Hundley heads to Green Bay with 'chip' on shoulder

Ryan Wood
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UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley says he’ll arrive in Green Bay with a “chip” on his shoulder.

Eventually, Brett Hundley had enough. There was nothing positive on television the past couple of days. Pick by pick, round by round, quarterback by quarterback, Hundley watched as others were drafted before him.

By Saturday afternoon, Hundley was looking for something else to do. The UCLA quarterback, who entered this week hoping he had an outside chance of being drafted in the first round, retreated to his bedroom.

Now hoping just to divert his attention from the NFL draft, Hundley turned to one of his favorites. Anything for a few much-needed laughs.

"I came in my room," Hundley said, "and started watching some Family Guy. That was the only thing I had. I had a ping-pong table as well."

This was not how draft weekend was supposed to go for a quarterback many considered the third best behind Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, a pair of Heisman Trophy winners selected Nos. 1 and 2 overall. Over the past few months, Hundley never hesitated when asked where he thought he should be drafted.

The 6-foot-3, 226-pound junior quarterback wanted to go No. 1 – as in first overall in the draft, not just first round.

That was never going to happen, but a precipitous fall to the fifth round was unfathomable. Even the Packers didn't expect Hundley would be available when they got him.

"I was shocked," director of player personnel Eliot Wolf said.

After the draft's first day, general manager Ted Thompson said he declined trade offers from teams trying to nudge their way into the first round. Those potential trades were too skewed in the other team's favor, he said.

This was different.

When the New England Patriots called offering to swap fifth-round picks for nothing more than the Packers' seventh-rounder, Thompson couldn't accept quickly enough. The value was reminiscent of 10 years ago, when Thompson didn't need a quarterback but couldn't pass on drafting a California kid named Aaron Rodgers.

Nobody is predicting Hundley will ever reach Rodgers' lofty status. But, for a quarterback who could develop into a first-round talent down the road, drafting Hundley with the 147th overall pick might become a steal.

"Wasn't really planned," Thompson said. "Just something that happened, and we felt like there was an opportunity there to do something that, quite frankly, we'd always like to do it. But we like taking quarterbacks, and felt like he was a good value pick there."

Hundley said all the right things Saturday. He was humble and grateful, acknowledging that the chance to learn from Rodgers would benefit his development. Hundley used to ask former Packers running back Johnathan Franklin – a college teammate at UCLA – about Rodgers' preparation. He wanted to know how the two-time MVP carried himself on the practice field, in the meeting room.

"Now, I actually get a chance to be up and personal with it," Hundley said. "It's an awesome experience."

But this experience, dropping to the fifth round with no chance to compete for a starting job, clearly was not what Hundley envisioned when he left UCLA one year before his eligibility expired.

Hundley said he doesn't regret leaving school early, even after the past couple of days. Deep down, his disappointment was hard to hide. Three times, Hundley said he'll arrive in Green Bay with a "chip" on his shoulder.

He won't forget watching quarterbacks ranked lower than him by most analysts – Colorado State's Garrett Grayson, Oregon State's Sean Mannion – getting drafted one day before the Packers gave him a chance.

"Not hearing your name called on the second day, it's not to say you get disappointed, but your expectations are hurt," Hundley said. "You expect to go then – at least – and you don't. So then to sit around today and have to wait and look and see quarterback after quarterback after quarterback taken, it really just puts a chip on my shoulder.

"I'm coming in to work and be the best quarterback that I can be, but like I said, I have a chip on my shoulder and I'm ready to work."

No matter Hundley's goals, his need for further development was expected to keep him out of the first round. Wolf raved about Hundley's rare athleticism, big hands and strong arm.

"A lot of upside," he said.

But there's a lot of work for Hundley to do. Start with accuracy. Hundley's ball placement was inconsistent at UCLA, where he was mostly a short-ball thrower. Yes, he completed 69 percent of his passes last season, and his 76.9 accuracy percentage against Power 5 opponents led all quarterbacks in the draft, according to Pro Football Focus. But the Bruins rarely asked Hundley to throw downfield.

Only 11.8 percent of his passes targeted receivers 20 or more yards away from the line of scrimmage, which ranked 35th of 38 quarterbacks. Only 37.7 percent of his passing yards came with the ball in the air, with the rest coming from receivers making plays after the catch.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy wasn't focused on that Saturday. He thought back to studying Hundley's film. Over and over, McCarthy said, the 21-year-old quarterback with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash did things that can't be taught.

For a coach with the track record of developing quarterbacks, that raw, natural ability was intriguing.

"Brett has a ton of that," McCarthy said. "He's a tough guy. That stands out. He's athletic. Everyone wants to be critical. Just like every quarterback, you look at their throwing motions. In my time evaluating quarterbacks, it's tougher to evaluate off film than standing next to the quarterback prospect when he's throwing, but we felt like he had very, very good video.

"There's just a lot there to work with, and I'm excited about having an opportunity to work with him."

Hundley needs more experience reading defenses and taking snaps under center. The transition from UCLA coach Jim Mora's spread offense to McCarthy's hybrid-West Coast offense will be a challenge. Hundley will need to learn more than new terminology. The difference between the two offensive systems is a new way of thinking.

After his first and only encounter with Hundley at the NFL combine in February, Wolf said he walked away thinking Hundley can clear every hurdle.

"I kind of thought he was a football nerd," Wolf said. "He was really engaging. I thought he knew his offense front and back. He was eager to please. He didn't want to talk about anything other than football. It was pretty impressive."

Hundley hopes to keep impressing when he gets to Green Bay. He'll have the chance to compete with former Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien for the right to be Rodgers' backup.

Not what he'd hoped for when the draft started three days ago, but Hundley finally arrived at a point of acceptance Saturday afternoon.

"It's a blessing in disguise," Hundley said, "and you know I have a chip on my shoulder, and I'm coming in to work, and that's what I've come down to. I'm just coming in, I've got my opportunity. That's the way I look at it. It's a blessing in disguise.

"You always have expectations of going No. 1 or high in the draft, but everything happens for a reason, and that's how I look at it. If I'm supposed to be here, this is where I'm supposed to be, and I'm going to make the most of it."

— or follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.

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