Does Christian Hackenberg’s relationship with Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien make him worth an early draft pick?
The Houston Texans need a quarterback. I know it. You know it. The team knows it. In fact, it could be argued that the Texans would have had much more postseason success if not for horrid quarterback play in the playoffs. But the past is the past, and its time for Houston to move on, and time for them to find their next quarterback.With Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg declaring for the NFL Draft, one has to wonder if Houston head coach Bill O’Brien will want to take the player he recruited and trained when he was at Penn State a few seasons ago.
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Christian Hackenberg has the physical tools needed to be an effective quarterback, but he hasn’t played up to his potential for the last two seasons. His best season, however, was as a true freshman in 2015, when Bill O’Brien was still his coach. Perhaps a reunion of these two would lead to a lot of growth in Hackenberg.
The biggest thing that jumps out to me about Hackenberg is his arm talent. He puts a lot of zip on the ball, and it comes out of his hand quickly and smoothly. He can make all of the NFL throws that would be required of him, and he can get the ball anywhere he needs to. He struggles a bit, however, with accuracy and decision making.. which are no small factors.
To be fair, he’s had plenty of college games when he hasn’t had loads of time in the pocket, as the Penn State line was never elite, and this caused him to force throws and has negatively hurt his mechanics. Even when not facing pressure, however, he still has struggled to perfect his ball placement, and sometimes forces throws downfield.
His freshman year, he was able to get the ball into the hands of talented receiver Allen Robinson who emerged as an elite NFL player this year, but Hackenberg hasn’t had an option of that caliber since then. If he wound up in Houston, however, he would be able to throw the ball DeAndre Hopkins‘ way, which could help him find success. As we’ve all seen, the football doesn’t need to be placed perfectly for Hopkins to catch it.
His mentor, Bill O’Brien, could also be key to Hackenberg’s success. The last two years, he has run a more spread-oriented offense at Penn State, but he would return to the pro-style offense that O’Brien runs in Houston. He also would be able to play opposite one of the league’s best defenses, something any quarterback would love.
The main question that remains, however, is if he would be the best fit for the Texans. Hackenberg seems less like a plug-and-play starter and more like a multi-year project. Houston already has one of these in Tom Savage, and drafting another one would not truly meet the team’s needs. Also, Houston would likely have to spend a pick as high as the second round on Hackenberg due to this year’s lack of elite quarterback talent, which seems like a high pick to use on a player that likely would not be able to start for awhile.
The main factor that would play into Houston taking Christian Hackenberg would be his relationship with Bill O’Brien, but business decisions based on coach-player relationships haven’t fared well for the team in the past. We saw that last year when the Texans traded for Ryan Mallett because of his and O’Brien’s past, and Mallett turned out to be a disaster.
I’m certainly not opposed to Houston having Hackenberg on the roster, but I don’t think the cost would be worth what the Penn State product will bring to the table. Houston needs to find a quarterback this offseason that could be the starter in 2016, and that player isn’t Hackenberg. Hopefully, they’re able to fill this hole on their roster, or Texans fans may be in for more disappointment next January.