Clifford to Get Worthy QB2 Competition From Michael Pratt

The competition to backup Jordan Love will be fun to watch

At this time last year, there were murmurs around the Green Bay Packers of whether or not they'd bring in a veteran quarterback to act as an insurance policy for Jordan Love. They had just drafted Sean Clifford in the fifth round and besides Clifford, the Packers only had Danny Etling to play the backup role if anything happened to Love. Etling was later released and USFL star Alex McGough was brought in during camp, but neither Clifford nor McGough were thought to be legit starters if something happened to Love. Unless you take preseason action vs other teams' roster bubble squads as a test of true talent, in that case, I can't help you. Nonetheless, the Packers stuck with Clifford as their QB2 entering and throughout the entire season with McGough on the practice squad.

Fortunately, this did not happen with Jordan Love in a season where many QB2s had to take the field as their room leader went down with an injury. But Clifford did take 13 snaps at QB during the season. It was mostly to kneel the ball or hand it off, but he did have the chance to complete one pass for 37 yards that helped seal the deal against the Minnesota Vikings. Though I wouldn't quite call him starter material yet, Clifford seemed to be a worthy QB2 to at least manage the offense if needed. 

As usual, when the season ended, there was a tiny bit of chatter around the backup QB position. Would they stick with Clifford at QB2, or would they go elsewhere? That was answered pretty quickly at the end of February at the NFL Draft combine when GM Brian Gutekunst commented that he wanted to "get back to drafting multiple quarterbacks." While the small-minded took this as a slight to Jordan Love, those of us who know better knew it was a comment that they wanted to always keep competition stiff for QB2. When you have your franchise quarterback, it's always a good idea to keep developing at the position behind him. If God forbid QB1 goes down, then you have the best you can get to pick up the slack. If that never happens, maybe you have an interesting trade piece to dangle in front of QB-needy teams. 

Gute's comment was solidified last week when the Packers drafted Tulane QB, Michael Pratt in the seventh round of the 2024 draft. 

Pratt to Challenge Clifford

Michael Pratt was a four-year starter at QB for Tulane. In that time he started 44 games where he threw 90 TD passes, 26 INTs, and had 28 rushing TDs. He was projected to be a 4th or 5th-round pick but ended up falling into the Packers' laps in the 7th at pick 245. The reason for Pratt's fall is concern over an injury that hampered him throughout the 2023 season. There's been quite a bit of chatter that before the injury, there's a chance Pratt would've been selected in the 2nd or 3rd round. So, for the Packers to land him in the 7th, a round considered to be very low-risk is perfect for finding out which Michael Pratt they might get. 

Regardless of whether the Packers get a QB that could've been a day 2 pick or later, the challenge to current QB2 Sean Clifford is clear. Both QBs are fairly similar. They both kind of lack an elite NFL QB arm, they both have a high football IQ, they're great leaders, and have some big wins to their credit in college. Perhaps one of the glaring differences between the two, however, is age. When this season kicks off, Sean Clifford will be 26 years, and 2 months old. Michael Pratt will be 22, and about 11 months. To give you a reference, Jordan Love is only 25, turning 26 on November 2nd. 

Why does this matter? Well, NFL teams take this into account for when you may see certain skills start to deteriorate. When Sean Clifford's rookie contract expires, he'll be approaching 29 years old. Pratt will be almost 26. Let's say Clifford is QB2 behind Jordan Love that whole time, regardless of his play, the Packers may be reluctant to pay a 29-year-old backup more than the minimum to sit on the bench, they'd likely rather go younger for their QB2. Let's say though that he shows he could be a serviceable starter by that time, maybe the Packers decide to trade him before his rookie deal expires. Given his age, it's unlikely a team will pay top draft capital for an older less experienced starter. Pratt, however, if in the same situation could be a different story. After Michael Pratt was drafted, it was even being said on the draft progress that the Packers were going to be developing him for someone else. 

Developing the Skillset

If you've followed my writings or random rants at all the last few years, you'll know I'm a Tom Clements aficionado. If there's a positions coach that deserves his own exhibit in the Packers Hall of Fame when he decides to call it a career, it's QBs coach Tom Clements. His work with Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Jordan Love is the thing minstrels strum and sing about as they follow behind him when he walks around the Packers campus. And if he doesn't have his own designated minstrels, he should. 

Whether Michael Pratt will be trade bait in the future or not, he has to be thanking his lucky stars for the tutelage he will receive in Green Bay whether he starts or not. It was already on film during the first practice of rookie camp, Clements behind Pratt showing him proper positioning and technique. If there's a coach that can pull the best out of a quarterback, it's Tom Clements.  

It's been a long time since the Packers have carried three quarterbacks into a season. With the ability to occupy that QB2 position Sean Clifford showed, and the potential Michael Pratt possesses, it may be tough to send either of them through waivers. If it were done today, I'd say given 32 teams passed on Pratt how many times, he could probably be snuck to the practice squad. But after he puts some tape together in Packers camp and the preseason, it could be difficult.

If you ask me, I think this could be the year the Packers carry three QBs into the season. The big question though is who will be the direct backup. Not that I'm down on Sean Clifford, but I feel even if the two have a comparable camp, the Packers may give that spot to Michael Pratt. He's the most intriguing of the two prospects and could have other teams calling up Brian Gutekunst quickly with trade offers if he shows out. That 7th round investment could have a high payoff. But it doesn't happen if they slot him at QB3. 

 

 

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Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to CheeseheadTV as well as PackersTalk. Follow him on Twitter @gmeinholz for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.

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6 points
 

Comments (27)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
ricky's picture

May 05, 2024 at 06:54 am

So Pratt should be QB2 so the Packers can trade him? Or do they want to keep Pratt around because he is the more intriguing prospect, due to being younger? Those are two different possibilities. Or, they could sign a veteran QB and trade both of their younger QB's, thus accumulating more draft picks next year. Or, we could possibly wait and see what each of the prospective backups shows in practice sessions and exhibition games.

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jvole's picture

May 05, 2024 at 07:16 am

Do teams ever sign another's back up QB, in part, to get at the original team's playbook? I know film review sort of negates this but it has popped in my head recently as the McGough move to WR doesn't really make sense unless they want to keep him around but not give him the full playbook.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 05, 2024 at 08:35 am

I not so sure the Packers keep players stashed on the team to keep other teams from access to their playbook, Jvole.

Is the playbook doc and/or picking a player's brain so very different and revealing from the hundreds of hours of Matt's Offense available on video from games?

One of the problems and complaints with Caper's Defense over his last 5-6 years in Green Bay was every team had his play tendencies, down and distance calls down cold. All opposing OC's had Dom's "virtual playbook" due to years of logging his on field defensive calls. And Dom didn't change, update or adjust his defenses. Reminds me of another previous DC. And even Mike McCarthy to a large extent.

I do believe the real value of Matt's Illusion of Complexity Offense is its ability to misdirect defenses with alternative play calls with similar formations and pre snap movements.

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Heyjoe414's picture

May 09, 2024 at 07:26 am

Good points LP. Yeah I mean the best way to get a handle on an opponent is still to study their game film. There's also a good reason a lot of practices are closed to the public. I don't think knowing a team's playbook is enough to keep a player stashed somewhere. Those position assignments are far too valuable.

And I like what you had to say about Capers. One of the biggest problems with recent Packers' DCs has been their unwillingness to change - season to season, in-season adjustments and in-game adjustments - as well as adjusting for a specific game. Makes it way too easy for an opponent.

And yeah, MM got stuck in that rut as well. Newer, younger HCs are built like MLF and create an "Illusion of Complexity", or just plain ol good camouflage. MM is becoming, or already is, a dinosaur in the NFL. His pattern continues in Dallas with good to great regular season performance followed by meltdowns in the playoffs. I'm surprised he's still in Dallas. He was a helluva coach in his time. That time has passed.

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stockholder's picture

May 05, 2024 at 07:48 am

Let's just cut through all the fluff.
Pratt to the PS.
Until Clifford gets traded.

Because as we saw with Love.
It's all about the Reps.

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dblbogey's picture

May 05, 2024 at 11:07 am

Why would any team trade for Clifford?

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stockholder's picture

May 05, 2024 at 04:34 pm

His stats were great in pre-season.
He learned behind Love.
And I'll bet he'll end up a charger.

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mnbadger's picture

May 05, 2024 at 07:58 am

I'm pretty sure either would be safe on the practice squad when the season starts.
If they show great during camp, things could change quickly if a bunch of qb1 or qb2 injuries pile up across the league.
Not that either would start games, just move to qb2 for acquiring team.
Let's hope we have that kind of problem at all positions.
GPG!

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2024 at 08:25 am

Every team passed on him multiple times, including teams who then guaranteed 6 figure sums to UDFAs. He doesn’t have trade value. To get it he’s going to have to show considerable improvement to cause teams to reevaluate their clearly evidenced by action value assessment of him.

That means we are going to need to improve him and increase his arm velocity and accuracy on what should be high percentage intermediate throws as well. That is unlikely to be achieved in a summer.

The best thing for him and us is a year or two on the PS working with Clements in the hope he can show a new level of competence next summer. Conversely, the idea team outcome is that Clifford showcases improvement and we can potentially get something for him this year or next.

If Pratt beats out Clifford then both have to be pretty poor before we trade Pratt this year. If he’s good enough he will be our number 2 not someone else’s. No, the theory expounded in this piece is flawed from its basic assumptions on up.

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Guam's picture

May 05, 2024 at 08:54 am

Spot on analysis Coldworld. Baring very surprising play in the preseason, both Clifford and Pratt should be safe on the PS whichever Green Bay chooses to relegate. The Packers will only keep two QBs on the 53.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 05, 2024 at 09:09 am

Agree with both of you. With the current PS rules, both would be available to play from there with the elevations allowed to the 53.

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Heyjoe414's picture

May 09, 2024 at 07:33 am

Yeah and I think a rookie who dropped all the way to the 7th round is gonna clear waivers and make it to the PS. Now if Pratt very clearly has the better camp and is materially better than Clifford, then waive Clifford and bring him back to the PS. This team is not gonna carry three QBs on the 53.

Yeah they lost Taysom Hill this way. But Hill never became more than a gadget player for NO. It's not a big concern to waive one of these backups, IMO - or at least not this year.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2024 at 08:35 am

In the meantime we signed a G/C and 2 WRs yesterday after tryouts. So the first cuts will come today.

Dimitri Stanley, WR (slot). 5-foot-10 7/8 and 188 pounds, with a 4.52 in the 40 and a 34-inch vertical. 5.92 RAS. Can return punts. Son of a former Packer 4th round pick.

Julien Hicks, WR. 6-foot-1 7/8 and 201 pounds, with a 4.53 in the 40 and a 36 1/2-inch vertical. Very good 10 yard split and 3 cone. 9.13 RAS.

Lecitus Smith, G/C. 6’3” 315 pounds. A former 6th round pick of the Cardinals who started 2 games as a rookie and then effectively got squeezed out by veteran signings and draft picks by the new regime the next year. 26 in July. RAS just under 7.

https://athlonsports.com/nfl/green-bay-packers/packer-central/news/sourc...

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Bitternotsour's picture

May 05, 2024 at 09:05 am

With some of the mind numbing search for content on this site, you'd think that some news similar to what you just provided might actually make for an article or two...

However, it's just a matter of time until our 5th and 6th round quarterbacks are served up for first round compensation from teams desperate for quarterbacks...

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Heyjoe414's picture

May 09, 2024 at 07:37 am

With respect Bitter, I think the Packer backup QBs are a long way from being worthy of a first round pick. I do agree that teams will overpay with a QB with a pulse. Teams are desperate for QBs. But first they have to show some skill in the PS, not that easy. And even then, a solid backup might fetch a 4th, maybe a 3rd round pick. I'd rather keep that QB anyway.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 05, 2024 at 09:13 am

Andy Herman talked quite a bit about Stanley's day in camp. He mentioned his one handed stab catch and his smooth movement.

Andy also mentioned MLF saying that a couple guys flashed including Stanley.

Multiple media outlets, but no CHTV... Nagler caught napping.

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Spock's picture

May 05, 2024 at 10:47 am

Nagler's not napping; he's on vacation in New Orleans (Jazz Festival).

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 05, 2024 at 08:41 am

Competition lifts all boats. If Pratt makes Clifford better, great. If Pratt comes in and seizes the #2, also great. I was pleased with the selection of Clifford last year and Pratt this year.

I expect both young men, based on past results, will push each other in practice. And Jordan Love will give them an additional shove...as Tom Clements molds all 3.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 05, 2024 at 09:07 am

Best case scenario...

1) Clifford looks like a HoF QB in camp and pre-season games - GB trades him RFN (right freakin now) he would have max value NOW due to age and lack of solid history.

2) Pratt shows great attitude and propensity to learn under Clements and elevates to #2 for this season with Mr Magoo as an emergency QB guy on the PS, or another QB is picked up for #3/scout duty.

These 'backup' QB's are trade bait only. If GB truly valued the #2 role, it would be held by a guy that has proven he can come in and hold the boat steady for a period while #1 recovers from whatever caused #2 to be inserted.

GB is not training these young guys to be a #2, they are hoping for a value add trade (getting more than they have invested in the guy).

Acknowledgement of the true role of the #2 in GB requires one to hope for the best case scenario for that purpose - a value add trade for said #2 QB.

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mnbadger's picture

May 08, 2024 at 01:10 pm

I don't understand all the down votes?
GPG!

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Bitternotsour's picture

May 08, 2024 at 01:30 pm

Um, fifth round draft picks are not trade fodder.

Also, upvotes and downvotes aren't reflective of anything in particular, unless you're stockholder and people are confirming their total tool bias.

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Heyjoe414's picture

May 09, 2024 at 07:43 am

Having a solid #2 is not inconsistent with developing a player to be traded at some point. I think that's why there are so many downvotes, just signals of disagreement. No more, no less. And Bitter makes the point - 5th (or 6th or 7th) round draft picks don't make for great trade bait.

Blood made it sound like an either/or situation. There is a clear need to have a strong backup on the 53. That does create trade value, and that's why Gluten wants to get back to drafting QBs, so someone is always in the pipeline to be a legit #2. Ron Wolf perfected this technique IMO.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 05, 2024 at 10:53 am

I don't think that the Packers have entered the QB commodities market for speculative purposes - as their record for drafting / trading / signing UDFA backup QBs has not been very good over the years. Sure there has been a few hits. But also many more misses.

Rather, it seems to me that Gutekunst genuinely wants the best possible back-up QB for Jordan Love - should he not be able to play (for any reason). And it is very likely - that over the term of a long contract - that day will come. So it is imperative that the Packers have a QB who offers the least drop-off of talent and playing ability - relative to Love - should he be called upon to play.

As the incumbent - I expect that Clifford will remain #2 QB for this season. His knowledge of the Offense plus his flashes of competency should be enough to safeguard his status. However, it will the year after that I expect a harder challenge from Pratt. Once he has had a year's experience under his belt.

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GregC's picture

May 05, 2024 at 02:13 pm

The game the Packers have decided to play is drafting and developing QBs for the purpose of having quality backups who have trade value. If they are putting QB #3 on the practice squad, they are failing at this game, so it is pretty much a waste of time. That's why I think they are likely to keep three QBs on the roster if both backups have reasonably good training camps. There are QB needy teams who overlooked Pratt in the draft but may be interested in nabbing him from the practice squad without having to spend a draft pick on him, and with the assurance that he showed some promise in training camp. The expense and the risk of such an acquisition would be much less than it would have been in the draft.

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BFK's picture

May 05, 2024 at 03:46 pm

Remember it's very likely the Packers will keep 3 QB's this season ; it's just a matter if it's 3 on the active roster or 2 on the active roster and 1 on the practice squad. The rule regarding QB#3 has been tweaked. He can be on the practice squad all week, called up to the 53 man roster and named as one of the inactives, but if disaster strikes and QB 1 and QB 2 are injured he can play. QB 3 would not count against the active game day roster. QB 3 does not have to be put on waivers and can be put back on the practice squad and called up again the next week.The rule change is listed on NFL.com under 2024 rule changes.

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BuckyBadger's picture

May 05, 2024 at 09:43 pm

Pratt is a guy we hope pushes up the bottom of the roster. I guess in some wild dream we can hope he wins the starting job and Love is traded for 3 1st rounders. In reality Pratt pushes Clifford and they have a decision to make at backup. May the best man win the job and the other guy make the PS.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 07, 2024 at 08:30 am

The reason for “Pratt’s fall” is because he slipped. 😉

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