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Day 2 of the NFL Draft Reminds You: Never Go Full Hackenberg

Day 2 of the NFL Draft, more than Day 1, is when teams show us their philosophy. The Houston Texans traded up, and the New York Jets took Christian Hackenberg.
April 30, 2016, 2:10pm
Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans traded in front of the Jets, and for one brief moment, New York must have felt sheer terror. Bill O'Brien could leap in front of them and take his old college quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, who has been linked to the Texans since O'Brien first took the job.

The Texans took center Nick Martin. The Jets took Hackenberg. Then they were swarmed.

Hackenberg is a rare bird—someone with objective holes in every area of his game in which he needs to improve. Scouts can point to him seeing flashes of a defender's jersey and chucking the ball away. His empirical numbers at Penn State were horrible. Every statistical draft projection hated him: QBASE gives him an 80 percent chance to bust; Pro Football Focus watched the tape—they don't consider him draftable.

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Hackenberg is that (rare) shining example of how both analytics twitter and scouting twitter can live together in perfect harmony.

— Danny Tuccitto (@IR_DannyT)April 30, 2016

But NFL teams see what they want to see. They decided long ago, in Hackenberg's freshman season, that this guy had something special. They liked his body, and perhaps his leadership. And that was able to overcome every bit of objective evidence we have that he would be a total bust.

Now, for a young quarterback, there are certainly worse offensive coordinators to work with than Chan Gailey. Gailey has proved he can hide flaws. The need was certainly there at the Jets, with Ryan Fitzpatrick unsigned and even then just a placeholder.

Read More: Laremy Tunsil, Myles Jack, and the First Round of the NFL Draft

Day 2 of the NFL Draft, more than Day 1, is when teams show us their philosophy. With this pick, the Jets showed us that they believe they can change the natural order of things. Instead, it's likely that they'll just create more fuel for epic draft meltdowns by their fanbase.

When you are confused by the decisions. Photo by Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Drafted a Kicker in the Second Round

No, it gets worse: they traded up for a kicker.

This actually happened in the Year of Our Lord 2016: an NFL team traded up to select a kicker, Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, in the second-round. Mike Nugent, the last kicker to go this high, didn't make it past his rookie contract with the Jets.

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It's hard to even dissect how dumb this was. We see kickers granted the franchise tag on a regular basis because it's relatively cheap compared to a long-term deal, but they are not particularly well valued even when they're (good) known quantities. No kicker makes more than $5 million a year. Almost half of them make $1 million or less. And yet, the Bucs felt this was the most pressing need on their team. Bizarre.

Happy Endings for Injured Linebackers

Both Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith found landing spots in the second round despite their injuries. Dallas took the early leap on Smith, who is regarded as the worse gamble, partially because their team doctor did the surgery. For the second time in two rounds, Jacksonville found themselves the beneficiary of a Dallas reach, and they landed two of the 10 best players in the draft, in Jack and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Day 2 Drafts I Loved

The Buffalo Bills with LB Reggie Ragland (second) and DL Adolphus Washington (third): Rex Ryan's defensive grocery shopping continued with one of the draft's most stellar middle linebackers and an interesting line piece in Washington. The Bills have the talent on paper to rebound from last season's poor showing on defense.
The Chicago Bears with OL Cody Whitehair (second) and DL Jonathan Bullard (third): Bullard fills a need up front and fell right into Chicago's lap despite all their trade-downs. Whitehair was seen as a first-rounder by multiple publications, and while the idea that Chicago isn't done moving Kyle Long is a little terrifying, Whitehair should be able to step in and help somewhere.
Washington with LB Su'a Cravens (second) and CB Kendall Fuller (third): Washington had a lot of coverage issues to deal with last year, and now they've stockpiled enough good cornerbacks that Fuller is a luxury pick. If he gets back to his pre-injury form, he's a potential steal. Cravens is the latest big safety/linebacker hybrid, and while I'm not a huge fan of his college performance, I can appreciate the need and fit here.

Reggie with the good rings. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Five Players I'm Curious About on Day 3

Connor Cook, Michigan State QB: Cook has played better than Hackenberg by leaps and bounds, but saw himself leapfrogged not only by Hackenberg but by USC's Cody Kessler and North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett. Innuendo about what it means that he's not a team captain has hurt his draft stock. Just how low can it go, and who will pounce? There are still plenty of talented quarterbacks on the board. I wouldn't be surprised if Cook was waiting deep into Saturday.

Andrew Billings, Baylor DT: Draft Twitter collectively flipped its shit as Billings continued to slide further and further down the board. Undersized defensive tackles are one market commodity that seems to still be exploitable—think Geno Atkins in 2011 and Grady Jackson in 2015. Billings will likely be the next player in that tradition.

Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech RB: Derrick Henry went early on to the Titans, out of what we can only assume is a case of #ExoticSmashmouth; his backup Kenyan Drake followed in Round 3 (to Miami). As did Notre Dame back C.J. Prosise (Seattle). But Dixon may have been the best back of the bunch—he was just buried in a lower conference. Dixon has the skills to be a lead back, and some team is going to find themselves with a steal.

Jeremy Cash, Duke S: The bargain-rate Su'a Cravens. Cash is the last brand-name big safety who could convert to linebacker. He's definitely more developed as a tackler at this point, but he's got the physical skills to be a decent cover player as well. Sound uninspiring? These were the same traits that made Florida safety Keanu Neal a first-rounder.

Christian Westerman, Arizona State OL: My favorite player left on the board: a big pass-protecting offensive lineman who could be a long-term starter in the right situation. The tackle run toward the end of the third-round took out most of the draft-media approved top talent. Westerman is probably the last person on that board, period.