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...So You Drafted Christian Hackenberg

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Welcome to NFL Draft season! We here at Black Shoe Diaries know that you NFL fans can't possibly know about every single college player. That's why we're here to share with you all we know about some of our favorites. Today, we're going to tell you why you made the wonderful decision to draft Christian Hackenberg!

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The Skinny

Do I really need to write this part? I guess I will, but let's face it, all of you know it by now.

Christian Hackenberg committed to Penn State on February 29 of 2012. At a time that, uh, let's say wasn't great for the university, he was the shining beacon of hope. Penn State was about to go through a whole lot of shit, and Hackenberg essentially came to Penn State under the assumption that he'd never get the opportunity to play for a national title or in a bowl game or in the Big Ten title game.

Still, he came anyway, and his freshman year, he was actually bad because Pro Football Focus said so the dude was a revelation. I'll spare you the stats because you don't need to read them again, but he ruled. He was the No. 1 pick in the [whichever year] Draft. It was a foregone conclusion.

And then Bill O'Brien left for the NFL. James Franklin came in, brought John Donovan with him, and we saw Hackenberg never really fit into what the new regime wanted to do. He had some moments, but forgetting about all of the things outside of his control, there weren't a ton of times where Hackenberg seemed comfortable. Sure, there where occasions where Hackenberg put it all together, but in general, it was ugly.

So yeah, the last 24 months or so of Christian Hackenberg's life have been weird. He's played in a system where he never totally fit, he got sacked ∞ times, and his draft stock fell quite a bit. Fun!

Hackenberg is still going to get drafted in the first three rounds because the dude's smart as hell, he can heave a football all over the place, and teams understand that he was put in a system where he didn't really fit. I mean, sure, Jon Gruden loves every person capable of throwing a football 10+ feet, but the guy said that he thinks Hackenberg is a first rounder. Gruden thinks the way that NFL front offices think. What I'm saying is the projections of Hackenberg slipping into the later part of day two or the top of day three may be wrong.

What You're Getting

Above everything else, you're getting a brain. Christian Hackenberg just gets the mental part of playing quarterback, which is something that you can teach to a certain extent, but mostly is something that comes naturally for great players. For Hackenberg, it has always come naturally. I recommend that you watch this video, it will give you a much more comprehensive breakdown of how advanced mentally Hackenberg is than I ever can.

Hackenberg is a dude who will step into your organization and within two weeks have the entire playbook and terminology memorized. Again, this is just how this guy is wired: he has an inherent understanding of how the Xs and Os aspect of football works. I will wager almost any sum of money that if he is brought in by a team with a questionable quarterback situation, we're going to hear a ton of reports in the preseason about how he's pushing for the starting job because of how quickly he's picking up the offense. But that's a conversation for another day.

Additionally, the team that takes him will get a guy who has one of the 10 best arms in the league. In a more vertical passing game, this dude is going to eat defenses up. Unfortunately, this strong arm is also a weakness of his at times when he forgets to take something off of short passes, but we'll get to his negatives in a sec (although I won't touch on this because I'm already touching on it here).

Lastly, you're getting a quarterback who has an inherent desire to get better. The dude has spent the last two years getting ripped apart by everyone. He has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, and with how naturally competitive he has shown that he is, you can probably guess that he will want to come in and silence everyone who criticizes him so easily.

As for negatives, it all starts with his footwork. My goodness does Hackenberg have maddening footwork. The good news is he seems like he's aware of this, the bad news is he had bad footwork for the last two years. This is fixable, yes, and I believe there is a direct correlation between Hackenberg's subpar accuracy numbers for the last two years and the fact that his footwork wasn't all that great in the team's new offense (part of this was because he was taught "different footwork in each of his three seasons at Penn State"). Again, this is correctable, but it's still a concern. Accuracy is also a serious issue, but like I said, I think that's mostly tied to his footwork. Still, his ball placement isn't always the best.

There's also the concern that Hackenberg has David Carr Syndrome. He's been the most sacked quarterback in America for the last two years, and there are legitimate and, quite frankly, fair concerns that he will get shell shocked if he gets hit a lot in the NFL. There were plenty of times where too much pressure led to Hackenberg struggling (which some people say is proof he's awful, I would argue that any QB would struggle under these circumstances). His pocket awareness ranges from "otherworldly" to "non-existent," and usually is tied to how much time he has spent running for his life over the course of a game. There are times where he just stands there and gets nuked, sure, but there are also times where he senses pressure, moves around, gets himself extra time, and throws a dime (ex: here). It's hit or miss with him. The flashes are perfect, but the low points are really rough.

Anyway, I'll let SB Nation College Football editor Jason Kirk get the last word in this section:


Please, some NFL team, draft this dude, basically put him through quarterback rehab for a year or two, and I promise you will have a guy who has the potential to be really, really good. Rush him and there may be issues. Let him sit, learn, and get comfortable again, and you're going to have a quarterback you can build around.


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