I will be the first to admit the NFL Draft is an inexact science. However, there is one pretty high profile pick from this year’s draft that I am certain will end in doom. It is quarterback Christian Hackenberg to the Jets in round two.
With the Jets and last year’s starter Ryan Fitzpatrick still at a contractual impasse, it was reasonable that they would take a quarterback early. For me though, there are a few flags that make me very nervous about the former Penn State standout.
A highly touted recruit, Hackenburg’s career started out with a bang. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2013 and led a program that was still dealing with massive sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal to a very respectable 7-5 record. NFL scouts were salivating.
From there though, his numbers and the win-loss records stayed the same. The one major exception was his completion percentage. He completed 58% of his passes during his freshman season. Last year, in what would turn out to be his final college season, he completed just 53% of his passes. This was another slight decrease from his sophomore season. Why does this worry me? Jay Cutler is considered by most to be a middle-of-the-road NFL quarterback. He completed 64% of his passes last season. Remember, most of the guys Hackenberg played against were or are going to be working as the accountants and insurance salesman within a year. Hackenberg never came close to a respectable NFL completion percentage while in college. It is cliché, but the competition only gets bigger, faster and stronger in the NFL. So, that number will not get better. No quarterback has ever thrown a game winning incompletion.
Also, CBS Sports reported that during the pre-draft interview process, Hackenberg blamed a coaching change and his offensive line for his declining play. The quarterback is supposed to be the ultimate leader. Even if he has a point, Hackenberg needs to either take the blame himself or keep his mouth shut. That is the nature of the beast when it comes to being a quarterback.
There is one other thing that says an awful lot about Hackenberg. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien coached Hackenberg during his banner freshman season in Happy Valley. Houston traded up in the second round, just one pick in front of the Jets. Their quarterback situation is far from solid. The mostly unproven Brock Osweiler tops the depth chart. Obviously, the Texans did not take Hackenberg. O’Brien knows Hackenberg better than anyone, saw him at his best, and would not bite. That is a signal to the rest of the league should avoid him like the plague.
The Jets have an above average roster and missed the playoffs by just a game last season. However, the questions remain at quarterback in both the short and long term. Fitzpatrick will likely end up back with the Jets though the contract dispute may linger for a while longer. Even so, the 33 year old journeyman is not the long term answer. The other known commodity at quarterback on the roster is Geno Smith who missed the start of last season with a broken jaw caused by a teammate. This allowed the Jets to stumble on to a good thing with Fitzpatrck.
When a quarterback is drafted in the second round, they are meant to start at some point. Smith and Hackenburg are both second round picks. Smith has an 11-18 record as a starter. Hackenburg is a project that may or not pan out. You know where I am leaning. There is also Bryce Petty. The former Baylor stat stuffer remains buried on the depth chart. If and when Fitzpatrick gets back, he is likely the odd man out.
The Jets are in a tough spot. In the short term, they better get Fitzpatrick back in the building quick. They also better keep searching for the long term answer at quarterback. From where I sit, they do not have it yet. Again, this roster is pretty good, but without a quarterback it may have already reached its celling.