THE LOWDOWN: Criticism of Hackenberg has ranged from the reasonable to the ridiculous. On the reasonable side, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock hit Hackenberg with a “buyer beware” tag because the quarterback’s 2014 and ’15 film was so dicey. On the ridiculous side, some dopey (and anonymous) scout ripped Hackenberg for being too friendly with team managers because that told said scout that the QB “likes to be king of the little people rather than king of the big people.” Of course, had he not spent enough time with the managers, some other dopey scout would have labeled him a prima donnna.
Since we’ve obviously reached the point of expert paralysis by analysis with Hackenberg, let’s break it down into the most basic terms.
On the upside, he has outstanding size and physical skills, and that goes beyond his great arm. At the NFL combine, he ranked as a top QB performer in the 40-yard dash (4.78) and three-cone drill (7.04). Before he got to Penn State and then during his time in Happy Valley, he was confronted with extremely difficult circumstances, and the vast majority of the time he handled them with aplomb. He was twice voted a captain by his teammates, and could not have handled himself better when dealing with the media and fans. He was ridiculously durable considering the on-field beatings he took. Finally, when he was protected by a veteran line, had an NFL-caliber receiver and led an NFL-style offense in 2013, he was terrific.
On the downside, he did not adapt well during the transition from Bill O’Brien’s pro-style offense to John Donovan’s spread attack. (At last check, coaching and system changes were common in the NFL.) That and poor protection appeared to impact his mechanics, which in turn impacted his accuracy and internal clock. He lost his cool on the field a few times in 2014. And when announcing he was going to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, he thanked just about everyone in the program except Franklin, an optic both have tried to downplay but that nevertheless lingers.
The bottom line is simple. Hackenberg is a high-character guy with terrific raw skills who is going to need some time to develop. The risk is that he won’t be able to shake the on-field issues of the last couple of years. The potential reward — for a team that has the time to develop him — is landing a franchise quarterback without having to surrender a ton of assets.
PREDICTION: Look for a team with an established, veteran QB to pick Hackenberg late in the second or early in the third round.
FAST FACT: Penn State has not had a pure quarterback drafted since Wally Richardson went to Baltimore in the seventh round in 1997. Hackenberg was born in 1995.
THE LOWDOWN: Carter did well at PSU’s Pro Day, setting personal bests in the 40-yard dash (4.64) and vertical (35.5) while broad-jumping 10-2 and clocking a 4.39 pro agility drill. The tight end also caught everything Hackenberg fired at him.
Carter measured in at 6-3¼, 243 pounds. As was the case at Penn State, he ran routes from the TE spot, the backfield, the slot and even split wide on Pro Day.
That’s the good news.
The not-so-good news is that, following a breakout redshirt freshman season (2012) where he won All-Big Ten notice (36 catches for 453 yards), his numbers steadily declined the next three years. And this began BEFORE O’Brien left. Frequent injuries were a big part of it. But he seemed to lose his swagger, a bit, too. And blocking has never been a strong suit.
PREDICTION: Thanks to his athletic ability and positional flexibility, Carter figures to earn a free-agent invite to a camp. We’ll be surprised if he is drafted, though.
FAST FACT: Penn State has not had a tight end drafted higher than the fifth round since Kyle Brady was a first-round selection of the New York Jets in 1995. Seven Lions TEs have been drafted since then.
THE LOWDOWN: Talk about guilt by association. As scouts dissect film of Hackenberg being sacked again and again and again, they are also seeing plenty of Mangiro. The versatile lineman started all but one game the last two seasons, playing center, guard and even some tackle. So he is obviously smart and a team-first guy. He was also a good leader, serving as a captain last fall.
As much as Penn State fans ought to be pulling for him, questions about his strength and athleticism — and all of that tape of the line struggling — are really working against Mangiro.
PREDICTION: Mangiro’s best shot will be at landing a free-agent tryout somewhere.
FAST FACT: The last two centers drafted out of PSU — Stefen Wisniewski in 2011 and A.Q. Shipley in 2009 — are still in the NFL. Wisniewski recently signed with Philadelphia and Shipley is in his second year with Arizona.