Why would the Aaron Rodgers’ led Green Bay Packers draft Brett Hundley, a QB, in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft? That’s the question that many of us were asking ourselves back in May. And it wasn’t just because the team has arguably the greatest player in the NFL, MVP Aaron Rodgers, manning the helm. It was everything else. Sure, the team needs someone who can back-up Rodgers and compete at an NFL level in case the unthinkable occurs, but isn’t that Scott Tolzien? Isn’t that the young player from Wisconsin who showed resiliency and growth when forced into action early in his development due to Rodgers’ broken clavicle? Wasn’t that the same Tolzien who, by next preseason, seemed to have surpassed Matt Flynn in production, even though just 9 months earlier Flynn had been brought in as a sort of semi-savior for the team?
And maybe Tolzien isn’t the future of the team, but with Rodgers only 30 and wanting to play as long as his body allows, the team won’t be looking for a real replacement for at least another few seasons. So why draft Hundley now?
Moreover, how would taking a development project as a middle round draft pick help the roster overall? Most of us feared that this would simply lead to the loss of a spot for a young player at a real position of need who could contribute right away. In some ways, that worry is warranted. Come September, a player like Jared Abbrederis, Demtri Goodson, or Bruce Gaston may be on the street whereas they would have squeaked onto the final roster had the Packers not taken a relatively high-profile QB who could not be stashed on the practice squad for another season.
Hundley’s story with the Packers had its first paragraph written on Thursday night against the Patriots. While many were surprised to see him jog onto the field before the more experienced Matt Blanchard, Hundley was able to, if not silence, at least quiet some of the critics. Six pass attempts is a small sample size, and while Hundley is far from justifying his 5th round pedigree, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have reasonably expected him to play as well as he did.
Going 4 for 6 for 60 yards with a TD and no INTs was a good start. Hundley lead the way among all 4 competing QBs on Thursday with a QB rating of 138.9. Statistics like that tend to be skewed by such a limited output, but Hundley’s promise shows on the film.
Hundley had a nice 15 yard zip over the middle to Ty Montgomery in his first drive, a 31 yard strike to a wide open Larry Pinkard, and a 10 yard TD pass to John Crockett. But what is even more interesting than these plays are the ones that did not go as well. Hundley showed a great deal of comfort, poise, and athleticism for a rookie playing in his first ever preseason game. Add in some shoddy line play, especially from tackle Don Barclay, and Hundley’s surprisingly natural and composed play really jumps out.
Below is one such illustration. On this play, Hundley has pressure from New England’s Rufus Johnson in his face immediately after completing his drop, but he hangs in the pocket seeing that Pinkard has his man beat deep. He misses the throw, but not by a mile. Is this what you want to see out of your starting QB? Not exactly, but it’s a very encouraging throw for one’s first NFL action.
In the play below, Hundley once again finds himself under pressure from both sides. Some nimble footwork (and a bit of a Barclay hold) allow Hundley to escape and make a terrific throw to Ty Montgomery on the sidelines. As you can see, Montgomery does not make the catch, but that’s on him. Had Hundley been throwing to sideline warrior Jordy Nelson or any of the other first team receivers, this would have been the sort of nifty play that you see multiple times a game from Rodgers.
Finally, on the play below, Hundley makes another great throw to Montgomery on the sidelines. This time Montgomery is double covered, but Hundley shows great ball placement, putting the throw just over the heads of the defensive backs and into Montgomery’s range. Again, Montgomery did not come down with the catch, but it was through no fault of Hundley’s.
It will be interesting to see if Hundley’s performance will merit his receiving a few more reps against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. Certainly a more extended look, something more than just 6 or 7 drop backs, will allow for the coaching staff to get a better grasp of Hundley and how he will play within the rhythm of the professional game. But with the first analysis in, Hundley has shown real promise. It remains to be seen how he fits into the scheme of this offense now and in the future, but if he can continue to stack performances like this one, he may be the strong safety net that Packers fans have been hoping for. If Rodgers really wants to play another 9 or 10 years, the Packers are going to need a solid arm to lean on in those inevitable times of injury to an aging body. With just 6 pass attempts in the books, there is, surprisingly, some hint of real hope that Hundley could be that player. Perhaps learning behind Rodgers just might help. And perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad for a 5th round pick.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.