Why the Interest in Bryce Petty?

We examine three reasons why the Packers are breaking from their long-established history and showing deep interest in potential second-round pick Bryce Petty, the star quarterback from Baylor. (Glenn Andrews/USA TODAY)

Bryce Petty?

The news that the Green Bay Packers are bringing in the Baylor star quarterback for a predraft visit was fascinating for many reasons.

Packer Report has been tracking the team’s predraft visits for the last several years. To be sure, plenty of these top-secret visits are kept well under the media radar. However, to our knowledge, the earliest draft choice to visit the Packers under general manager Ted Thompson was T.J. Lang. Lang, a fourth-round pick in 2009, wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine, so there was plenty of reason to deviate from the usual plan of using the visits as recruiting tools for undrafted free agents.

More than anything regarding Petty, there’s this question: Why on earth would the Packers be contemplating using a Day 2 pick on a quarterback when Aaron Rodgers is nowhere close to being on the decline and there are much bigger needs than finding a No. 2 quarterback?

We’ll try to unravel the thinking.

Petty’s medical history: Petty suffered two minor bone fractures in his back during the 2014 season-opening game against SMU. The injury cost Petty one game. One scout said the medical report didn’t take Petty off his team’s board but did impact its quarterback rankings. If enough quarterback-hungry teams think like that, could Petty fall to the Packers at the bottom of the third? Maybe not, but if any general manager knows it has to expect the unexpected, it would be Thompson, who pounced on Rodgers’ shocking slide in 2005. And if not for this year, the Packers might be interested in digging a bit further into that injury should he become available down the road.

The Packers really want him, Part 1:

After seeing the 2013 season almost go down the drain without a competent No. 2 quarterback, maybe the Packers are ready to go all-in on having a winning backup plan. After all, they really don’t know what they have in Scott Tolzien. Tolzien has enough arm strength and mobility, plus undeniable intelligence and work ethic. He performed well last preseason, which provides some reason to believe, but at quarterback you never really know until you know.

So why bring in Petty? After two big-time seasons at Baylor and a week at the Senior Bowl, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of video.

However, Petty operated a spread offense at Baylor — a nightmare for scouts and coaches. Almost nothing — from calling the play in the huddle, to taking a snap from center to going through reads — translates to the NFL. It might be worth spending a day with him to see how he can digest an NFL scheme and decipher NFL defenses.

Of note, one coach who’s not bothered as much by all of that is Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy. He sees it as “great training” for the situations that often determine who wins and loses.

“There was a time when people felt the shotgun and all this wide-open offense in college would hinder a quarterback playing in the NFL because you have to teach them to get under center,” he said at the Scouting Combine. “The reality of it is pressure, third down, key situational football is the biggest challenge for a young quarterback and I think these college programs have done an outstanding job of playing wide-open and asking the quarterbacks to do more. I think they’re much better prepared today than they were when I first got in the league. So, I think the transition for college quarterbacks coming in has been smoother, in my opinion.”

The Packers really want him, Part 2:

It’s high time for the Packers to draft a quarterback, with 2012 seventh-rounder B.J. Coleman being the only quarterback drafted since Brian Brohm (second round) and Matt Flynn (seventh round) in 2008.

More than that, maybe Thompson wants to get the Packers back in the business of developing and trading quarterbacks, like they did under Ron Wolf. In 1993, Wolf drafted Mark Brunell in the fifth round (No. 118). Two years later, Wolf dealt Brunell to Jacksonville for third- and fifth-round picks (Nos. 66 and 170). In 1999, Wolf drafted Aaron Brooks in the fourth round (No. 131). About 18 months later, Wolf sent Brooks to New Orleans for a third-round pick (No. 98).

Maybe it’s Petty. Maybe it’s someone else, like Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. But in a couple of years, could the Packers turn a Day 2 pick in this draft into a first-rounder? A late-round pick into a third-rounder? A quarterback who has watched behind Rodgers and learned under McCarthy would be intriguing for any quarterback-hungry team in 2017. And considering the spread of the spread offense, it’s not going to become any easier finding a franchise quarterback in a couple years. If you’re Team X, why not let the Packers get your franchise quarterback get ready?

Will the Packers draft Petty, even if he’s available at No. 62? Probably not. But that they’re hosting Petty on a visit provides an intriguing glimpse into the thinking at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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