The Christian Hackenberg draft pick wasn’t bad because he didn’t work out, though that obviously is the biggest part of the final verdict.
It was awful because most people who follow football knew the moment the New York Jets drafted Hackenberg in the second round that it was a mistake. And was it ever a mistake.
The Jets finally threw in the towel. They traded Hackenberg to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick, which is the NFL’s equivalent of giving a guy away. Hackenberg’s Jets career ends with him never taking a regular-season snap over his two seasons. And so ends the tale of an absolute failure of a draft pick, from beginning to end.
Christian Hackenberg critical of Jets just before trade
What seemed to be the final straw for the Jets wasn’t that Hackenberg wasn’t good enough to get on the field, but comments he made to the media.
According to ESPN, Hackenberg told reporters he was frustrated because he couldn’t “get any information from anybody on how to fix that and how to address” his noted mechanical flaws. Hackenberg went to a quarterbacks guru this offseason without the team knowing. Hours after his comments, he was traded to Oakland.
Hackenberg wasn’t really in the Jets plans anymore anyway. They drafted Sam Darnold to be the quarterback of the future. A couple years ago, the Jets thought Hackenberg might be that guy, and they shocked everyone by drafting him so high.
An instantly regrettable pick
Heading into the 2016 draft, Hackenberg’s issues with accuracy and interceptions were well documented. He had a successful freshman season at Penn State, got some buzz as a potential future high first-round pick, and then didn’t replicate that success his final two seasons. His second college season, he had 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
By the time the draft rolled around, Hackenberg was thought of as a mid- to late-round developmental pick. The memory of his freshman season was the only thing keeping his draft stock afloat. But the Jets ignored a lot of warning signs, and used the very valuable 51st overall pick of the draft to take him.
Hackenberg’s Jets career is a total zero
Nothing much went right for Hackenberg. His inaccuracy in practice was discussed often by the reporters covering the Jets. In the 2016 preseason he put up one of the worst lines you’ll ever see in a game, preseason or not: 11 of 31, 54 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions. Even though the Jets were well out of playoff contention both seasons Hackenberg was there, the team didn’t give him one snap in a meaningless game at the end of either season. That was telling.
Hackenberg’s first two seasons are historically significant. According to ESPN, Hackenberg is just the third quarterback selected in the first or second round of the common draft era (since 1967) to not play in a game his first two seasons. One, Jim Kelly, was playing in the USFL. Kelly eventually played for the Buffalo Bills and made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The other, Gene Bradley, was picked by the Bills in the second round of the 1980 draft, and never played in the NFL.
A shot at redemption in Oakland
Despite Hackenberg failing with the Jets, perhaps he could salvage something with the Raiders.
Hackenberg was always a developmental quarterback, and maybe the Raiders can develop him this offseason. The odds are against it, but it’s also possible the Jets just didn’t do enough to bring him along, as he said.
No matter what happens in Oakland or anywhere else Hackenberg lands, he’ll always have fame in the New York area for being one of the worst draft picks in Jets history.
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