The New York Jets took care of the defense in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft with linebacker Darron Lee out of Ohio St., last night in Chicago. Friday night’s second round was for the offense, the Jets chose quarterback Christian Hackenberg out of Penn State with the 51st overall pick.
Hackenberg’s arrival could mean the Jets are preparing for life without last year’s starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Jets are a team presently without a starting quarterback. Fitzpatrick is currently a free agent looking to secure as much money as he can in his next contract. The Jets and Fitzpatrick are at an impasse in their negotiations for a new deal, with rumors swirling that Fitzpatrick would rather retire than accept the Jets’ current offer.
Geno Smith, the Jets second-round draft pick from 2013, could be in the mix for the starting job if Fitzpatrick isn’t around. Then there’s last year’s fourth-round pick, Bryce Petty, who’s still in the development stages.
The only time it looked as if Hackenberg might get scooped up elsewhere is when the Houston Texans traded up to get one spot ahead of the Jets. Houston’s head coach Bill O’Brien was Hackenberg’s head coach at Penn State before leaving for the pros.
The Texans were rumored in all of the mock drafts to be a potential landing spot for Hackenberg. However they decided on center Nick Martin out of Notre Dame.
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan didn’t use a second-round pick on Hackenberg to just toss aside as an afterthought. He clearly sees something in this youngster.
The Jets, by taking Hackenberg, are all but telling everyone the door will officially close on either Fitzpatrick, Smith, or Petty.
Hackenberg, at 6’4” 223 pounds, has the size and the arm strength. He has sneaky-good touch on his throws to go along with the velocity of a pro. He doesn’t show signs of fear or intimidation in the pocket, which is good because he’s not known for his mobility. Hackenberg took an absolute beating his last two seasons in college behind a poor offensive line.
The downside to Hackenberg is well-documented and can’t be ignored. In his freshman year at Penn State, Hackenberg turned heads with his impressive play while in BIll O’Brien’s pro-scheme offense. Then O’Brien left to take the Texans job, and Hackenberg’s last two seasons were fluctuated between inconsistent to terrible.
Hackenberg seemed to struggle across the board in every area after O’Brien left. This makes his mental makeup and ability to adjust questionable.
Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is as good as they are when it comes to getting top-notch production out of his quarterbacks, and this includes what he’s done for Fitzpatrick. Gailey will have his hands full with what’s become an enigma in Hackenberg.
Hackenberg, arguably, is the biggest question mark on this draft board. His presence will push either Smith or Petty out the door and could also play a major role in future contract negotiations with Fitzpatrick.
The options for Fitzpatrick are beginning to run out. The Broncos, a team Fitzpatrick was rumored to have a mutual interest with, were aggressive in this draft with the addition of quarterback Paxton Lynch. The domino effect from Denver taking Lynch is that it all but closes the door on any talk of Colin Kaepernick perhaps going to the Broncos in a trade from the San Francisco 49ers.
The Jets right now are basically the only team holding up a help wanted sign at starting quarterback. They’ve already shown Fitzpatrick they’re willing to draw a line in the sand when it comes to how much money he’s asking for.
What may not be the scenario most Jets fans are looking for is that Geno Smith could be the short-term solution should Fitzpatrick decide to take his ball and go home. Smith has everything to prove and now with the addition of Hackenberg, he now knows he’s on even less borrowed time than he had before.
Hackenberg has left many scratching their heads in the buildup to this year’s draft, and he’s now a Jet. The focus turns to Fitzpatrick, with the Jets now giving him one more thing to scratch his head about.