clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NFL Draft 2016: Christian Hackenberg Scouting Report

New, comments

Should the Eagles have interest?

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I would never wish this on someone, but sometimes people get into bad romantic relationships. However, those bad relationships, like most relationships, have good or even incredible moments. People hold onto those "magical moments" to qualify staying in the relationship as long as possible. I personally have never experienced this, but have seen it unfold with many acquaintances. This is what I would like to call, "The Honeymoon Syndrome": People gripping onto the best moments of their romance, no matter how long ago they happened, in order to stay in bad or broken relationships...

Why the hell am I talking about this?

Enter Christian Hackenberg.

Christian Hackenberg was the cream of the recruiting crop a few years back and when then Penn State Head Coach, Bill O'Brien got the five star quarterback to commit, Happy Valley rejoiced (and surprisingly didn't riot). Hackenberg went onto enjoy a tremendous freshman season. His poise, arm strength and accuracy were all out of this world despite him being only 18 years old at the time. He thrived in that one year causing many people to anoint him as the next great NFL prospect, comparing his freshman year to Andrew Luck's early years at Stanford. After Hackenberg's first season, Penn State lost their star wide receiver, current Pro Bowler Allen Robinson, and they lost their head coach to the Houston Texans. O'Brien has always been renowned as a quarterback guru, so many wondered what would come of Hackenberg without his tutelage.

To replace O'Brien, the Nittany Lions hired celebrated Vanderbilt head coach, James Franklin. Many thought Franklin would bring more success to the Penn State offense after helping Vanderbilt consistently overachieve in the SEC year after year. Unfortunately, Franklin's "prowess" didn't translate the way many expected it to. For one, the scheme was poorly constructed and the offense was called even worse, but the offensive issues were compounded by the lack of talent Penn State had available to them. The recruiting sanctions of old were hitting the Nittany Lions hard on offense and the whole team suffered. At the center of the regression, was Christian Hackenberg. In his sophomore season, he looked like a shell of his former self. He seemed frantic, his passes were errant, decision making poor and sometimes he looked plain disinterested. It was awful. Of course, Hackenberg still had his tremendous, god given ability and that shone through the muck of the Penn State offense from time to time, but his second year, on the whole was cringeworthy. Over the following summer, I went back and watched Hackenberg to find more good than I initially anticipated. He had some really gross moments at quarterback, but would have two or three throws a game that would floor me. Then I would see awful protection and offensive calls that had receivers converging 20 yards downfield and it made me think that Hackenberg was better than his numbers would say because, dear god, the offense around him was bad.

His final season in Happy Valley yielded more promise, yet still a healthy (unhealthy) amount of frustration. The offense was still maddeningly constructed and executed, but Hackenberg didn't exactly help. He had plenty of games full of bad decisions, awful throws and terrible sacks taken. However, just as a bad fight in a relationship can be forgotten after some old fashioned charm, Hackenberg would step up into pressure and flick a pass 50 yards down the field like it was nothing... It would be mesmerizing.

I think it is important to appreciate his good moments, but still be weary of Hackenberg as a prospect. There are moments where Hackenberg looks like a generational prospect, but a lot more moments where he just seems like a 6-4, 230 pound dummy with a big arm. I get nervous about putting too much stock into his good moments as a quarterback because they are few and far between. However, I know that some team is going to remember the good old days with Hackenberg; 18, throwing dimes in overtime to beat Michigan and making it all look easy. However, it is hard to forget multi interception games, average yards per attempt that are shorter than most human babies and moments where Hack will just run into pressure...

"Honeymoon Syndrome" can be a really brutal thing. I have a good feeling that some team will look over his flaws and spend a top 70 pick on him based on all the good times they had...

NFL Comparison: On his best days, Hackenberg looks like Jay Cutler at his best, which is a damn good quarterback. He displays good athletic ability to move around in and out of the pocket and he has an absolute gun to hit all levels of the field and challenge even the smallest windows. However, Hackenberg looks like bad Jay Cutler or even Ryan Lindley more often than not. The physical ability is always evident, but horrible stretches of play make me want to turn off the game all together and become a soccer fan.

I think that at the least, Hackenberg needs a good staff, some time to readjust and patience. He is very talented, but he will submarine a team if they invest too much into him and expect early returns. With Doug Pederson and company, he would have an excellent staff of teachers to help him iron out his bevy of blips. Of course, I think he is better suited in an offense that will stretch the field vertically rather than using anticipation throws to the intermediate middle of the field. Hackenberg certainly isn't a cerebral who can anticipate coverages well enough to function in a west coast offense. He is more of a see and throw type of quarterback, which would be ideal for Bruce Arians. However, regardless of where he is going, the absolute ceiling at which I would take him is in the third round. To be honest, that is a little rich for me, but I am admittedly sick with a bit of "Honeymoon Syndrome" myself. Hopefully for him and the team that takes him, the good times will come back... Or maybe they just end up with four more years of shrieking fights and passive aggressive comments....