An in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 15. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.
Player of the Week: Bryce Petty (QB, Baylor):
After waiting his turn to take over as leader of the Baylor Bears offense, Bryce Petty has made the most of his opportunities. Baylor finished the regular season with the number one ranked offense in the country, averaging 581.3 YPG. Their offense is built around speed and tempo and they ran a total of 1,064 plays this season, 31 more than the second ranked team (Arizona- 1,033).
A talented athlete, Petty stands 6'3” and 230 pounds and has the speed to beat defensive ends around the corner on zone read plays. He has missed some time with a back injury earlier this season and a concussion against Texas Tech late in the year.
While explosive in nature, the Baylor offense is not complex. It relies on short, quick throws that are intended to put the ball into the wide receiver's hands as quickly as possible. This past weekend, Baylor took on Kansas State who finished the regular season with the 81st ranked pass defense in FBS.
Petty had a fantastic game; he finished 34 of 40 for 412 yards, one TD, one INT, and was sacked twice. His average snap- to-pass time was 1.87 seconds. This is by far the quickest time I have recorded from a quarterback this season.
With such quick and easy throws, Petty isn't asked to read defenses, look off a saftey and drop the ball into a tight window. The average depth of intended target against Kansas State was 8.7 yards downfield. His receivers are lightning-quick and have the ability to score any time they get the ball in their hands. Petty's receivers averaged 5.7 yards per run after the catch yards this past weekend.
Below is a breakdown of Bryce Petty's pass attempts by yards thrown to intended target:
0-9 yards downfield: 26-27, 247 yards, 1 INT, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 1.48 sec.
10-19 yards downfield: 5-8, 78 yards, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 2.61 sec.
20+ yards downfield: 2-4, 87 yards, 1 TD, average snap-to-pass-time was 2.17 sec.
As noted earlier, the Baylor offense is predicated on quick strikes and giving receivers the opportunity to pick up extra yards after the catch. Baylor had a total of 181 yards after the catch versus Kansas State.
With predetermined reads that boils the Baylor offense to basically playing pitch and catch, Petty isn't asked to get outside the pocket. He had a total of three attempts outside the pocket; he was one for three on those throws, resulting in just 19 yards and one INT. The interception came on a throw where he was going to his right when he threw back across his body towards to the middle of the field. The defensive back made a great play, laying out to come away with the interception. Petty has to understand that you can't make that throw.
Opposing defenses have little time to react and place pressure on Petty. It is hard to gain a full scope of his abilities under duress when he delivers the ball in such a quick snap to pass time. He was 18 for 18 on snap to pass times under 1.5 seconds. The average depth of intended target on these throws was only 3.4 yards downfield. The Baylor receivers average yards after the catch on these passes were 6.7 yards.
Petty's production on third down will be highly scrutinized during the lead up to the NFL Draft. He has a combined career 64 percent completion rate on first and second down. On third down, his career completion percentage drops to 55.3 percent. He has thrown for more interceptions on third down in his career (4) than any other down. His drop in production from first and second down to third down is similar to Jacksonville Jaguars first round pick, Blake Bortles.
With the recent decline in play from Petty's predecessor (RGIII), some teams will be wary of selecting a quarterback who played in the same offense. While he has the production, there is still a lot of learning and development that is needed to get Petty into a position where he can be a successful NFL quarterback.
Arie Kouandjio (OG, Alabama):
A two year starter for the Crimson Tide, Kouandjio has seen action in 39 career games. Last season, he only allowed two sacks and was part of an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks per game in the SEC (1.3). This season, Kouandjio and the rest of the Alabama offensive line have allowed just 13 sacks all season and are first in allowing the fewest sacks per game (1.0).
Arie Kouandjio is the younger brother and former teammate of Cyrus Kouandjio, who was selected in the second round by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL Draft.
A big wide-bodied road grader, Kouandjio has little problems mauling over his opponent to open up a wide open running lane. He is able to get into good position, lock his arms onto an opponent and ride the defender out into space and away from the action. His ability to sustain his blocks for a long period is one area of his game that helps separate him from the rest of the interior lineman in this year's NFL Draft.
Against Missouri in the SEC Championship game, Kouandjio and the Alabama offensive line pushed around the smaller Missouri defensive line to the tune of 242 rushing yards on 49 attempts, a 4.9 YPC and four rushing touchdowns.
Alabama had a total of 26 designed runs to Kouandjio's gap, which resulted in 146 yards, an average 5.6 YPC, and three touchdowns. The Alabama coaches look to Kouandjio's side when they are in short yardage situations. He has the ability to plow over defenders and open up running lanes for his tailbacks.
He did allow one quarterback pressure against Missouri and this had more to do with the quarterback stepping up too far in the pocket. Kouandjio was pushed back onto his heels. He did recover, but not in enough time to allow his quarterback the opportunity to evade the sack.
For a player of his size, 6'5” and 315 pounds, Kouandjio has good quickness and his ability to get down the field on screens is very impressive. A few times throughout the game, Kouandjio was ten or fifteen yards downfield blocking whoever came into the picture.
While he might not be as sought after as his brother, Kouandjio is a talented interior offensive lineman who has experience in a man blocking scheme. He has the tools to be a successful starter in the NFL, or at the very least, provide quality depth along the offensive line.
Josh Harper (WR, Fresno State):
Fresno State lost a lot of weapons on offense after last season, most notably their starting quarterback and wide receiver, Derek Carr and Davante Adams who went to the NFL. They were still lucky enough to retain starting wide receiver Josh Harper who had over 1,000 receiving yards last season. At 6'1” and 185 pounds, Harper is the big body, possession style receiver like Adams. Though he lacks the bulk, Harper is one of the most sure handed receivers in college football this season.
This season, Harper has recorded 86 receptions for 1,072 yards, 12.5 YPC, seven TDs and was named first team all-conference. With defenses focusing on him, Harper's production on a per game basis stayed consistent throughout the season.
Against Boise State in the MAC Conference Championship, Harper finished with ten receptions for 131 yards, a 13.1 YPC average. He was targeted a total of 15 times, two were uncatchable. Though he plays in a spread offense, he isn't regulated to just catching screen passes. Harper's average depth of intended target was 11.7 yards past the line of scrimmage. He didn't have many opportunities to showcase his run after the catch abilities as he was limited to just 42 yards after the catch, an average of just 3.8 yards per catch.
What scouts will like about Harper is his ability to catch the ball with his hands versus letting it into his body. He has a big catch radius and can snag a ball out of the air with one hand. While he can be a deep downfield target, Harper isn't a speed burner and relies on the short to intermediate areas where he is capable of piling up most of his production.
With some added size and the development of his route running and smaller details of his game, Harper could end up being a solid number two receiver in the NFL. Look for him to get some additional attention leading up to the NFL Draft. With the early season success that Davante Adams has had with the Packers, look for teams to give a second and possible third look at adding Harper a round earlier than expected.