2016 NFL Draft: early look at Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg


Christian Hackenberg is an extremely talented quarterback prospect with several major holes in his game. There are a lot of evaluators out there that have him ranked as one of the top-5 prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft and a candidate to be the top pick. However, he’s far from a finished product which makes this upcoming season very important.

Hackenberg has great size for the position and features elite arm talent. He’s able to make all the throws while delivering the ball with loft or zip. His arm strength allows him to squeeze the ball into tight coverage as well as work the side line routes.

Overall, he has a good and easy throwing motion that has no wasted movement. His balance in the pocket and commitment to tying his eyes and feet to his target help him deliver an accurate football. He can get a little statue like in the pocket from time to time but this is an easy fix.

Hackenberg is a strong leader with several game-winning drives under his belt. He has handled the turmoil surrounding the Penn State program and a coaching change with class. These are important factors for NFL franchises when considering a quarterback early in the draft.

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The problems for Hackenberg surround his decision-making and handling pressure. Penn State’s offensive line was a major problem last year and forced Hackenberg to deal with constant pressure. However, he allowed the pass rush to impact his decision-making too often.

This clip shows Hackenberg nearly throwing an interception because he faded away with this throw, didn’t properly identify the defender and rushed the play because of pressure:

His season was full of plays just like this one with many actually resulting in a turnover. While the offensive line carries a lot of the blame, Hackenberg cannot abandon his mechanics and force the ball into coverage. A turnover is always the worst result of a play with an incompletion or sack being the better outcome.

Hackenberg’s issues in the pocket don’t just pertain to issues with pressure as he also has a tendency to hold the ball too long. A lot of the hits he suffered this past year were his own fault and a result of not getting rid of the ball on time. This clip is a perfect example of this problem with Hackenberg standing in a clean pocket for around 4 seconds:

Arm talent, size and physical abilities only get a quarterback so far then it comes to the mental part of the game to take that next step. Hackenberg has all the physical tools needed to succeed but needs a lot of work in the mental part of the game. He’s in the early first-round mix but only if he shows improvement.