One of the major pressing questions about Penn State football right now concerns the future of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The debate, which has been swirling for months, is focused on whether or not the Nittany Lion junior should and/or will forego his final year in Happy Valley and enter the 2016 NFL Draft.
As a freshman, the buzz started to build, as Hackenberg turned the collective heads of the college football world, throwing for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns with 10 interceptions on his way to Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. In 2015, while the draft is always a discussion points for the pundits, the questions have increased as to whether he's ready for the next level. During the regular season he rolled up 2,386 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions, albeit behind a struggling offensive line.
Given the differing performances over the course of his collegiate career, there are mixed opinions as to what the best route is for the junior signal-caller. Some draw comparisons to Troy Aikman and Josh Freeman, pointing to his size and strength as factors that should push him toward the professional ranks sooner rather than later. Convesely, others say factors like accuracy issues and an opportunity to further develop under a new offensive coordinator should keep him in Happy Valley for his final year of eligibility.
57 percent of PSU fans feel Hackenberg should not leave for the professional ranks early.
It's not surprising that fans across the Nittany Nation have their own opinions when it comes to the quarterback's future. FOS ran mutliple polls on the topic recently that found that 69 percent Penn State fans felt Hackenberg will enter the 2016 NFL Draft. However, when asked whether he should enter the draft early, 57 percent of PSU fans felt that Hackenberg should not leave for the professional ranks early and take the opportunity to further develop under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
Making the Case
Penn State fans on both sides of the issue are trying to make the case for Hackenberg to stay or go. As FOS member dogduice said, "I 'think' he will be a pretty good pro. I honestly think the OL was everything. I think a top combine performance and he can move into the first round. The NFL is really short on 'quality' QBs." Member ORPSU pointed to Hackenberg's NFL Combine abilities as being another factor, saying, "Hack will crush the combine, especially interviews, and several teams will (be willing to) take him too high. Not first round, but high. And I'll be pulling for him."
"Hack will crush the combine, especially interviews."
HousePSU echoed this sentiment, saying, "Hack has the size, arm strength, toughness, leadership abilities and the football mind that the NFL is looking for. He will CRUSH the combine and will absolutely destroy every interview he goes into. … I won't be surprised if he is taken first round, and the kid deserves it."
YorkRaven also pointed to Penn State's pending offensive shift, explaining, "I don't think Hack really fits what Moorhead wants to do, anyway, so it's probably best for all involved if Hack moves on to the pros. He gets the NFL level coaching he needs to succeed at that level, and our program gets to transition into what Moorhead envisions for an offense."
On the other side, ErieTribe opined that the Nittany Lions' new offensive coordinator may be good for the quarterback, saying, "(Moorhead's) vertical passing concepts would fit Hackenberg much better than (Jon) Donovan's scheme. A good year in a passing scheme might be worth a round in draft status."
As Face008 shared, "As for Hack as a pro prospect, it all comes down to his accuracy IMO. Even as a freshman under (Bill O'Brien's) tutelage, Hack was a streaky passer who missed way to many easy throws. I think what will dictate Hack's draft status (high second round to fourth round) is whether or not teams believe that his accuracy will improve with better mechanics or whether they believe that Hack simply does not possess this skill at an NFL caliber level."
It will be interesting to see where he ends up, but you can be certain that many NFL scouts will have their attention focused on the Taxslayer Bowl in Janurary to see how Hackenberg fares against an SEC defense.