(SportsNetwork.com) - For 30 of the NFL's 32 teams, the focus has already shifted toward next season and that means preparation for the draft is kicking into high gear.
Monday marked the beginning of Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama, as NFL officials from all 32 clubs, along with 110 draft-eligible college prospects descended on the Gulf Coast.
The Titans' and Jaguars' coaching staffs will be mentoring the best senior and redshirt junior talent in the country leading up to the 66th annual Senior Bowl on Jan. 24.
In a quarterback-light year when only two signal callers have been given first-round grades by most scouts -- Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota -- intriguing Baylor project Bryce Petty is one of the more high-profile prospects on hand and a player sure to receive a lot of attention in the Cotton State.
The sturdy, 6-foot-3, 230-pound Petty spent his first three years in Waco, Texas, as a backup to Robert Griffin III as well as Nick Florence before taking over Art Briles' dynamic spread offense as a junior in 2013. He finished that season with 4,200 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions, while adding 14 more scores on the ground.
The sequel was also solid as Petty, who finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2014, passed for 3,855 yards and 29 touchdowns along with six more on the ground while leading the Bears to a share of the Big 12 title and a berth in the Cotton Bowl, where he threw for a record 550 yards in a 42-41 loss to Big Ten powerhouse Michigan State.
Petty has the measureables that NFL teams look for, but he's been pigeonholed as a spread-offense quarterback, who will need plenty of time to learn the intricacies of a traditional NFL system. So, much like Mariota, it's build the offense around Petty's skill set or understand he's a two- or three-year project at minimum while learning yours.
"I just want to prove that I can play in an NFL system," Petty said. "That it's not about this college system. I can do drops, I can read defenses, go through progressions, pick up NFL offenses, the verbiage, what I'm supposed to look at, all that kind of stuff."
The positives on Petty, who has been projected by most as a third-round pick, are his size and mobility, along with strong natural leadership skills, something demanded by the position he plays.
When Petty feels it, he also can be an efficient passer, with touch, timing and effective ball placement, although it remains to be seen if you can really drive the football downfield consistently, especially against NFL-caliber defensive backs.
"We like to go fast and we like to go deep (at Baylor)," Petty said. "That part makes it fun. I think that's why kids love playing for coach Briles and in our system. Being an offensive guy, you love making the big play. The big play is always fun, it's always exciting, so being a part of that, being able to jumpstart those explosive plays was always fun."
Helping jumpstart those explosive plays is Petty's functional football mobility, which is well above average, making his ability to extend plays outside the pocket exceptional at times on the college level. Of course, keeping your eyes up and looking downfield while an NFL pass rush is bearing down is a different animal.
Like most spread-specific QBs, Petty often arrives at the line of scrimmage with a predetermined read in mind and locks in on that particular receiver. The fact he was always in the shotgun at Baylor is also a concern and scouts will be paying close attention to his mechanics and footwork under center.
Right now Petty is regarded as a system-dependent QB who excels in quick, one- read situations in which tempo and spacing are key. The hard part is projecting if he can be anything more than that at the next level.
"That whole system deal is what it is," Petty explained. "I was told when I came in (to Baylor), 'Hey, this is the car you're going to drive and here are the keys.' For me, that's what I was told to do and I wanted to excel at that and be the best I could at that system. Regardless of what system I come into in the NFL, I'm going to take that same approach. I'm going to excel in whatever system that I'll be in."
To do that, Petty has been working with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield in an attempt to improve his game and prove he's not a one-trick pony.
"What I've always said is there's a billion ways to coach quarterbacks," Petty said. "Everybody's got a certain click or a certain way they like to be coached. For George, it's so personal. He's great at what he does because he makes it easy to understand what he's talking about."
And it's even easier to understand what Petty is trying to accomplish in Mobile ... it's time to buck the Baylor system.
"You don't have to worry about a system guy," Petty said, basically pleading his case to NFL scouts. "What you are going to get is a passionate guy that's going to want to absorb anything and everything he can.
"I feel like I am a top quarterback in this draft and (I'm here) to prove it."