NFL Hot Press: Opinions Divided on Christian Hackenberg

Opinions Divided on Christian Hackenberg

Updated Oct. 1, 2015
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is one of the most debated prospects in the draft. There’s a real divide on how NFL sources viewed Hackenberg entering the season and how fans did. Sources see Hackenberg as a future first-rounder, while a lot of fans felt that Hackenberg had no business in the first round.

The highly recruited Hackenberg was a star as a freshman playing for Bill O’Brien. His sophomore season was ugly as Penn State’s offense struggled for a variety of reasons under new head coach James Franklin. As a junior, the roller coaster has continued and that has had an impact on Hackenberg’s draft stock. Some teams still see him as a first-rounder, while others don’t think he belongs in the first round of the draft.

One general manager from a team that doesn’t see Hackenberg as a first-rounder said that he is a statue in the pocket and has just average accuracy. Another issue that rubs some evaluators the wrong way is that Hackenberg reminds some of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in terms of his body language and the way teammates play uninspired around him.

Other teams that view him as a first-rounder see a skill set they like with the 6-foot-4, 234-pounder. They see that he played well with an NFL coach in O’Brien and can see why the situation in Penn State has been frustrating for Hackenberg since O’Brien left for the Texans. In 2013, he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year completing 59 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. One source said the following regarding Hackenberg and the first round:

“With quarterbacks all bets are off and it only takes one team to fall in love. We had a fourth-round grade on Christian Ponder, yet he went in the first. [Blaine] Gabbert was another. We didn’t have a first-round grade on E.J. Manuel either. [Blake] Bortles wasn’t a top of the draft prospect either. There are so many teams desperate for a quarterback that will be picking in the top 20 I could easily see someone taking him there. There are only so many guys that have that skill set and some coaches will feel they can fix him.”

There is no doubt that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and there are a lot of franchises that are desperate to land one. That demand helps elevate Hackenberg, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, Michigan State’s Connor Cook, and Cal’s Jared Goff. There are so many divided opinions about Hackenberg, that this debate is going to rage on in scouting circles and with fans for many months to come.

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