Brett Hundley entered the season as our 2nd highest draft eligible quarterback. He flashed as a redshirt freshman last year, possessing the NFL-level arm strength and showcasing plus running ability. And while the mistakes in coverage reads or decision making were prevalent, much was forgiven thanks to his youth and expected development.
But so far this season, Hundley hasn’t made the necessary progressions to merit the high first round grade he received from us early in the season. And in last week’s Oregon game, likely his hardest test of the year, put Hundley’s struggles in post-snap reads, decision making, and ball placement on display in a brutal 42-14 loss.
Hundley’s biggest area of concern has been one that’s plagued him since he became the starter for the UCLA Bruins: Decision making. It affects him in multiple areas and is why he tends to be so streaky. He tends to be over-reliant on the play call or by something he sees post-snap, and either forces throws or quickly shifts his eyes to running lanes.
At times, he’s been able to get away with it through this season, thanks to well-designed pass protection (including in last week’s game) or effective combo routes by his receivers, including in the Nebraska game earlier this year.
Hundley seems to lack the necessary confidence in his receivers and/or the timing on route breaks to take advantage of added pressure by the defense. Multiple times he passed on the quick slant or deep hitch because he didn’t correctly anticipate the timing of the route and missed first down opportunities. While he was able to improv a handful of missed throws into running first downs thanks to crafty running and a tough-to-bring-down stature, Hundley can’t afford to bank on that at the NFL level.
With that, let’s look at the four plays that encapsulate why Hundley struggled to score vs. Oregon and why teams may start to look elsewhere for first round quarterbacks.
Play #1 – Hundley Passes On Two Open Receivers With No Safety
On 3rd down, Brett Hundley clearly reads seven rushers, especially thanks to his running back coming in motion. With three receivers (not shown) and a running back coming out of the backfield, there’s no high safety, meaning that as long as the line can hold up for just a second or two, there should be at least one open route.
While not perfect and there’s an obvious gap on the left side, Hundley has ample time to set his feet and make a throw, with the Oregon rush taking longer to get to him than expected. A twisting linebacker falls in front of him, and Hundley seems to panic, disregarding all footwork and immediately looking to run despite having a 1-2 yard halo around him. His first read should have been the in-breaking slot receiver, who wins to get inside and has literally 80 yards of space for Hundley to work with. After him, the out-route should have been the other pre-snap read for Hundley, and he has ample separation for Hundley’s arm strength be utilized. Instead, Hundley decides to run despite it being a very poor decision, and multiple miss tackles allow Hundley to pick up a first down. While this play didn’t lead to a turnover thanks to Hundley’s athleticism, it’s a clear example of why Hundley hasn’t developed the necessary post-snap reads or trust in his receivers.
Play #2 – Indecisive Hundley Doesn’t Anticipate Two Open Routes
Similar to the previous play, the Oregon Ducks decided throughout their entire gameplan to force Hundley to beat them in straight man coverage on most passing downs. Here again, the Ducks come with 5-6 rushers (one on either a delayed blitz or a spying linebacker) and no strong side safety. The Bruins have a near perfect playcall, having an in-breaking route against a safety to the open side of the field, and a receiver streaking along the sideline with no safety help.
The offensive line does a plus job in delaying time, giving Hundley time to stand in the pocket. Despite looking right at his now open receiver (obvious by his eye level in the below picture) and the outside receiver having vertical leverage on his defensive back, Hundley chooses to ignore both routes. Instead, following the below screen shot, Hundley decides to rollout to his left, right into pressure, and misses both reads.
Play #3 – Hundley Doesn’t Stand Tall Under Pressure, Misses First Down Route
With just five rushers coming, Hundley should have time to set his feet and deliver a strike for a first down on this early third down. With trips to his left and a wide receiver to his right, he should notice he has a deep safety on a slot receiver. That receiver will be running an in-route right at the first down marker, which should be Hundley’s primary (and only) read pre-snap.
Taylor Hart of Oregon immediately disrupts the play with a brilliant swim move, and forces Hundley to react quicker than he wants to. However, he still has a good second until Hart will make contact with him. With the in-route having plenty of separation from his safety, Hundley only needs to wait another step before his receiver will be open and he can throw the ball, albeit taking a shot. Instead, he bails on the play and decides to roll right to evade pressure.
Despite passing on the open throw to pick up the first down, Hundley’s able to escape the initial route and rollout to his right to evade the pressure. However, despite moving and having his slot receiver still open, he chooses to pass on the throw and instead look vertically to his double covered X-receiver. He throws a jump ball near the sideline that expectedly gave no one a chance to make a play on the ball in-bounds.
Play #4 – Hundley’s Overconfidence Pre-Snap Leads to Poor Throw, Interception
The final play (just a GIF) was potentially Hundley’s worst throw and potentially the most concerning given his hesitation throughout the game to make throws. After leading his team on a fantastic drive down the field, Hundley chose his receiver pre-snap, stared him down the entire time, and tried to throw a back shoulder fade. However, there were FOUR defenders in the area, and two Oregon defenders had a chance to intercept it (one did). If Hundley hesitates to make throws based off of post-snap recognition, but ALSO makes throws off his (inaccurate) pre-snap at reads at times, what does that say about his defensive recognition and decision making? Certainly concerning for his NFL prospects.
After an efficient drive down the field, Hundley stares down his receiver, throws back shoulder throw despite CB in perfect position and a LB fading back. Four defenders on that half of the field, with only one receiver.
Brett Hundley struggled mightily in his team’s loss against Oregon, specifically mentally in his decision making and post-snap reads. While his size, arm strength, running potential, and flashes of plus ball placement across the field give the scent of a future NFL starter, it’s clearer than ever that Hundley simply isn’t ready mentally for the NFL.
The concern now is if he’ll ever get to that level. It’s now his second year in this offense, and he hasn’t “grown” much as a passer despite having Jim Mora Jr. to aid in his development.
After touting him as a potential Top 5 pick in the pre-season, I feel far less confident in Hundley’s future as an NFL starter. If he does declare (expected), he certainly could work his way back into good favor with impressive interviews and private workouts. However, I’d be a surprise if team’s didn’t choose names like Bridgewater, Mariota, Mettenberger, and Boyd over Hundley on draft day to start. But, with his skill set, he very well could still end up as a Top 10 pick if he declares.
Hundley certainly has the upside and potential to be a Top 5 pick, and based off the promise he showed earlier in his career, I think he can still get there. But Hundley’s not ready, yet. And NFL team’s should be very wary on banking on him as their franchise passer anytime soon. And while I’ll wait and expect him to improve, I can’t say most NFL team’s will feel confident in their ability to develop him.