Former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is fully prepared to be shocked when the upcoming 2016 draft comes calling later this month.
The always interesting football guru made some news on Tuesday by suggesting that he thinks former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be selected in the first round of the draft:
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden on former Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg: "I'll be shocked if he doesn't go in the first round."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 19, 2016
To say that Gruden himself has a pretty interesting history with quarterbacks would be an understatement.
The likes of Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson, Brian Griese and Shaun King — all players that weren’t necessarily appealing to the rest of the NFL — caught the eye of Gruden during his Tampa Bay Buccaneers days.
In reality, the Super Bowl winning head coach has an interesting perception of what type of quarterback will succeed in the NFL.
What we do know is that Hackenberg has fallen out of favor around the scouting community since jumping on to the scene as a freshman for Penn State back in 2013.
A combination of his on-field regression, poor offensive line play and inept coaching under James Franklin’s staff in State College have all played a role in this.
A disastrous performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February magnified Hackenberg’s free-fall in the minds of experts even further.
Now considered a project mid-to-late round pick, there’s very little chance Hackenberg will hear his name called at any point during the first two days of the draft.
Though, there’s still a lot to like here. He has the ideal frame (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) and boasts one of the strongest arms in the draft. These are two things that could force a couple teams to fall in love with him come draft day
In a NFL that’s defined by mediocre quarterback play, the value teams place on players at this position is greater than ever before.
We’ve also seen some pretty big surprises when it comes to quarterbacks being selected early in recent drafts.
EJ Manuel hearing his name called by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft is the most recent example of this.
Brandon Weeden to the Cleveland Browns in 2012 and Christian Ponder to the Minnesota Vikings in 2011 would also be recent case studies.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that none of those “reaches” have worked out for these teams.
If a team were to exhaust a first-round pick on Hackenberg, it would draw criticism from a NFL media community that has already written the quarterback off. That’s a mighty large risk to take, something that could backfire big time.
It would also require at least five quarterbacks to go in the first round. We’d be hard pressed to find a team that has Hack graded ahead of the likes of Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook.