Chicago Bears mock draft 5.0: Trade opens things up

Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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Christian Hackenberg (6-foot4, 225 pounds), QB, Penn State

The Chicago Bears will pick up a quarterback in this draft. It will be a matter of when and not if.

They will probably be choosing between Connor Cook, Dak Prescott and Hackenberg. While Cook has the physical attributes, his attitude may be something the Bears would shy away from and Prescott has questions about being a pocket passer.

If they are looking for someone to eventually replace Jay Cutler (even if you are his most ardent admirer, you have to admit he cannot play forever), why not get someone who is as polarizing as he is?

When you bring up Hackenberg, you will find yourself in a heated debate. There is not much middle ground when it comes to his evaluation. There are some scouts who see him as a potential franchise quarterback, while others think he should not even be drafted.

See, a lightning rod just like Cutler.

Hackenberg had a great season as a true freshman under head coach Bill O’Brien. He threw for 2,955 yards, setting the school record. Since O’Brien left for the Houston Texans head coaching job, Hackenberg struggled in his next two seasons, though he did finish with school records in career passing yards (8,457), completions (693) and 300-yard games (9).

To be fair, Hackenberg has not had much to work with at Penn State. With all the restrictions they have on scholarships, the school has not had very good receivers or offensive linemen. The receivers he had ran bad routes and were undisciplined, and his line had more holes in it than swiss cheese.

In fact, Hackenberg was sacked 104 times in three seasons with the Nittany Lions.

Hackenberg has the size scouts look for in a quarterback. He also has the arm. He can make throws that not a lot of other quarterbacks can make.

Does that sound familiar?

He has quick feet, and is able to use his legs to get away from a collapsing pocket and extend a play. He is also able to take off and run for a few yards (he has some speed, running a 4.78 40-yard dash).

The biggest knock on Hackenberg is his accuracy. Of course, that could be because he has to be running for his life on almost every play, and he is not able to set before throwing. There is a difference between throwing on the run and getting rid of the ball before he gets pummeled.

Hackenberg does have some mechanical issues that have to be cleaned. He showed that he worked on some of that when he had his Pro Day. He excelled in his throws and impressed scouts.

His personal quarterback coach was Jordan Palmer, who is familiar with Chicago Bears fans. He was Cutler’s backup a few seasons ago before retiring and working with college quarterbacks.

Palmer was instrumental in helping Blake Bortles, who has had a pretty good start to his career. Bortles also had mechanical issues and Palmer worked on fixing them.

Now he hopes to do the same with Hackenberg.

Palmer spoke on working with Hackenberg’s mechanics after a great Pro Day.

"When you’re a college quarterback, you’ve got school, you’ve got practice, you’ve got weights, you’ve got study hall. You have all of these things, so focusing on mechanics becomes this tiny little sliver in your pie of what your day is. Christian’s been living 300 yards from my house … for two and a half months and we’ve been spending six days a week together. So when mechanics become a giant piece of the pie, it allows you to do it consistently. So it has nothing to do with did he do it right before, did he do it wrong before or anything like that. He just didn’t do it very much, because no college quarterbacks have that much time to focus on mechanics specifically. Because we did have that time, I think he looks really efficient and really on balance and he threw the ball consistently."

If Hackenberg is able to clean his mechanics and show he can be a true NFL starting quarterback, he could be one of the biggest steals in the draft. Having him sit for a season or two would be great for him to develop even more and be ready to step in when the time comes for him and the Chicago Bears.

Next: Round 4: Cutler needs another big target