Ears perked up around the room last week when Baylor coach Art Briles made an interesting comparison for Bears QB Bryce Petty during a meeting in advance of the Oklahoma State-Baylor FOX broadcast I was a part of Saturday.
Briles said Petty is this year's Blake Bortles and the best QB in the 2015 draft, before adding, "Obviously, I'm biased."
Now, I totally get where Briles is coming from with the Bortles comparison (and I love that he acknowledged his bias, because some folks never would admit to such a thing even when it obviously exists). Petty (6-foot-3, 230) is similar in size to Bortles (6-5, 232), and he's a big, strong runner, just like Bortles. Will Petty rise up draft boards like Bortles, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, did? That remains to be seen, but I do expect that the closer we get to the draft, the more NFL people are going to like what they see from Petty, especially when they get a chance to meet and work with him closely.
I think Petty remains the top senior QB in the game and will test very well at the NFL Scouting Combine. His intelligence is going to shine through there, too. The Bears' QB is a big, thick guy with plenty of arm -- I don't think that will be an issue at all in his draft evaluation. He's certainly not the most impressive runner in the game, but his athleticism will surprise some people. That part of his game is underrated. His career production is off the charts, with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 56:8. When it comes to his intangibles, everyone in the Baylor community vouches for them, and I've been very impressed with his character.
This season has been a trying one at times for Petty, as he acknowledged this week. After he broke out last season, the expectation for him this year was to be a top Heisman candidate and to emerge as a likely first-round pick. He might not totally be matching that hype, but I still think this has been a really good season for him, and it's highlighted his toughness, which is overlooked too often. Petty broke two transverse processes in his back in Week 1 and played through a good portion of the game. He sat out one game and went back to putting up big numbers in Baylor's next contest (at Buffalo). That's something NFL teams will respect.
As for Briles' belief that Petty will be the best QB in the draft, we'll have to wait and see who his competition is for that title. If UCLA's Brett Hundley, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston (all underclassmen) declare for the draft, I expect all of them to be rated ahead of Petty as we begin the evaluation process in the offseason.
That said, it will be interesting to see Petty go through that process, because I think he has the potential to rise, as Bortles did. Petty is a better-known commodity this season than Bortles was last season, but Bortles certainly wasn't being discussed as a potential top-five pick a year ago. I think Petty will go through the process and make people sit back and think, "I like this kid."
How much will they like him? That's what I can't wait to find out.