When Christian Hackenberg arrived on campus in Happy Valley as a 6′ 4″ 18-year-old in the spring of 2013, hopes were sky-high. The pocket passer came out of Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia, and ESPN ranked him as the single best pro-style quarterback in all of the 2013 college freshman class.
He won Big 10 Freshman of the Week five times in his first dozen games and tossed twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. It appeared as though Hackenberg would be a surefire first-rounder in NFL after three quick seasons.
Unfortunately, Hackenberg’s sophomore campaign was disappointing by all standards. Dedicated fans of his wrote it off to the fact that there were changes in the coaching staff and inconsistencies in the offensive game plan.
His junior year began just a few weeks ago, and many of the most important talking heads in the business agreed that he had as much pressure as anyone in all of college football heading into the 2015 season. A couple games in, it would be difficult to classify Hackenberg as anything more than a middle-of-the-road quarterback. He’s barely eclipsed 100 passing yards in each of his first two games, and his completion percentage sags below 50%.
Although Penn State beat Buffalo by a couple of touchdowns in Week 2, Hackenberg was outperformed by an unknown Bulls QB who certainly will not entertain ideas of being drafted in the NFL. Should Hackenberg?
At this point in time, it seems as though he would be a low round, low-risk prospect. He still has the size and strength to compete at the professional level, but teams in need of a quarterback who can go into a professional system immediately would likely pass on Hackenberg given what he has shown them in the last year and a half.
The most likely scenario involves the 20-year-old out of Lehighton, Pennsylvania catching on with a team as a third or perhaps second stringer heading into his first preseason. It is a brutal reality for those on the cusp of making teams, but his potential value at the professional level will likely be judged by a handful of preseason series under center featuring fellow second and third stringers hoping to play football for living.
Hackenberg is a likable guy and a hard worker. Fans will be hoping for the best this season and the next, but without a serious uptick in areas such as calmly surveying the field in long yardage situations and confidently throwing the deep ball, Hackenberg’s glory days will forever be his 2013 season at the helm of the Nittany Lions.