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Friday, April 29, 2016

Jets Pick Christian Hackenberg 2nd Round, QB, Penn State

From Walter Football:

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State 
Height: 6-4. Weight: 234. Hand: 9. 
40 Time: 4.79. 
Projected Round (2016): 1-3. 

4/25/16: Hackenberg has had a late rise in the leadup to the 2016 NFL Draft as the demand at quarterback has really helped elevate his draft stock. He has a shot at being a late first-round pick, and is likely to go in Round 2. 

At the combine, Hackenberg continued to show brilliance on some passes and a lack of accuracy on others. He did better in the athletic measurements than many thought he would do. Hackenberg had a mixed showing in the team interviews. He did well with recall and football I.Q., but teams feel that Hackenberg was too quick to blame other issues for some of his own mistakes. 

In 2015, Hackenberg completed 54 percent of his passes for 2,525 yards and 16 touchdowns with six interceptions. He had terrible games against Rutgers and Temple, but good outings against Buffalo, San Diego State, Indiana and Illinois. 

Clearly, Hackenberg needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making, but the junior was playing in a bad situation with a weak offensive line and receivers. Over the last two seasons, Hackenberg routinely made some beautiful throws that were dropped by his receivers, but also missed too often on routine completions. 

Hackenberg is a pro-style quarterback who was forced to play in a college spread offense that didn't fit him well at all. Sources say that Penn State head coach James Franklin beat Hackenberg down and handled him terribly. Teams also admire that Hackenberg could have transferred in the face of a lot of adversity for the program, but he stayed committed to trying to help get things headed in the right direction in Happy Valley. 

In speaking with sources, some teams grade Hackenberg on the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft as a fourth-rounder, but others have graded him in Round 3. Even the teams that graded him after the third round expect him to be selected on the second day. One general manager said Hackenberg has just average accuracy and is a statue in the pocket. There also were reports about Hackenberg being disliked in the locker room and not a leader, but in speaking with Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith - a former Nittany Lion - and Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, they both dismissed that, saying Hackenberg wasn't a finger pointer and did everything asked of him. Nassib was shocked to hear of those reports and said that Hackenberg was a great teammate. 

8/8/15: Hackenberg completed 56 percent of his passes in 2014 for 2,677 yards with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He played better than the numbers indicate as his supporting cast was a huge liability, including an awful offensive line. Hackenberg closed out the 2014 season with a huge comeback overtime win over Boston College, completing 34-of-50 for 371 yards and four touchdowns. 

In terms of a skill set, Hackenberg has what the NFL is looking for with a size, pocket presence, field-vision potential and a strong arm that can push the ball downfield. James Franklin's offense didn't help Hackenberg develop much as a NFL pocket-passer prospect last season as so many of the play calls were instant throws because of a weak offensive line that couldn't maintain its blocks. Hackenberg needs to improve his ball placement and decision-making in some areas, but his supporting cast really hurt him last year. At times, Hackenberg makes some brilliant throws downfield after working off his first read, and if he does that regularly as a junior, he could be a high first-rounder. 

Hackenberg was the star recruit for Bill O'Brien and proved the hype legit during an impressive freshman season that saw him named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Hackenberg completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013. He also ran for four touchdowns. Sources in the NFL feel that Hackenberg could end up being an elite quarterback prospect.



Hackenberg's junior year did not go quite as expected, but he still wound up as the school's all-time leader in passing yards (8,457) and touchdowns (48). The son of a former University of Virginia football player was a three-year starter, answering the bell for all 38 games in his career. Hackenberg lived up to his recruiting hype by being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2013, as well as a Freshman All-American (2,955 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions). His play was not as efficient in his sophomore year (2,977 yards, 12 TD, 15 INT), but his MVP performance in the Nittany Lions' double overtime Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College led many to think he was on his way to stardom. Unfortunately, Hackenberg's play in 2015 was uneven, at best, as he completed just 53.5 percent of his passes for 2,525 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He finished the season leaving the team's TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia due to a right shoulder sprain, and then announcing his intention to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.



 Prototypical size for pocket quarterback. Durable and tough. Willing to hang in and take the hit if he thinks a completion is pending. Took a pounding and never missed a start. Experienced in pro-style attack and played well in Bill O'Brien's scheme as a freshman. Able and willing to work through progressions when protected. Balls comes out of his hand with pro velocity. Can drive hips through his release for extra mustard. Can make all the throws, and has the arm talent to take shots to areas of the field that most quarterbacks can't. Underrated in touch throw department. Can float the ball over top of defenders and deliver it on a pillow. Decent athlete able to climb pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. Recognizes and points out late blitz movement pre-snap. Recognizes danger and able to avoid most baiting attempts. Dropped interception total from 15 in 2014 to just six in 2015. Twice voted team captain and has displayed leadership qualities from time he stepped on campus.


 Debilitating accuracy issues with atrocious 51.5 percent adjusted completion total (throws beyond line of scrimmage). Turns receivers into goalies. Even simple throws can be coin-flippers in accuracy department. Release point can vary greatly and he is still looking for repeatable footwork, mechanics and release. Will throw a spiral followed by wobbler. Ball patting and wind-up slows release and can obstruct timing. Extra air under deep balls combined with marginal timing allows safeties time to race into the play. Busted internal clock. Allows pressure to overtake him rather than getting catchable throw out a shade early. Sacked 82 times over last two years. Iffy accuracy and ball placement falls off map when defenses send pressure. Completed just 44.2 percent against five rushers and 41.9 percent against six. Pocket feel a work in progress. Will climb pocket into trouble unnecessarily.


 Rounds 2 or 3


 "The tape is just terrible over the last two years, but he has traits and leadership. His freshman tape is good, but how do you discount everything you've seen for two years? That freshman tape is going to lead a team to overdraft him." -- NFC executive


 Ryan Mallett


 Hackenberg has the size, athleticism and arm talent of a long-time NFL starter, but his accuracy issues go well beyond just "ball placement" problems. Teams must determine if his inaccuracy is innate or a product of the beatings he's taken, and then determine if he's shell-shocked or able to round back into form. Hackenberg's tools, intelligence and experience under center should make him an eventual starter, but his boom-or-bust potential will either get a coach an extension or fired.


Hackenberg arrived during a tumultuous stretch in State College as one of the most celebrated recruits in school history.Since he hit town, people around the Penn State program and the rest of college football have referred to Hackenberg as the "future No. 1 overall pick" due to his NFL size, stature and arm strength. As a true freshman under Bill O'Brien, he made some youthful mistakes, but also showed off rare talent for an 18-year-old quarterback, setting a school record with 2,955 passing yards in 2013.
However, with O'Brien leaving for the NFL the following year, Hackenberg appeared to take a step back in his development and his production dipped in almost every category. He finished the 2014 season with more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (12) and only 55.8 percent completions as he was sacked 44 times. Hackenberg was voted a team captain for the second time in 2015, and leaves Penn State with school records for career passing yards (8,457), completions (693) and 300-yard passing games (nine).

A new coaching staff, porous offensive line and the loss of his top receiving target (Allen Robinson) all contributed to Hackenberg's struggles in 2014. Hackbenberg heads to the NFL as Penn State's all-time leading passer -- 8,457 yards and 48 touchdowns -- with 38 starts in 38 career games


STRENGTHS: Ideal physical build and height for the position. Loose and live arm to rip lasers with above average velocity and zip. Effortless deep ball thrower and able to make throws other quarterbacks are physically unable to make. Toughness isn't a question with the size to take consistent punishment and bounce back.Quick-footed athlete for his size to easily move in the pocket or stretch his legs and throw from different platforms. Clean footwork in his three-, five- and seven-step drops. Experienced taking snaps under center with pro-style concepts. Two-year team captain (second youngest player to be elected captain in school history) and viewed as a leader in the locker room.
Well-respected on campus, especially for the way he handled adversity with the sanctions (helped keep the 2013 recruiting class together) and the struggles with the coaching change. Durable and didn't miss a start the last three seasons (21-17 record as a starter).

WEAKNESSES: Nonexistent feel or awareness in the pocket, struggling to navigate himself around the noise. Slow to process and late reading coverages due to questionable vision. Immature eye use, staring down targets and predetermining throws, which leads to inexplicable decisions.

Wasn't consistently asked to make whole field reads or work sideline-to-sideline in his progressions. Confidence needs rebuilt. Too relaxed and needs to show more urgency from snap to release.

Highly inconsistent ball placement and downfield touch, struggling to control his ball speeds. Upper and lower half mechanics are often on different pages, affecting his overall accuracy. Doesn't need to drive his hips to add zip on throws, but improved follow through motion will help his precision. Methodical set-up and delivery, but often out of rhythm. Deer in headlights when blitzed - often sees it coming, but doesn't make the proper adjustments pre- or post-snap. Played behind a shaky offensive line (sacked 103 times in his career), but too many of those hits were of his own doing, holding the ball too long and clamming up under pressure. Quick-footed athlete for his size, but won't routinely evade pressures with a bad habit of retreating and getting lost. Ball security needs improved (17 career fumbles). Didn't miss a game in college, but missed the second half of his final game in January due to a sprained right shoulder - not considered serious, but needs cleared. Completion percentage dropped each season.

COMPARES TO: Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears -- Players with power arms and well-built frames, Hackenberg and Cutler have similar strengths, but also similar question marks as inconsistent ball placement and pocket awareness can limit their pro ceilings.

IN OUR VIEW: A three-year starter, Hackenberg had a promising freshman campaign in 2013 under the guidance of Bill O'Brien, but his development regressed with the new coaching staff the past two seasons. He didn't receive much help from his surroundings the past two years with questionable play-calling, inconsistent weapons and a leaky offensive line, but Hackenberg deserves plenty of blame as well. Although he has special arm talent, the tape shows flawed decision-making, poor pocket awareness and streaky accuracy due to unstable mechanics. There is no question that Hackenberg will benefit from NFL coaching, but the game still moves at light speed for him and hasn't shown signs of slowing down - is he already damaged goods? Overall, the physical traits and arm strength are ideal for the NFL, but Hackenberg doesn't show a natural feel for the game and lacks a strong grasp in three critical areas of playing the position: touch, placement and decision-making.

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