Todd McShay: Christian Hackenberg no guarantee to declare for draft
Christian Hackenberg is still a major draft storyline. The early consensus is that he’ll fall outside the first round unless Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans take a chance on him.
But hold the phone.
What if the Penn State quarterback doesn’t elect to turn pro? He’ll have his third offensive coordinator in four years if he does decide to return for his senior year.
ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard said that Hackenberg would be wise to come back and play under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. It would give him a chance to look like the quarterback that tossed 20 touchdown passes as a true freshman in 2013.
ESPN draft insider Todd McShay talked about the decision Hackenberg has ahead. And yes, it is a decision.
“It’s a really tough situation, because do you want to go back and play another year with a coaching staff that things have not been ideal? Or do you want to go to the NFL and be drafted a lot later than you expected to based on your first year?” McShay said. “Now, there’s still Bill O’Brien out there and the Houston Texans. I don’t think that they would pull the trigger in the middle of the first round, but maybe they’ll move up in the second because they believe in him.
“That’s kind of the one asterisk, but I think for the rest of the league, just studying the tape, it’ll be hard to pull the trigger on Hackenberg in the first round.”
NFL insider Phil Savage said that Hackenberg wouldn’t get past O’Brien, wherever they decide to pick in the first round. But as McShay said, perhaps trading up in the second round would make more sense if the rest of the league has soured on the once can’t-miss prospect.
Since his days with O’Brien running the offense, Hackenberg completed just 55 percent of his passes. He’s been sacked over 100 times in his roller coaster college career, which is more than any other quarterback in the country during that stretch.
McShay wasn’t willing to simply chalk that up to sub-par offensive line play. Not buying into James Franklin and the new coaching staff, McShay said, prevented Hackenberg from looking like his freshman self.
“The hard part with Hackenberg is that you see a guy that looks the part and you think he’s going to develop into an elite quarterback,” McShay said. “At the end of 2013, everything looks the part. Then, he has a new coaching regime come in and clearly he did not buy into what they were selling and what they wanted to do. That’s not ideal, and that explains some of the issues he’s had.
“But at the end of the day, you don’t want to see freshman year being the best year a player has. And more importantly, it’s really hard to put a first- or second-round grade on a quarterback who struggled with accuracy the way that Hackenberg has struggled.”
If Hackenberg does choose to return, he’ll have the likes of Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin and nearly the entire offensive line.
He’ll have until Jan. 18 to declare for the draft. An impressive showing against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 would certainly help his cause.