2015 NFL Draft Prospect You Need To Know: Big 12
You know the name. Bryce Petty wrote it all over the Baylor record book in 2013.
You know the numbers: 250-for-403 (62.0 percent), 4,000 yards, 32 TDs, only three interceptions. Another 209 yards rushing ad 14 rushing touchdowns.
What we don't know yet is what kind of NFL quarterback might Petty make.
Without a doubt, Petty passes the eye test. He's an imposing 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, a slightly shorter Blake Bortles.
You can't argue with his production. But, like children's toys and dog food, you do have to question where it came from.
Petty's prolific stat line was compiled in the spread offense at Baylor, which spreads things wider than most spread schemes. Art Briles' system enabled three different quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence, Petty) to throw for at least 4,200 yards in three consecutive seasons. The Bears run more plays and score more points than anyone outside Eugene, and Petty is going to be on Heisman Watch Lists as the 2014 season unfolds.
As you watch him put up ridiculous numbers again, you must ask yourself these three questions about Petty as a pro prospect:
* Does he have an NFL arm? Even though spread formations and philosophies have found their way into the drinking water of the NFL, quarterbacks have to complete passes downfield, up the middle and along the boundaries. You'll see a lot of Baylor receivers run vertical routes on every snap, but most of the time they're stretching the defense and clearing space for Petty to operate underneath. We know he can complete throws at or just beyond the line of scrimmage all day long. But watch to see how he delivers the ball when he does take shots 10 yards or further down the field.
* Is he accurate with the ball? Colt McCoy completed better than 70 percent of his attempts in the final two years of his career at Texas, but he was closer to a heads-or-tails proposition on every NFL pass. Petty's completion percentage this year should be north of 65 percent, but don't be misled by that statistic. Again, track his percentage on passes 10 yards or longer. If you watch the Oklahoma game from 2013, you'll see a guy who often struggled to complete even the medium throws when pressured. This is perhaps the area where Petty needs to show the most improvement.
* Is he making the right decision? This is the biggest question scouts will ask about Petty or any other spread quarterback. The very raison d'etre for the spread offense is to minimize the considerations a quarterback has to account for in pre-snap reads (often, there's no post-snap read required; what the quarterback decides in pre snap is where he ultimately wind up going with the ball). Ironically, the spread is designed to stretch the defense while at the same time shrink the area of the field where a quarterback has to focus. It will be tough to track watching on television, but try to notice how many times Petty winds up throwing to his second read. The NFL wants to see him work through his progressions, and he simply isn't asked to do that often at Baylor.
Petty is going to be lauded for his ability to stand tall in the pocket under pressure. His mobility will be complimented (RGIII he's not, but he will tuck and run effectively into the heart of a defense stretched upfield and to the boundaries.) He's likely to be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Still, watch for yourself and judge whether he has three of the most important attributes the NFL looks for in its quarterbacks: accuracy, arm strength and decision making, not necessarily in that order. It's in those observations where you will form your opinion about Petty, whether he's a legitimate NFL prospect or the beneficiary of an offense designed for quarterbacks to succeed.