One look at the size, arm strength, and dual-threat capabilities of Brett Hundley, and immediately one considers his potential and upside. But, as excited as some fans are about the possibility that the UCLA quarterback could become a Ram in a few months, I just don’t see how he’s a fit.
Hundley has ideal size for the position at 6’3″ and 227 pounds. He’s also athletic, can make all throws (including the pivotal 20-yard out), and showed improvement in key areas from his sophomore to junior seasons. But get beyond the surface traits and that’s where the concerns lie.
The system that he ran at UCLA allowed him to make one read and then get the ball out of his hand quickly. Too many times he would lock onto his primary receiver and if the pressure forced him to take his eyes down, they never came back up to look for open targets.
Much like Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Hundley uses his athleticism to extend plays and often wound up on highlight reels this past fall. But unlike Wilson, Hundley will use that athleticism as a runner instead of buying himself more time to find open receivers. Wilson is constantly looking to make a play with his arm and uses his legs as a last-ditch effort to gain yardage. Hundley is the opposite.
Pro quarterbacks have a lot to compute during a given play: Will my protection hold up based on the look I’m receiving from the defense? Where is my “hot” receiver? What type of adjustment will my primary and secondary receivers need to make based on the coverage? Is the middle of the field closed (Cover 3 or Cover 1), or is it open (Cover 2 or Cover 4)? What coverage did they show me post-snap? What is my progression based on the coverage?
It’s not Hundley’s fault that he wasn’t asked to run a pro-style offense with the Bruins. But his limited experience reading defenses could hinder his ability to play right away in the NFL. His learning curve will be steeper than that of former Louisville signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater, who the Vikings selected in the first round of last year’s draft and who ran a pro-style offense in college. This isn’t unlike Johnny Manziel, Bryce Petty or any other young signal-caller trying to make the leap from college to the NFL.
Think about what it was like for you the first few months at a new job: You’re lost, you’re confused, you’re overwhelmed and everyone is moving at top speed compared to you. But over time you have a better understanding of your responsibilities and you become more efficient in accomplishing day-to-day tasks. Your confidence also grows and you start acting instead of thinking through every move.
Hundley has the raw tools in order to succeed but it may take him a few years to get comfortable running a pro-style offense. If he winds up in Philadelphia running Chip Kelly’s system, his learning curve lessens because of Kelly’s use of “packaged plays” and “college” concepts. But if Hundley is drafted into a pro-style system, it’s going to take him time to adjust. And the fact that he ran a “college” system at UCLA, it makes it difficult to evaluate how he’ll transition to the pro game.
Quarterbacks like Hundley that operated mostly out of the shotgun in college struggle taking snaps from under center in the pros. It’s not the physical act of taking the snap but rather getting out from under center with urgency, having a proper drop, and timing footwork and throwing mechanics to hit receivers on time. Hundley already struggles with ball placement in the intermediate game and that’s not something that will improve until he has a firm grasp of the mechanics of taking a snap from center. Again, this isn’t something he’ll never be good at, but it could take time.
This is where the Rams come in. They don’t have time to groom a quarterback. They should have selected a QB in the middle rounds last year because that player would have likely had an opportunity to gain experience once Sam Bradford was injured again in preseason. Now they have a defense built to win and the pressure to end a decade’s worth of losing, but they have questions at the most impactful position in all of sports.
The Rams have never wavered from their desire to bring Bradford back in 2015.
After Jeff Fisher met with Bradford to discuss hiring Frank Cignetti as offensive coordinator, it’s clear that the team is committed to running a pro-style offense. If Bradford were to be injured again, it would be nice to see the Rams have the option to turn to a youngster that has a mix of both upside and at least an understanding of pro-style passing concepts. That’s not Hundley.
Unfortunately for the Rams and other quarterback-starved teams, this is a weak class for signal-callers. Hundley might be an attractive option based on his raw skill set, but he isn’t going to be ready to play right away. Over the next few months I’ll discuss other options for the Rams at quarterback, but their margin for error will still be miniscule.