Who Is Christian Hackenberg Competing Against in Oakland?

By Dan Smith on May 24, 2018 at 10:45 am
Jan 14, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; New York Jets quarterback and former Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg looks on from his seat during the first half of the game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was traded by the New York Jets to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional 7th-round pick, it is fair to wonder what the third-year quarterback's value is in the NFL these days. More simply: what are his chances of sticking with the Raiders?

The entrenched starter is Derek Carr, who had excellent 2015 and 2016 seasons. His 2016 season ended with a broken leg that derailed the team's playoff run (Penn State fans will remember that his replacement, Matt McGloin, also subsequently suffered an injury), and his 2017 season was rocky, as the team struggled to a 6-10 record. Still, Carr is entering the second year of a 5-year contract with $40 million in guarantees, and is still considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so he is not going anywhere.

The returning backup is EJ Manuel, the former Florida State and Buffalo Bills quarterback, who saw significant action in two early games for the Raiders in 2017, both losses. Manuel was the 16th overall pick for the Bills in 2013, but fell out of favor by his second season at the helm. He lost his starting job to Kyle Orton in 2014 and Tyrod Taylor in 2015, eventually landing in Oakland as a free agent before the 2017 season.

Hackenberg's main competition is likely to be third stringer Connor Cook, who he faced in college when Cook was the starter at Michigan State. Cook was a 4th-round pick by the Raiders in 2016, but was third string in each of his first two professional seasons. The former Spartan, who completed just 57 percent of his passes in college, is the only player in NFL history to make his first start in a postseason game.

Cook's only career action was in 2016, after injuries to Carr and McGloin, and even his college track record leaves nothing to be desired. He lost both of the games in which he appeared, and completed just 40 percent of his passes in the postseason loss to Bill O'Brien's Houston Texans.

With the Raiders having given up a conditional pick, and Hackenberg reporting that he has revamped his throwing motion, this seems like a good starting point for the 23-year-old to get his career back on track. Throw in the fact that new Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has been a fan of Hackenberg's since he worked with him on his television show two years ago, and the odds are good that Hackenberg can find his place on the Raiders roster.