It wasn’t that long ago when many scouts felt that Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg would be a future number one pick in the NFL Draft. Now many question if he is one of the top five quarterbacks in this year’s class. Plagued by inconsistency, poor offensive line play, and a terrible completion percentage, Hackenberg could find himself falling hard when the Draft arrives. Scouting Hackenberg I am not a big fan. My criticisms of the quarterback are that he doesn’t through a tight spiral, has trouble pushing the ball down field with his arm strength, and trouble reading defenses. As a prospect I see Hackenberg being a bust in the NFL, unless he is drafted by one team.
The Houston Texans is the perfect landing spot for Hackenberg. Given that they are looking for a franchise quarterback after playing QB roulette last season with four different starters, Houston has never truly had a franchise quarterback since their inception in 2002. With the 22nd pick in the draft, Hackenberg figures to be available at that spot. While he fits the Texans’ need for a signal caller, the main reason this is a match made in heaven is because of head coach Bill O’Brien.
As the head football coach of Penn State, O’Brien recruited Hackenberg to Happy Valley and helped turned him into an enticing prospect after a stellar freshmen campaign. In O’Briens system, Hackenberg had his best season at the collegiate level with a 58.9 completion percentage, and 20 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. It looked like the Nittany Lions would have a dynamic duo with O’Brien and Hackenberg, until O’Brien accepted the head coaching job in Houston.
Since James Franklin took the reigns of the Nittany Lions, Hackenberg regressed with his completion percentage and passing yards both as career lows in his final season at Penn State. Franklin’s system did hurt Hackenberg by often putting the quarterback out their with a below average offensive line and asking the quarterback to throw the ball down the field.
Now the question is does O’Brien want to recruit Hackenberg for the second time? Currently Hackenberg is the fifth quarterback on Mel Kiper’s big board. He should be available at the 22nd pick for the Texans. There are scenarios, could Houston pass on Hackenberg in the first round and hope to trade up for him in the second round? It’s possible but one thing that could cripple Hackenberg’s draft stock is the interest his former head coach gives him.
If O’Brien doesn’t draft Hackenberg in the first round, or worse not even attend his pro day, that would certainly scare off teams that could have interest. Those teams would have to be thinking “if he doesn’t want his former quarterback that he recruited, there must be some major red flags”. The lack of interest could mean that Hackenberg would have a major fall on draft day.
Will their be a Penn State reunion on draft day? Or will Hackenberg’s college regression translate into his stock plummeting during the draft? Stay tuned to find out.