"Someone will draft [Brett Hundley], but I don't think he will ever be a starter," an AFC scout told NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein before the 2015 NFL Draft. "He can't read coverages and struggles to process. It is going to take a few years before he looks like a backup in my opinion. He has a long way to go."
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It's been a few years and the Packers, who drafted him in the fifth round following an unexpected fall, are sure hoping he looks like a starter, not a backup.
Hundley is a former four-star recruit from Chandler, Ariz., who was the fourth-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2011 class, two spots behind Braxton Miller and one ahead of Teddy Bridgewater. He picked UCLA over Arizona, Oregon and others and was a three-year starter, completing 67.4 percent of his passes for 9,966 yards, 75 touchdowns and 25 interceptions, while adding 1,747 yards and 30 scores on the ground.
Once believed to have first-round potential, Hundley's stock didn't rise as a draft-eligible junior in 2014. Instead, most scouts and analysts believed he was a second-day pick, at best, with some even speculating he could fall to Saturday. And that's exactly what happened. The Packers selected him with the 147th pick (No. 11) in the fifth round, doing so by moving up 19 spots for him in exchange for a fifth- and seventh-round pick.
Why did he fall?
"Hundley never took the next step in his development at UCLA," said Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "Instead, he took a big leap backward as he tried to be more pro-style in 2014. Playing from the pocket caused him to panic too often when pressured, and it severely affected his accuracy.
Miller also questioned his ability to read defenses and tendency to hold onto the ball too long, saying he was "trying to win from the pocket."
"Mechanically, Hundley is solid but needs work. His weight transfer is very bad at times, and he looks lackadaisical when the throw is easy. Hundley needs a great quarterback coach to push him to master his footwork and teach him to slide up and over in the pocket."
His quarterbacks coach was and still is Alex Van Pelt, who took over the position in 2014 after Ben McAdoo left for the Giants' offensive coordinator job. Aaron Rodgers has lauded Van Pelt, saying, "he gets the game," and he has "a lot of respect for him."
Van Pelt has not only helped Rodgers post Madden-like numbers the last three-plus seasons, he's also been responsible for developing Hundley, who didn't play as a rookie and attempted just 10 passes (two completions for 17 yards and one interception) in 2016. The Packers think Hundley can be an adequate replacement to Rodgers — who was potentially lost for the season with a broken collarbone in Week 6 — for many of the same reasons he was an attractive-enough draft prospect.
"Willing to stand in and take the hit when he zeroes in on his target," Zierlein wrote. "Willing to get take downfield shot and give his receiver a chance to make the play. Has the ability to maneuver inside of pocket to buy time. Poised enough from pocket. Has adequate release and enough arm when he sits down on his throws. Above-average foot quickness to escape pocket.
"Hit 57-yard play-action touchdown from under center against Washington in 2014 (just seven attempts under center all year). Good sense of pocket pressure and is decisive when he decides to bolt. Dangerous as a runner with enough speed to hit a big play on the ground. Dual-threat ability increases his effectiveness in red zone. Displays his toughness almost every time out."
The Packers are going to need his speed, toughness and ability to maneuver inside the pocket — and much, much more — to beat the Saints in Week 7 and stay afloat the remainder of the 2017 season.