Four of the biggest assets of Baylor’s 2014 football campaign are looking to make their names known at the professional level this season. With only two players drafted last season – quarterback Bryce Petty (fourth round, New York Jets) and linebacker Bryce Hager (seventh round, St. Louis Rams) – Baylor also saw receivers Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood picked up as undrafted free agents by the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears, respectively.
Bryce Petty was the fifth quarterback and 103rd overall player selected in the 2015 NFL draft by the New York Jets. Although the Jets boast arguably the worst quarterback situation in the league, head coach Todd Bowles admitted that Petty was not selected as an immediate savior.
“He’s got a lot to learn,” Bowles said. “We’re not looking forward for him to be a starter right now.”
While Geno Smith returned to the team as the No. 1 starter, he will begin the season on the injury list with a broken jaw after being sucker punched by former teammate IK Enemkpali.
This opens the door for Petty to take hold of the backup position behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was traded to New York from the Houston Texans in the offseason.
Coming out of Waco, one of the biggest concerns surrounding Petty is his ability to transition from Baylor’s up-tempo, no huddle offense to that of a slower, pro-style game.
On Petty’s performance in camp, Bowles said he needs work “understanding the defense, recognizing where to go with the football, commanding the game and having better clock presence.”
Petty is still a work in progress for New York, and while he is certainly improving, he will not be looked to play immediately if the Jets can help it, Bowles said.
Hager was selected in the seventh round and the 224th selection overall by the St. Louis Rams, who already possess possibly the best front seven in the NFL.
Hager is competing for the backup role to James Laurinaitis, who has served as the Rams’ starting linebacker since his rookie season in 2009. Laurinaitis has been one of the most consistent and healthy linebackers in the NFL over his six seasons but depth has always been a problem in St. Louis.
Hager led the Rams with seven tackles in a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. With play like this, Hager can certainly compete for a roster spot and contribute on either special teams or as a steady backup.
Goodley was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys and is tasked with competing for the fifth receiver spot on the roster. Goodley initially showed plenty of promise and quickly rose to prominence within the Cowboys’ camp.
“Goodley isn’t the talent that Percy Harvin is, but he can be used in some of the same, creative ways.” said Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.
“However, a recent hamstring injury has severely crippled Goodley’s chance of making the team, with other free agent signees Lucky Whitehead and Nick Harwell moving up the ladder of the Cowboys’ receiver depth chart.”
Levi Norwood was signed by the Chicago Bears and has been in competition for a spot on the roster as well. With the injury to the Bears’ first round draft pick, Kevin White, the opportunity for another wide out on the roster is up for grabs.
Norwood has yet to register a catch in the preseason and is listed as the last receiver on the Bears’ depth chart but still has a good chance to make the squad as a returner. At Baylor, Norwood was the first team punt returner and took reps as a kick returner as well.
If he can make the transition to the NFL as a returner, he has a very good chance to be one of the last 53 for week one.