Jets take Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg in second round
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have a new quarterback on their roster - whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick returns.
With Fitzpatrick still unsigned and in a contract stalemate, the Jets selected Penn State star Christian Hackenberg with their second-round pick in the NFL draft Friday night.
The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Hackenberg threw 16 touchdowns with six interceptions last season for the Nittany Lions. In three seasons at Penn State, Hackenberg set the school marks for career passing yards, completions and touchdowns.
''We think he's got a lot of potential and upside,'' general manager Mike Maccagnan said.
In the third round, the Jets addressed one of their biggest needs by taking Georgia's Jordan Jenkins, a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Jenkins had 19 sacks in four seasons with the Bulldogs.
The selection of Hackenberg was a bit curious because it muddies the Jets' quarterback picture a bit since New York also has Geno Smith, the former starter who was a second-rounder in 2013, and Bryce Petty, a fourth-rounder last year, at quarterback.
Maccagnan said leading up to the draft that the Jets would likely take a quarterback at some point, and insisted Fitzpatrick's situation wouldn't affect that approach. He reiterated that after the selection of Hackenberg.
''At that point in time, Christian was the best player we had rated,'' Maccagnan said.
It's possible New York could still re-sign Fitzpatrick - something that Maccagnan said remains one of the Jets' ''goals'' - and allow Hackenberg to sit this season as the team's No. 3 behind Smith or Petty - and then have Hackenberg compete for the starting job next year.
''Without Fitz being on the team right now, Geno's first-team, and then we go from there,'' coach Todd Bowles said.
Maccagnan also didn't rule out Hackenberg competing for the starting job this summer.
''We'll see where he's at,'' the GM said.
Hackenberg is regarded as a pro-style dropback, pocket passer with a strong arm, but was sacked 104 times in three seasons and there are questions about his mobility. His overall abilities have been widely scrutinized over the last two years, and he acknowledged that he's happy to get a fresh start in the NFL.
''Yeah, I think that's awesome,'' Hackenberg said during a conference call.
Maccagnan, Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey were among a contingent of Jets representatives who held a private workout with Hackenberg at Penn State a few weeks ago.
''There are just a lot of qualities we thought are in him that could develop into a good quarterback potentially in the NFL,'' Maccagnan said.
Hackenberg is the only Nittany Lions player with three 2,000-yard passing seasons and never missed a start in college, playing in 38 straight. He decided to enter the draft early rather than return for his senior season.
He was the Big Ten freshman of the year in 2013, when he threw for 20 touchdowns and 2,955 yards in 12 games. Hackenberg's production dipped the following season, throwing for 12 TDs and 15 INTs along with 2,977 yards in 13 games.
''Yeah, I'm just really looking forward to getting better with this opportunity,'' Hackenberg said. ''I had a great college experience, in my opinion, learned a lot of things, faced a lot of adversity and had success.''
It appeared that perhaps Hackenberg would be reunited with his former college coach in Bill O'Brien, whose Texans traded up in the second round to the 50th pick, one spot ahead of the Jets. But Houston instead drafted Notre Dame center Nick Martin.
''I was sitting out in my backyard (in Virginia) playing cornhole when my Mom came running out with the phone,'' Hackenberg said with a laugh. ''So, I didn't really know what was going on. I'm really just fortunate, man.''
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Jenkins had 10 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks last season despite playing with a torn groin and abdominal wall most of the season that sapped some of his burst off the line.
''I feel like it took away a lot,'' Jenkins said during a conference call. ''I was eager to get back out there and I didn't really give it as much time to recover as it needed, but I feel like I adapted and played efficiently the rest of the season.''
Jenkins was worked out by Bowles a few weeks ago, and the Jets coach told him he'd see him soon. Bowles anticipates Jenkins being both an edge setter and a pass rusher.
''I feel like I add pressure and bring a lot of intensity and physicality to the game,'' Jenkins said. ''I'm just a guy who enjoys getting after it and getting physical.''
New York drafted Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee in the first round with the 20th overall pick Thursday night.
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