INDIANAPOLIS -- Before Christian Hackenberg's junior season at Penn State even began last fall, scouting opinions were split on the quarterback's future as a pro.
His lack of production and accuracy with the Nittany Lions, along with concerns about whether his footwork and technique now need retooling because of poor pass protection, have left Hackenberg's draft stock in question. But not for everyone.
"He could be as talented as any of these quarterbacks. He's got the arm, the body and is actually a competitor," a scout told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "But the coaches there at Penn State didn't play to his strengths. A premier-type talent like that is so hard to find these days. I could see him going (in the) latter part of the first round."
That's the first time in a while that Hackenberg has been suggested as a first-round pick. But such is the nature of the quarterback position, where so few teams have a franchise talent and all the rest are in a never-ending pursuit of one. Still, Hackenberg is regarded as a prospect who needs significant development. On Saturday, NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock said of Hackenberg and Ohio State's Cardale Jones: "I have no idea where either of them are going."
"He's got an incredible amount of talent," another scout said. "There are times he makes incredible throws and times he makes stupid throws. Does the pressure rattle him? That's the key. The changeover in coaches has probably brought him down."
Sacked more than 100 times in his three-year college career, Hackenberg struggled mightily over his last two seasons at PSU, particularly last year. But with Hackenberg possessing all the physical tools NFL scouts look for, some NFL club will set aside what Mayock called "really bad tape," long enough to turn in a draft card with his name on it.