This just in: The Washington Redskins might be looking for a quarterback next year. Therefore, Breaking Burgundy's Paul Conner took a break from studying Kirk, Robert and Colt to examine film of arguably the top passer on the college level.
Christian Hackenberg hasn't lacked for hype over the last two years. For the most part, it has been positive, which is expected when among pro-style quarterbacks you're ranked the best by ESPN and No. 2 by Rival.com. More recently, I've seen a negative opinion here or there so I had to check the film for myself. Are these negative reports a product of actual proof or some going against the grain just to say "I told you so" if the Penn State staandout doesn't pan out.
After watching his full 2013 and 2014 season, this is my pre-season report of Christian Hackenberg:
QB Christian Hackenberg
Mental Awareness: 6.4
Release Type & Quickness: 6.9
Arm Strength: 7.2
Body Size and Strength: 7.0
Athletic Ability: 6.5
Ball Mechanics: 6.5
Setup Quickness: 6.9
Avoid Skills & Scrambling Ability: 7.0
Total Grade = 6.5
Quick away from Center
Works from under center and shotgun
Quick release, Strong Arm, THROW POWER, Ball cuts throught wind, can play in any weather
Good play action sell
Small hands? Dropped ball a few times while trying to throw
Finds his one on one matchups deep
Calm footwork in pocket
Underrated athleticism, really good
Below average accuracy. Even on jump balls?
Needs to learn when to turn the heat off
Escapability in the pocket, decent throwing on run
Delivers ball with pressure in face
Careless with ball?
Throwing out routes too far inside; accuracy issue
FRESHMAN YEAR: Spotty accuracy, ball placement questionable at best. Needs to know when to put touch on short routes
Footwork lazier in James Franklin offense. No urgency until pressure
Good pocket presence
Good job cycling through reads; but many times stares down first read
He tries to do too much; leads to mistakes
SUMMARY: After watching the film, after seeing the flashes that you want to watch the play again, it's easy to see why many fall in love with Hackenberg. But when you sit down for a deep dive, the potential flaws jump out. Hackenberg's arm strength is absolutely tantalizing. He has a cannon attached to his shoulder. Just based on arm strength alone, he would rank among the current top tier quarterbacks -- in the NFL. He can make any throw to any part of the field at any given time.
Unfortunately, control isn't part of his repertoire right now. Throwing 90 mph fastballs that would reduce a seagull to feathers is not needed on drag routes and screen passes. His arm strength also gives him a confidence to try and fit balls in where there is no room. He will need to correct that as well.
Hackenberg displays good pocket presence and uses underrated athleticism to maneuver around pass rushers while extending his time in the pocket. He's tough and isn't afraid to take a hit delivering a ball.
Where Hackenberg really struggles is accuracy. That just happens to be one of the most important traits of the QB position. Hackenberg will drop the occasional dime that will WOW you, but more often than not, will have throws leaving you disappointed. He is good at identifying his one-on-one matchups down the field, but will often overthrow his targets or throw the ball out of bounds. This happens even when the wide receiver has completely beaten coverage and is alone.
Hackenberg's ball placement on shorter routes will be an issue at the next level if he doesn't improve. In one game, he needed just a few yards for a first down. The wide receiver ran a five-yard out with the cornerback playing off-coverage. The wide receiver made his break. Wide open. Hackenberg threw it way outside. The Nittany Lions ran the same play on the very next play. Once again, he missed far outside If he wasn't missing outside on out-routes, he was throwing too far inside. In college, you can get away with that. In the NFL, it's a pick six.
Now comes 2015. Watching Christian Hackenberg's improvement or lack their of will become a weekly staple for NFL scouts and fans of teams desiring a QB upgrade. He was clearly more comfortable in Bill O'Brien's offense than James Franklin's version. He also had a stronger supporting cast during his freshman year -- and the accuracy issues were prevalent then too. It's easy to root for Hackenberg because he has a rocket launcher. If his missiles remain unguided then his battle for the "Top QB in the Draft" might be a lost one.