The New York Jets entered the 2016 NFL Draft knowing they would probably have to draft a quarterback. They did just that in the second round by grabbing Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg with the 51st overall pick, a move that doesn’t solve the Jets’ starting quarterback vacancy.
Hackenberg is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft. The physical tools are there but the accuracy and numbers are missing. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 224 pounds, which is great size for a quarterback, and he has has a nice arm. The problem with Hackenberg is he is very much a work in progress.
He owns just a 56.1 career completion percentage and completed just 53.5 percent of his passes last year. He has 48 career touchdowns but also has 31 career interceptions.
There is no way Hackenberg starts for the Jets this season and probably won’t see the field for a couple of years. In order for that to happen he will need to seriously work on his throws which can sometimes leave you scratching your head. He can thread the needle on one throw and then miss an open receiver by yards, often on overthrows. His judgement will need a lot of work moving forward.
Given the Jets’ current quarterback situation, this might not be the best pick. Geno Smith is still on the roster. They drafted Bryce Petty last year as another draft-and-develop guy. Hackenberg isn’t an upgrade over Petty at this point, but could potentially have a brighter future. There is also the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga which is still unsettled at this point.
There are some positives about Hackenberg. He did cut back on his interceptions last year, down from 15 in 2014 to just six last year. He also played behind a terrible offensive line and in a new system last year. He was sacked a whopping 82 times over the last two years, so playing behind a stable offensive line should help. The real issue is his accuracy and decision making.
This is either a pick Jets fans will love ten years down the road or still mention ruefully 30 years from now.