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John DeShazier: Baylor's Bryce Petty using Senior Bowl to prove doubters wrong

Some question whether spread quarterback can transition to NFL

Mobile, Ala. – There isn't much debating what will happen in the NFL Draft with regard to the top two quarterbacks.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston will be the first two quarterbacks picked. Only the order – who will be first, and who will go second – remains to be determined.

The talk is of which quarterback will be selected, and in what round, after the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners are off the draft board.

"There's been a lot of debate, within NFL circles, who's the third quarterback," said Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl. "I think it's a foregone conclusion, to some extent, that Marcus Mariotta and Jameis Winston are the top two.

"But the race is on to be No. 3, and I've had a number of NFL scouts tell me in the last few days, 'Someone is going to emerge as the third-best quarterback in this draft.' Everyone is anxious to find out who that is."

They may find out this week during practices for the Senior Bowl, which will be played Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. And it could prove to be Baylor's Bryce Petty, who completed 270 of 428 passes for 3,855 yards and 29 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, as a senior. In 2013, Petty threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, with three interceptions, while completing 250 of 403 passes.

Whether Petty can pique, or has piqued, the interest of a team like New Orleans hasn't been determined. The Saints said that drafting a quarterback was a consideration last season, though not in the first couple of rounds (and second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin remains on New Orleans' roster as the possible quarterback of the future).

But Petty undoubtedly will have the chance to turn some heads and erase a few perceptions along the way this week.

"I think it's an unbelievable opportunity, especially for me," he said. "From what I understand, Baylor's (spread) offense isn't too high on the leaderboards as far as transitioning to the NFL. So, for me, it's an opportunity to prove that I belong, that I'm relevant, that I can make that transition and do it well and be successful at it.

"As far as (taking snaps under center and) dropping back and reading coverage and things like that, it's not a different language for me. I'm still speaking English, just might be cursive instead of print. It's about embracing opportunity and that's exactly what this is.

"I guess as far as knocks go on our system, it is the fact that I can't drop back, I can't play under center – five-step, seven-step – that I can't read defenses and go through progressions. (Those are) all the things that we might not have had to do at Baylor. It's a knock but at the same time, that's what I was told to do, and I just tried to do it to the best of my ability – which is exactly what I want to do in the NFL. Whatever system I'm in, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. I'm going to give you all I've got."

Petty has been working out with George Whitfield, who runs a quarterback training academy in San Diego. He said the sessions have concentrated on him taking snaps from center, and working on rhythm dropbacks.

Those workouts and this week, he said, partially have been fueled by criticism of his ability; specifically, an assessment that he only would be a backup in the NFL.

"I have pretty high expectations of myself, more so than what anybody else can say about me," Petty said. "My job is to prove that I belong, that I am relevant. I hope by the end of this week, (it'll be) Petty and the other guys. That's what I'm trying to do here."

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