Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who once generated hype as the potential No. 1 overall draft pick, has finally been traded by the New York Jets.
He’ll join Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. Hackenberg — who has yet to take a real snap in the NFL — participated in Gruden’s QB Camp in the past, and the head coach has been high on the signal-caller for some time.
"The biggest surprise to me on Hackenberg is that no one is really talking about him in the first round," Gruden told ESPN in April 2016. "This was the No. 1 prospect in the nation a few years ago and someone who showed during his freshman year he could produce at a high level in a true NFL-style offense."
Hackenberg was drafted in the second round, No. 51 overall, by the Jets later that month. Most analysts believed he was taken too early; Pro Football Focus went so far as to call him “undraftable.” But Gruden clearly still thinks there’s some potential there — although the depth chart isn’t very favorable in Oakland, either.
In New York, Hackenberg was fourth on the depth chart behind Sam Darnold, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater. In Oakland, he’ll likely once again have to fight his way from the No. 4 spot with three others in front of him — Derek Carr, Connor Cook and EJ Manuel.
The announcement on Tuesday's Hackenberg trade comes on the heels of an interesting day in Florham Park, literally hours after the quarterback took no reps and placed partial blame on his lack of progress on the coaching staff.
“I think there were some times where I threw it really good throughout my first two years here, so that was the frustrating part for me, is the ups and downs and not knowing why, if that makes sense, and not really getting any information from anybody on how to fix that and how do address it,” Hackenberg told reporters Tuesday.
Hackenberg said that he started to develop "some inefficiencies, some bad habits" in 2015 at Penn State, and he spent the last two years trying to figure it all out. He has since changed his motion, worked with quarterback guru Jeff Christensen and put in extra time on the practice field.
"It's a really solid foundation for me moving forward, and I'm excited about it," Hackenberg said. "All I know is I'm 23 and I've got a lot of ball ahead of me. My career hasn't even started yet. I'm excited about what the future holds because I know deep, deep down that this was really big for me."
Hackenberg likely was not going to remain on the Jets roster by the time September rolled around. He was widely considered as insurance for Bridgewater, who missed 19 months with a serious non-contact leg injury. But his future in Oakland also isn't a guarantee; teams don't usually keep four quarterbacks on the roster.