Once considered a top talent perhaps worthy of being the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg has hit a tailspin. Despite that, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer went so far as to compare him to Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champion Troy Aikman, who also made six Pro Bowls while playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
“They are the same type of body, thrower, personality, competitors,” Dilfer said on ESPN.
Dilfer’s comparison could not be further from the truth.
Hackenberg’s struggles from last season have carried over into the 2015 campaign. Since 2014, he has thrown for 3,645 yards, but has 17 interceptions to 16 touchdowns. He has only completed 55.6 percent of his passes. Granted, his struggles aren’t entirely his fault, as Penn State’s offensive line and receiving corps are not exactly top-of-the-line, but the mark of a good quarterback is one that makes his team better regardless of how the roster looks on paper.
Take New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, for example. On paper, his team’s receivers aren’t recognizable names (at least not at first) nor first-round talents, but he is a great enough leader and quarterback that he makes them look like rock stars. Hackenberg has not done that at all the past two years.
Which brings the conversation to Aikman, who threw for 5,781 yards, 45 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions in a collegiate career with Oklahoma and UCLA. His success with the Bruins led to him being picked first overall in the 1989 draft by the Cowboys, and he proved to be an excellent leader on the field both on the collegiate and professional levels.
If Hackenberg has those skills, they aren’t very visible.
Penn State has rebounded after a tough opening season loss to Temple to win its next three games, but Hackenberg hasn’t really done much to set himself apart from the rest of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, having a quiet year on the whole. That could all change once the NFL Scouting Combine comes around, but the facts right now are simple.
Though there is probably some sort of NFL-level talent in Christian Hackenberg, it needs to come out and play more often if he ever wants to be in the same league as Aikman.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports