Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was once one of the nation's top recruits out of Fork Union Military Academy. However, after joining the Nittany Lions and impressing as a true freshman, Hackenberg failed to dazzle in his next two seasons.
During his time at Penn State, Hackenberg threw for 8,457 yards and 48 touchdowns. Though he had a successful freshman season, the quarterback only completed 53% of his passes this past season.
As an NFC executive told Sports Illustrated’s Lindsay Schnell on the Draft Season podcast, opinion is split down the middle on the quarterback.
“The tape is just terrible over the last two years, but he has traits and leadership,” he said. “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.”
Here's what the experts have to say about the NFL draft’s most polarizing quarterback.
Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated: “The trick here is to try to block out all that went wrong the past two seasons and focus on the possibilities. Hackenberg still has the size NFL teams covet. He also can throw darts, both short and downfield, when given time. ... Hackenberg needs to be broken down and rebuilt, so a team that doesn’t need him until at least 2017 is an ideal landing spot.”
Jon Gruden, ESPN: “I'll be shocked if Hackenberg is not a first-round pick. ... This man can run a 4.7-second 40, he is tough as hell and he works relentlessly. He just has to get in the right system with the right people and refocus on the small details.”
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: “‘Looks the part’ is the nicest thing that has been said about Hackenberg the last two seasons, and we’re not really sure how much that’s worth. The on-field play has been subpar by every measure, and most point to 2013 as the glimmer of hope in Hackenberg’s upside.”
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: Could Christian Hackenberg go in the first round? Without a doubt. Said one Big Ten scout to me while in Indianapolis, “His freshman tape is better than any of these other [quarterbacks].” High praise, even if it won't receive many agreements.
Mike Mayock, NFL Network: “...I have two wild cards, and the wild cards from me are Christian Hackenberg from Penn State and Cardale Jones from Ohio State, both of whom have a ton of talent, big, good-looking kids, but their tape is poor. ... So I don't know how long either of them, Hackenberg or Jones, will take to go from where they are today to what you would need in a functional NFL quarterback.”
Colin Cowherd, Fox Sports: “Christian Hackenberg completes about 56 percent of his throws. Run for your life. He's big, he's strong, he's powerful, he completes 56% of this throws at the college level. That's not good enough. If you can complete that in college, you're not going to work in the NFL.”
From Robert Klemko's March 24 MMQB column: “Per two personnel sources on two separate teams who have shown interest in drafting Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, the quarterback has said all the wrong things in interviews when asked to explain his declining sophomore and junior numbers (a combined 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions). Hackenberg has shifted blame to coach James Franklin, who took over in 2014 when coach Bill O’Brien departed for the Texans. Said one evaluator: ‘Despite the fact that it’s probably true, you don’t want to hear a kid say that.’”