QB6: Jake Haener (Fresno State)
Weight: 207 pounds
DOB: 3-10-1999 (24 years old)
Good Stat: Only 18 INTs in 1,237 dropbacks
Bad Stat: 33 career turnover-worthy plays
Jake Haener is another prospect that helped himself out during the pre-draft process. His podium time at the NFL Combine was mesmerizing, and he did a phenomenal job of explaining what he is good at, what he wants to improve, and how he sees himself going forward.
Haener has had an interesting journey thus far. He started his college career as a highly-touted recruit for the Washington Huskies, but following his freshman season in 2018, he decided to look at other opportunities to start elsewhere. Haener landed with the Fresno State Bulldogs.
With Fresno State, Haener put his name in the record books. David Carr, Derek Carr, and Trent Dilfer all had varying degrees of success in the NFL, and those are the names that Haener finds himself in the company of. His 2021 season in particular, as he eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark and tossed 33 touchdowns.
A mid-season injury derailed Haener’s final season in Fresno, but this didn’t stop the NFL from wanting a closer look. His time at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine make Haener a viable day-two option for teams. He won the Senior Bowl MVP, proving his talent translates against stiffer competition.
The strong points of Haener’s game include his ample arm talent, an unmatched leadership trait, and overall confidence in himself. His lack of size hurts the projection, as does his advanced age, but do not be surprised if we look up in a few years and Haener is a QB1 somewhere in the league.
NFL Draft Grade: Late Day Two
QB5: Hendon Hooker (Tennessee)
Weight: 217 pounds
DOB: 1-13-1998 (25 years old)
Good Stat: 58 TDs; 5 INTs in 2 seasons w TENN
Bad Stat: Coming off torn ACL
Hendon Hooker began his collegiate career at Virginia Tech, where he was more of a runner than a passer. His time with the Hokies helped Hooker develop a superb rushing ability, but it also set up his biggest red flag.
After venturing out and entering his name in the transfer portal, Hooker decided to move on from VaTech and become a Tennessee Volunteer in 2021. New head coach Josh Heupel arrived at the same time, helping convince Hooker into taking his talents to Knoxville.
The Heupel-Hooker duo unraveled a whole new side of the quarterback. He completed 68.1 percent of his passes and threw 31 touchdowns, compared to 22 in two seasons with Virginia Tech. In 2022, it got even better for Hooker and his entire team.
The Volunteers were one of the best in the country this past season. The reason for this is due to Hooker’s spectacular play behind center. He was arguably the Heisman front-runner before disaster struck. Hooker tore his ACL in a late-season matchup vs. South Carolina.
This injury brought his college career to a screeching halt. In two seasons as the starting signal-caller for Heupel and Co., Hooker threw for more than 6,000 yards, 58 touchdowns, and only was intercepted FIVE times in 796 dropbacks.
So, with numbers like these, why is Hooker not ranked higher? The timing of his injury was unfortunate because Hooker is unable to work out for teams before the draft. His age is also a concern, as Hooker will turn 26 at the end of his rookie season. For a prospect that may not be available in 2023, that will be a deal-breaker for some front offices.
On the field, Hooker lacks the proper feel in the pocket. He is too hesitant to get the ball out and doesn’t sense pressure well as he reads through the progressions. Furthermore, Hooker can make plays on the run but fails to do it as much as you’d expect for a player with his traits.
On the bright side, Hooker is as accurate as any quarterback in this class. His ball placement is special, and there are several instances on tape where Hooker throws a receiver open. Sure, the Heupel system is a cheat code in college, but the star quarterback is why it worked so well.
For teams looking to draft Hooker, he has all the tools to be a starting quarterback. It is a roll of the dice banking on him recovering from the torn ACL, but this isn’t 1995 anymore, and ACL injuries are not the death nail they used to be.
My reason for having Hooker as a day two grade is his lack of availability as a rookie and overall age. He needs some real development in the pocket, and the only way to truly get there is to practice, practice, practice. It is a gamble in the top 50, but Hooker should go somewhere in that range.
NFL Draft Grade: Early-to-Mid Day Two