UCLA's Brett Hundley a Dark-Horse 1st-Pick Candidate

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UCLA's Brett Hundley a Dark-Horse 1st-Pick Candidate
USA Today

Every football fan in the country knows about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but out at UCLA there is another quarterback making a run at becoming the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 draft. The NFL knows about Brett Hundley, and fans should too.

 

The Tale of the Tape

6'3", 227 lbs

53 touchdowns, 20 interceptions (career)

320 career rushes

 

Accuracy

Many college quarterbacks are spending their Saturdays throwing checkdowns and bubble screens, but not at UCLA. The Bruins offense asks Hundley to move the ball down the field. The quarterback in this system must read the field, find the best option and deliver passes at varying levels. That's great for showcasing Hundley's accuracy and understanding of space.

Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com

Want an NFL-level play from Hundley? This throw against Nebraska shows it all.

The Cornhuskers show an off coverage at the snap—the cornerback near the top of the video is eight yards off the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Hundley reads this pre-snap and knows where his primary target is. 

Post-snap, Hundley does a good job of letting the play develop. He has options on the right side of the formation with the deep sideline route and the underneath seam route from the slot receiver. He holds the safety as long as possible before cutting the coverage with a sideline throw.

The ball placement here is perfect as Hundley drops the ball between the cornerback and the closing safety. This is called "dropping it in the bucket" and is executed to perfection. Over the course of watching his 2013 season, I saw many times when Hundley threw this same route with the same ball placement.

He is able to make this throw consistently, and it is one of the most difficult passes a quarterback will be asked to make.

Hundley can get erratic at times if you're looking for a spot-on pass every throw. The good in that is his passes are generally catchable. You don't see him completely miss the mark on many throws—and every quarterback will miss several throws per game—and his missteps are still close enough to be reeled in.

 

Pocket Presence

The area where Hundley scores best right away is in pocket presence. In the pocket he's strong, fluid and moves with grace whether pressured from the front or the side.

Hundley is a physically strong player, and defenders will struggle to bring him down. He uses that strength to his advantage and doesn't get impatient in the pocket or look to tuck and run too soon. He resets his feet and shoulders well when scanning the field and has a light bounce in his step at the top of his drop.

One fix NFL scouts will want from Hundley is avoiding traveling backward away from the line of scrimmage when pressured. Many young quarterbacks like to try to spin out of pressure and start pulling themselves away from the line, and Hundley likes to do this too by reversing out of the pocket. This will set up jaw-dropping runs and moves in the pocket but is something NFL teams will want to limit.

Hundley seems to hold on to the ball for too long at times, but compared to the other top-tier quarterbacks in college football during the 2013 season, he was working with the least amount of NFL-caliber talent. The aforementioned problem could be a habit the NFL needs to break, but it could also be brought on by receivers struggling to get open or linemen struggling to sustain a block.

 

Mechanics

Mechanics can make or break a quarterback, especially when it comes to his lower-body mechanics in the pocket.

The Jacksonville Jaguars reinvented Blake Bortles' lower-half mechanics in the offseason, and he looks like a different quarterback through the preseason. With Hundley, no revision is needed.

Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com

When a quarterback locks on to a target and sets up to throw, you want to see alignment of the shoulder, core, hip and feet. The lead shoulder (which is Hundley's left) should point to the intended target. The core should line up with the hips in a loaded position (you want the hips and shoulders aligned as opposed to having the shoulders opposite the hips) and the front foot (again, Hundley's left) pointed to the target.

This lines up the quarterback's body and allows for a quick, powerful torque to throw the ball.

The key to improved consistency for Hundley is to maintain this platform on all throws. He has struggled with accuracy on the move because he doesn't reset his shoulders and align his body on the move. This is something the Jaguars (and quarterback coach Jordan Palmer) fixed with Bortles to great early success. Hundley can make this same tweak and will see quick improvements in his accuracy on the run.

The biggest negative in Hundley's game as it was in 2013 is that movement creates a disjointed throwing platform. This is an easy fix with repetition, though, and is only a long-term factor if he cannot adjust his motion on the move.

 

Football Intelligence (FBI)

The popularity of spread offenses in college—be it the Air Raid or the read-option—has led to fewer quarterbacks reading the entire field. Pro-style offenses, like the one run at UCLA, are becoming a rarity, and so too are quarterbacks in college with experience diagnosing coverages.

Hundley handles the complexities of the offense well and works across the entire field when scanning for a target. This is not a one-read offense. This is not a half-field offense. Hundley is expected to work the entire field, and does.

Moving to an NFL offense will not be difficult for Hundley. He will have to adapt to the speed of the pros, just like every other rookie, but from a reads and execution standpoint, he's ready.

 

Comparison

Comparisons for Hundley have ranged from Donovan McNabb to Cam Newton, but when I watch the big UCLA quarterback I see a Ryan Tannehill-like athlete. Hundley does seem much further ahead in terms of vision and pocket presence than Tannehill ever was at Texas A&M, but the two passers share a style.

As a runner, Hundley does remind me of Newton, thanks to his power, but he's not an explosive open-field mover. 

When looking at Hundley's pocket presence and throwing motion, I see more of a Matt Ryan-type arm. Mix Ryan's accuracy and touch with Tannehill's speed and Newton's power, and you have Hundley.

Heading into the 2014 season, Hundley is one of my favorite players in the draft class, regardless of position. The junior signal-caller has a clear shot at being the No. 1 quarterback and No. 1 overall player taken if his play continues at the high levels seen in 2013.

On a talent grade alone, Hundley looks like a top-five pick.

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