Christian Hackenberg Cracks Top 10 In Early NFL Mock Drafts
With the 2015 NFL Draft winding down, it’s time to look toward 2016, and what better way to do that than with way-too-early mock drafts? This seems to be a popular trend with many different sports media outlets, and we try our best to avoid them, but many of the mocks have Penn State’s star quarterback in the top 10. This means the experts are projecting a great junior campaign for Christian Hackenberg.
Many of the mock drafts come from sources like Bleacher Report (No. 5 to Washington Redskins), CBS Sports (No. 6 to New York Jets), SB Nation (No. 8 to Houston Texans) and plenty more. With these early mock drafts offering such shining predictions for Hack, there’s a few questions to answer as the season approaches.
Should He Leave?
The burning question every junior collegiate athlete ponders around the end of junior year: Should I go to the next level? That question will be brought up a lot over the course of next season and Hackenberg will have to make the decision next January. If he does leave, 2016 prospect Jake Zembiec, freshman Tommy Stevens, and sophomore Trace McSorley will duke it out to become the starter for the 2016 season.
Hackenberg would go on to the NFL and earn big time money, but some will question his choice to leave school early. However, the appeal of a starting professional gig and a multi-million dollar rookie contract could be far too great to pass up. Of course, this all hinges on how successful the upcoming season is, but based on ability and physical traits alone, Hackenberg has likely already solidified a spot in the first three rounds.
Why Would He Leave?
One thing that would certainly make Hackenberg leave would be the assurance of becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, or at least the top-ranked quarterback. Not many players would pass up being the first name called on draft night. It isn’t guaranteed to be the first overall pick, as just two years ago it seemed like Johnny Manziel left Texas A&M for a chance to be the top pick, only to fall at No. 22 to the Browns. If Hackenberg is a surefire selection early in the first round, risking injury or a senior slump would be too risky.
There’s also the possibility Hackenberg would leave due to the lack of skill positions around him. If players like DaeSean Hamilton and Akeel Lynch have a big year, they could also leave for the draft, leaving Hackenberg with far fewer weapons to work with. There’s no question Hack has his eyes on a national championship, but unless a really special Penn State team is in the making within the next two years — cross your fingers — he’d be crazy to pass up a starting job in the NFL.
Where Would He Fit?
Many of the mock drafts that have Hackenberg going early have him headed to places like New York, Chicago, and Washington. Those are all good places for Hackenberg to succeed, but there is only one location that stands out as the best fit: the Houston Texans. Houston would be thrilled to have a quarterback with their current lack of talent and depth at the position for the past couple of years. The Texans have great weapons in DeAndre Hopkins and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, a nice run game with Arian Foster, and a familiar face in head coach Bill O’Brien, the man that recruited Hackenberg to Penn State in 2012.
What Will He Have To Do?
For Hackenberg to leave Happy Valley and go to the NFL, he must perform well next season to be considered in the top 10. He hit a bit of a road bump last season, but does have the recognition and talent to be a top 10 pick. For him to guarantee his top 10 status, Hackenberg would have to go back to his freshman year performance. With a year of experience in James Franklin’s system and an improved offensive line and receiving corps, it’s difficult to imagine anything but a prolific senior performance.
Christian Hackenberg will be an interesting story to watch next season, and fans and scouts alike will look to see if he can continue where he left off at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. He already has the talent and size to be a first rounder, so if he can perform to the high caliber of play he’s capable of most of next season, there’s a real chance we could hear his name called first on draft night.