Breaking Down Penn State's Christian Hackenberg

Three years ago when Christian Hackenberg left Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia for college, he just about had his pick of the college he chose to attend. He was a 5-star prospect by most of the high school recruiting services and was offered by some of the best programs in the country. He chose Penn State. Hackenberg is a true junior and a three-year starter for Penn State. As a true freshman in 2013, under current Houston Texans' coach Bill O’Brien, he was a starter and statistically had just about his best season. That year, playing in a pro-style offense, he completed 231 of 392 throws for a 58.9 completion percentage, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Since O’Brien left, Hackenberg’s numbers have gone downhill. In 2014, playing in a half field spread offense, he finished 270 of 484 for 2977 yards and a 55.8 completion percentage. He threw 12 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Playing in the same offense this year, he is 128 of 235 for 1787 yards, a 54.5 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, and two interceptions. The only thing that has improved is his touchdown-to-interception ratio. In this type of offense, the quarterback should be completing well over 60% of his throws. That Hackenberg is at only 54% in that offense is horrendous. Looking at Hackenberg physically, he is just what you want. He has excellent size at about 6040 – 225 and is well built. He is very strong and he has good overall athleticism. He is not a speed quarterback by any means. I doubt he will break 4.80 when he runs for time, but he does have quick feet and can change direction and move around. That said, he is not anywhere near as mobile as you would like. He is very stationary in the pocket and takes far too many sacks. In the Temple game alone, he got sacked 10 times. While I agree that the offensive line is poor, Hackenberg lacks a feel for pass rushers and holds on to the ball way too long. His pocket awareness is not where it should be. He is also not the type to make or extend plays with his feet. Playing form a spread offense, Hackenberg does not have to “set up”. He does have some designed roll-outs and shows he can throw on the run. When throwing from the pocket, he has a deliberate overhand delivery, and he needs to work on getting the ball out of his hand quicker. Playing in a half-field read offense, you never see him look to one side and then come back to the other. He looks strictly to the side the ball is going. His progression is limited to usually two primary receivers and a check down. They do throw a lot of bubble screens and other short passes but not as many as some spread offenses. Looking at tape, it does not look like Hackenberg is a quick processor. He can be slow to find the open man and in many cases holds on to the ball for too long a period. He has just average anticipation. His arm strength is excellent. He throws a tight ball with zip and can easily throw the ball 55 or more yards. He lacks top accuracy and ball placement. He is better on shorter throws but his deep ball accuracy is less than average. He flashes good ball placement but to often, receivers have to make an adjustment. What I haven’t seen is Hackenberg being able to make the tight window throw with any kind of consistency. Being that Hackenberg is only a third-year junior, he is not in any way ready to enter the draft. While there will be some who will look at his size and arm strength and feel he will improve at the next level, he won't. He has too many flaws in his game, and he would be making a huge mistake if he entered the draft. He needs to work on and develop his game. With a better supporting cast next year, his numbers should improve as will his confidence and decision making. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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