The Buffalo Bills have several needs on both sides of the ball that they’ll look to address during free agency and the 2016 NFL Draft. However, General Manager Doug Whaley has stated on numerous occasions that despite Tyrod Taylor’s success in his first year as a starter, the team will add another quarterback in the draft. Today, we’ll look at Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.
The Lehighton, Pa native native was a 5 star pro-style QB coming out of high school and picked Penn State over schools such as Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina. Despite his enrollment being prior to the Jerry Sandusky scandal being brought to light, Hackenberg honored his commitment and refused to transfer, despite being given the opportunity.
Starting as a true freshman, Hackenberg under 2nd year coach Bill O’Brien accounted for 2,955 yards passing, 58.9% accuracy, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
With O’Brien’s departure in 2014, Hackenberg had 2,977 yards passing (55.8% accuracy), 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions under new coach James Franklin. This past year, Hackenberg had 2,386 yards, 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, with a 53.3% completion.
Christian Hackenberg Physical Tools
Christian Hackenberg is 6’4 and 217 pounds and has the wheels to escape the pocket if he had to.
If there’s one area that you can point to as problematic for Hackenberg, it would be sacks on 1st or 2nd down. Out of his 38 sacks for the 2015 season, 23 occurred on 1st/2nd down. Constantly being behind the sticks is a recipe for turnovers and negative plays.
Christian Hackenberg Arm Talent
Christian Hackenberg has a strong arm and will can hit any area you’d like on a field.
However, the problem is consistency. In a perfect world, throws like this would be common:
Or this – which was one of my favorite throws he made last year. I am a big fan of judging a QB throwing out of his own endzone. Is he confident? Jittery? Running out of the back for no reason (RIP J.P. Losman/Trent Edwards/QB X)?
A lot of the throws however, particularly towards the end were underthrown, with footwork – as well as a lack of trust in his line in my opinion – coloring how he’d approach attempts:
That pass is the epitome of “bad process – good result”. You’d have liked for Christian to lay that ball a bit more out there, but a completion is a completion. This pass, however was a “NOPE”:
In watching his first year at Penn State, I enjoyed watching Hackenberg as a freshman go up against upperclassmen on defense and holding his own. Standing in a pocket, making throws with confidence were, even for this Pitt alum, just “cool” to watch as he developed. By the end of his junior year, however, throws like this were plentiful:
And I don’t blame him. At times, Hackenberg’s line was sub optimal and because of that (and a propensity to hold the ball longer…and longer…and longer) sacks and bad plays came in bunches.
Overview/Potential Fit With Buffalo Bills
Because of the way that Hackenberg’s time at Happy Valley ended, many pundits have said that Hackenberg is ‘maxed out’ at QB. Personally, I think that there is more to Christian than seen at Penn State. However, there is a big issue to figure out – how much of the David Carr treatment that he suffered towards the end of his time in school will carry over to the NFL.
Because of this, the Bills or any NFL team that wants to maximize his talent has to give him time to acclimate to the speed of the NFL – and provide at least adequate protection. Otherwise, Hackenberg will start to see the same ghosts that plagued him the last 2 years at Penn State – and the team that drafts him will be replacing him inside of a year.