Christian Hackenberg has seen his NFL Draft stock drop seemingly by the day since the college football season ended back in January. He’s been on NFL radars since his freshman year at Penn State, which oddly was his best one.
Hackenberg completed 58.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions his freshman season. His junior season, he completed just 53.5 percent of his passes, along with 2,525 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
It wasn’t too long ago when we were seeing praise like this for Hackenberg:
I'm excited about Mariota, Hundley, Winston and others, but Christian Hackenberg (eligible '16 draft) is the one to really watch.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) June 11, 2014
In August of 2015, Charles Davis told the Associated Press he had high expectations for Hackenburg. “I see (a) guy who could be everything, I see a guy who could be the No. 1 pick in the draft,” Davis said. Former Lions president Matt Millen had high praise for him entering the season as well. “This is going to be his last year, too,” Millen told NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread in August. “I don’t see him staying four years. He is really talented. … He’s a top-five pick.”
Recently, Hackenberg has been in the news for not only his draft stock falling, but reportedly saying all the wrong things in his pre-draft interviews. Hackenberg is reported as having said that he thinks James Franklin was the cause for his downfall. The 6’4 quarterback played under Bill O’Brien at Penn State his freshman season when he was projected as a potential top pick.
Per two personnel sources on two separate teams who have shown interest in drafting Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, the quarterback has said all the wrong things in interviews when asked to explain his declining sophomore and junior numbers (a combined 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions). Hackenberg has shifted blame to coach James Franklin, who took over in 2014 when coach Bill O’Brien departed for the Texans. Said one evaluator: “Despite the fact that it’s probably true, you don’t want to hear a kid say that.”
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar wrote early in the college football season that it was time to stop thinking of Hackenberg as a No. 1 pick, which is exactly where we were at the beginning of the 2015 season.
Kadar also felt similarly to that of Hackenberg when it came to Penn State’s coaching situation:
The Penn State offense under Coach James Franklin doesn’t seem to suit Hackenberg as well as the offense did when Bill O’Brien was in charge in 2013. Because of that, we may never know how good Hackenberg can be because his development is clearly being stunted at Penn State.
Hackenberg has fallen out of most first-round mock drafts, and is now viewed as a second or third-rounder at best. He does not appear in Chris Burke’s latest mock at SI. However, NFL.com has the Texans reaching for Hackenberg at #22 overall in a reunion with former coach Bill O’Brien.
Whether or not teams believe that Hackenberg did in fact see a halt in progression because of James Franklin, how quickly he threw his coach under the bus certainly does not bode well with NFL teams. While there will definitely be teams that agree with him, to hear a prospect be that open to talking down on a coach raises a red flag in today’s NFL.
Hackenberg and others could be right, that James Franklin had a lot to do with his downfall the past couple of seasons. With the NFL being an extremely pass-heavy league and the quarterback position as important as ever, somebody will undoubtedly take a shot with Hackenberg, as he’s shown potential. However, his fall from a consensus top quarterback process has been fascinating to watch in real time. Time will tell if he can find success again at the next level.