*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available. 

I can make a case for or against Christian Hackenberg ‘making it’ in the NFL someday. Depending how much you paid me, I could passionately defend either side of his coin. However, the easier side to push is going ‘against’ him ever making it big in the NFL.

If I were defending him, I would go to three points…

1: He has the NFL arm, mechanics, and body. He embodies the five scouting words that make me cringe: “He makes all the throws!” It’s absolutely true. Hackenberg can make all the NFL throws. His ‘look’ throwing the ball is about 90% of the world’s scouting case for him (and we all know how that winds up almost every time in the NFL).

2: He was a stud his freshman season, when he had better QB coaching—with Bill O’Brien. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. It was the coaching change and system that brought him down and led to his disappointing 2014 and 2015 seasons.

3: His O-Line was dreadful in 2015—one of the most sacked quarterbacks in college in 2015, by count per game and by percentage of throws. You saw what a deteriorating O-Line did for Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck this past season.

In summary, if my client

If I were trying to tear him down, I’d go with these two points…

1: Outside of about two or three games in his college career, Hackenberg has been…well…a ‘hack’. He throws for almost as many TDs as INTs (taking away his 2–3 best games), and never has he completed a season with above a 60% completion percentage. His 53.5% completion percentage rate in 2015, in this era of passing games, is unconscionable for a serious NFL prospect.

 2: His record against Big Ten teams that finished the season with a .500+ record was 4–11…never beating Ohio State or Michigan State.

I can make the exact same case for Nate Sudfeld as I can for Christian Hackenberg—NFL body, nice arm, perpetual Big Ten ‘loser’. People like Hackenberg better than Sudfeld only because of his jersey (Penn State more respected than Indiana), and Hackenberg was pretty good as a freshman…three years ago. At least with Sudfeld, he almost won a bunch of impressive games in 2015 against Big Ten powers (but always fell short late). Hackenberg is the Jeb Bush quarterback prospect—‘low energy’. His body language, to me, quit on the field…starting with the butt-whooping they got at Temple to start the 2015 season, and ran all throughout the season…actually, Hackenberg may have checked out sometime within the 2014 season. He was mentally done from opening day 2015 for sure. He wasn’t a leader or rallying the troops or going out and pushing numbers in 2015. He just robotically, and sloppily, executed a more short-range passing game, and lived to tell the story. With no output/resume momentum, and not having a quality 2015 at all, he’s jumping early into the NFL. Nothing feels right, or wise…or savvy about Hackenberg, to me.

I watch his tape, and I can see the ‘NFL throws’…that’s great, but what about everything else? Can he read defenses? I’d say his TD/INT ratio says it’s in question. Can he throw with accuracy on these ‘NFL throws’? I’d say his ever-declining completion percentage foretells trouble there. Is he a leader of men? I’d say his body or work, his body language, his career win-loss record against better opponents, and his press conferences would say he is not a ‘leader’.

There’s so much to learn about Hackenberg from their 2015 opener against the up-and-coming Temple Owls. The season before, 2014, PSU and Temple were in a slugfest of field goals, until a defensive score broke it open late—Hackenberg completed just 46% of his passes with 0 TD/2 INT and 112 yards in that 2014 meeting. In 2015, PSU opened the season at Temple, and they jumped out to a quick 10–0 lead…however, you could tell it was only a matter of time, because you could see that Hackenberg was overmatched. Temple scored 27 unanswered points and sacked him 10 times in the game. Many of the sacks late with Temple in prevent-ish type defenses, and Hackenberg having two fails against a backed-off defense: (1) He kept getting sacked. (2) He was hard-pressed to even complete passes against a prevent to wide-open receivers underneath. He was throwing passes too high, too low, too wide…it was awful.

What I also noticed was Hackenberg getting rocked against Temple, and his O-Line in no rush to help him. I just didn’t see a team rallied by or rallying to their quarterback—which is the position you usually see as the lightning rod for players to rally around.

I never watched any tape of Hackenberg and thought I saw ‘the next coming’. I could tell he has the physical tools—that’s why he was a five-star rated QB prospect out of high school. However, I get the sense that Hackenberg is one of those five-star ‘soft’ prima donnas…not overtly arrogant, but subtly ‘entitled’ (if I could play amateur psychologist). He thinks he’s a cut above, but everyone else is outworking him or has more natural instincts for the position. Hackenberg is clinging to ‘makes all the throws’ and his nice 2013 season, but I don’t think it’s enough. He has skills enough to get an NFL look, but I don’t think the fire, the fight, or the natural instincts are in place for him to stay or thrive.



Christian Hackenberg, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:

You can’t be a serious NFL prospect, in this era of advanced, quick-hitting passing games, and have a 56.1% career completion percentage…or a percentage that battles holding 50.0% against better opponents in your career. He ‘makes all the throws’, but not many of them are made successfully to the receiver.

Hackenberg ended 2013 and 2014 seasons with the two best games of his career…beating Wisconsin (2013), and then taking down Boston College (2014) in a bowl game—he threw for 4 TDs/0 INT in each of those games…8 TDs/0 INT total. Minus those two games, Hackenberg threw for 40 TDs/31 INTs in his other 36 career games. In his last two seasons, minus his bowl game outburst against BC, he has thrown for 24 TDs/21 INTs in 25 games…less than a TD pass per contest, and almost a 1:1 ratio of picks.

In his last 23 games, Hackenberg has thrown for 300+ yards in a game just one time (vs. Maryland in 2015). In the 15 games before that, he threw for 300+ seven times.

In five career matchups with Ohio State and Michigan State, Hackenberg is 0–5 with a 55.0% completion percentage and a combined 5 TD passes with 7 interceptions.

Aside from a game or two or three, Hackenberg never did anything that should warrant serious NFL Draft consideration. In fact, there are way more disappointments and head-scratching performances than anything ‘great’ or even ‘promising’. Everything about Hackenberg’s career is trying to tell you ‘something is not right here’.

The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Christian Hackenberg Most Compares Within Our System:

I thought for sure Ryan Mallett would be a system comparison—big-armed disappointments; guys who lived on the reputation and promise of ‘big arm’. Actually, Mallett was much more productive in college—with a more wide-open passing game (Bobby Petrino). Our computer models point to Jay Cutler, and that is probably as good/a better comparison—big arm, more turnovers in college than you want to see, poor leaders and body language…but are guys the NFL is attracted to like a bug-zapper (I guess Mallett is all those things as well). Nothing can stop ‘big arm’ when the NFL sets its mind to it.

Vernon Adams has a stronger arm, and quicker release all day long, but he’s only 5’11” and doesn’t ‘look’ like an NFL QB. Hackenberg ‘looks’ like what most of the NFL is comfortable with…and thus Hackenberg will get more draft attention, and draft reality…it’s not right.

QB Grade






Adj. Comp. Pct.

Adj. Yds per Comp

Adj. Pass per TD

Adj. Pass per INT


Hackenberg, Chr.


Penn State








Cutler, Jay










Bray, Tyler










Smith, Rusty


Florida Atl








Manning, Eli


Ole Miss







*“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.

**A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going onto become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite.

QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys.

2016 NFL Draft Outlook:

The Hackenberg draft train has been running out of steam since the Temple game in 2015. It’s sputtering into 2016 with the faint hope that his ‘strong arm’ makes him a third-round draft pick. The case will be made of ‘look at 2013’ and ‘bad system under James Franklin in 2014–15’. There’s plenty of straws to grasp here to give hope in Hackenberg, and there is credence to them. Scouts want to love him, and coaches will want to ‘fix him’. So he will go between picks #50–100…but he doesn’t deserve it.

If I were an NFL GM, he’s on my draft board but I have no intention of burning a high draft pick here. There might be 5–7 guys with solid NFL skills in this draft, so why would I chase one that lost a bunch of games, couldn’t complete over 60% of his throws (or even close to it), who didn’t light up any stat sheet, and gives off a vibe that he might not be a ‘face of the franchise’ type of personality? If I’m taking long shots at strong-armed QB prospects who disappointed last season—give me Cardale Jones. I can at least rest on his 2014 work…which was much more impressive in three games than anything Hackenberg did in his college career.

NFL Outlook:   

Do you think anyone will write about Bill O’Brien drafting Hackenberg at all? You’ll get nauseated by all the projections of him to the Texans. Hackenberg is going to get a strong look from Houston or some other franchise. He’ll get years of time and excuses under development. After many years, he’ll be another forgotten ‘makes all the throws’ guy, who will get second and third chances from people who scouted him in high school or saw his 2013 season…or anyone who believes they can harness/fix ‘makes all the throws’ guy. It’s why Ryan Mallett can be a total douche, miss flights and practices and bad mouth coaches--and still get more looks/chances…he’s three teams in, and the Ravens just made a nice commitment to him.

Hackenberg will get plenty of shots, but in the end it most likely is wasted energy by a franchise.