Since the Green Bay Packers selected Brett Hundley on Day 3 of the 2015 NFL Draft, trade speculation has smothered the former UCLA quarterback. Hundley has recently stoked those flames, telling the Green Bay Press-Gazette that he hopes a team trades a first-round pick for him in the near future. While the Packers presumably would accept such a significant return on their initial fifth-round investment, should the team expect such lofty compensation for their backup signal-caller?
In recent years, teams have paid out the nose for players projected as future franchise passers. The past two drafts alone have seen six teams trade up during the first round to select a coveted quarterback, four within the top 10. Meanwhile, lightly tested backups such as the New England Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo have garnered significant discussion for as many as two Day 1 selections. Either case demonstrates that the desperation for stability at the game's most important position certainly exists.
At the same time, neither of those situations fully parallels Hundley. The first-round picks offer their respective picks an inexpensive four-year contract as well as a highly affordable fifth-year option, while Garoppolo has two starts and 94 pass attempts under his belt. By comparison, Hundley enters the third season of a four-year rookie deal and has attempted just 10 passes during the regular season, all in mop-up duty. Any buyer interested in trading for the Green Bay backup -- a transaction more likely to occur next offseason -- would have to immediately consider an extension in order to avoid a more expensive deal a year later when the quarterback hits unrestricted free agency for the first time.
Those factors drive down Hundley's price. While he has steadily gained a reputation as a quality young passer with a starter's upside, he has enjoyed few opportunities to show off his abilities playing behind two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. As a result, Hundley's only extended tape comes from the 2015 preseason (he missed most of his second exhibition season with an ankle injury). Those rookie numbers look impressive -- 45 completions on 65 attempts for 630 yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception, good for an NFL-high 129.6 preseason passer rating -- and share more than a passing resemblance to those Dak Prescott produced during his first preseason with Dallas Cowboys. However, the level of competition prevents them from having the impact of Garoppolo's 2016 audition, and Hundley's lack of meaningful playing time since as well as the dwindling years of salary control further undercut his trade value.
Still, some ancillary factors help Hundley's cause. Unlike the majority of college prospects who play in single-read, glorified high school schemes, he has trained in a West Coast offense under the watchful eye of noted QB guru Mike McCarthy for the past three offseasons. McCarthy has mentored a long list of starting quarterbacks, including four MVP winners (Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, Brett Favre, and Rodgers). With nearly half the league running comparable schemes, the transition for Hundley appears far shorter than that for an incoming rookie.
And Hundley's toolset suggests a higher ceiling than most former Day 3 picks. In his rookie quarterback class, he trailed only Marcus Mariota in overall athleticism as measured by SPARQ. Hundley can take off and run better than all but a few starters across the league. And despite a penchant for tucking the ball and running during his college years, Hundley has grown comfortable standing in the pocket and working through progressions. And while a somewhat wonky delivery might concern a few general managers and coaches, he gets the ball out quickly enough to avoid telegraphing his passes. In the right hands, Hundley can realistically become a long-term starter.
So what does a high-ceiling, soon-to-become expensive signal-caller with minimal NFL experience command in a trade? More specifically, what can the Packers expect to receive for Hundley next offseason?
The quarterback depth in the 2018 NFL Draft will ultimately determine Hundley's trade value. Among underclassmen, the draft could include two highly touted dropback passers from LA (Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold), a late-bloomer hidden in the mountains (Josh Allen), and the 2016 Heisman winner (Lamar Jackson). Regardless, the highly efficient Mason Rudolph and the prolific Luke Falk will enter the NFL after graduating from their respective schools. The more top-end prospects in the class, the less the Packers can redeem for Hundley in a trade.
All of which makes a first-round draft choice for Hundley unlikely. It remains unclear whether a more coveted quarterback like Garoppolo might have actually netted the Patriots such a pick, and he entered this offseason with far more heat than Hundley should have next year. The Packers also can't argue that they hope to retain Hundley as the heir apparent to Rodgers the way the Patriots can with 39-year-old Tom Brady.
However, if Hundley sees some meaningful live action during the upcoming season and impresses, Green Bay's asking price could legitimately fall in the Day 2 range. Such a pick represents the value of an ascending quarterback with looming contract questions and limited exposure to NFL defenses. It might not meet Hundley's expectations, but he should hardly feel underappreciated.