he can get locked in on receivers.

The main thing that jumps out about Bryce Petty is he is a great passer. No matter what level he is throwing to, he is able to get the ball to his receiver accurately to put them in the best possible position to get yards after the catch. He does not have the strongest arm, but he may have the best current passing skills of anyone in this draft class. But it takes more to be a great quarterback than just throwing the ball. Although he is very good at reading things before the snap, he can struggle at making good decisions after the snap.

Even though his receiver almost makes a ridiculous play to make the catch, he was not put in any position where he could reasonably succeed. The corner had ideal position over the top and on the inside. Petty never takes his eye off that receiver, as he decided he was going to throw that ball before the snap and made no attempt at an adjustment despite the coverage that Texas Tech had.

There were also not many examples of Bryce Petty scanning the field after the snap, but this is what happened on the one example where he started looking to his left before pivoting and looking to his right.

Obviously, the result is not ideal. The good is that he was smooth in looking from one side to another, but he didn’t have enough time to hit his receiver who was open in the flat. The bad was his feel in the pocket. He pivoted, but his body did not move at all after making his drop. There was plenty of space in front of him had he stepped up, but he turned into a statue which made the defensive tackle’s job easy. That being said, his guard should have probably been benched just off of that play, as he let the defender get his hands on the inside, yank him out of the way and sack Petty. The only positive for the guard was that he managed to keep his balance so he didn’t fall on his face.

Back to Petty, his lack of pocket awareness was not an isolated incident, as it could be a very serious issue for him going forward.

He just doesn’t move. At all. He takes his drop and if he does not find a receiver, he just stands still and gets clobbered. This lack of pocket presence will be a major issue if he is unable to take steps forward this season.

I love the accuracy with Bryce Petty. I wanted to state that as I am about to make the most disrespectful comparison possible, but he reminds me of Blaine Gabbert. This is not a totally bad thing. Blaine Gabbert was a top-10 pick for a reason. He was extremely accurate and had the arm to make any throw on the football field. Gabbert has shown he can do that at the NFL level. However, Gabbert has never reacted well to pressure, and he never learned to scan the field, because all of his reads were to one side of the field. It worked for him at Missouri, much like it is working great for Petty at Baylor. And although Gabbert did not work out for the Jaguars, it does not mean that Petty is destined to the same fate. Petty has looked bad in these scenarios, but it is also an extremely small sample size. He may have the ability to adapt but without the necessity, he may not show it in college. Many of these guys have been playing football for 10-15 years by the time they enter the draft, so if a prospect doesn’t display a skill, I am not going to project it based on hope. Even though the arm is impressive, without taking major strides forward in his ability to read the field and pocket presence, I can’t put him any higher than a fourth round pick.

Tags: 2015 NFL Draft Baylor Bears Big 12 Blaine Gabbert Bryce Petty Football NFL Draft Quarterback Scouting Report

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