Jake Haener, Fresno State
Of all the players in the NFL Draft in 2023, Jake Haener might be *the* late-round guy for me. Haener’s projected to be a fifth-round pick later this month but should be a third or fourth. In fact, there are a few mocks from last year that had Haener as a first-round selection, with Pro Football Network taking Haener sixth overall to Seattle.
Haener started his career as a three-star quarterback at Washington but transferred to Fresno State. He sat out in 2019 but had a strong three-year run from 2020-2022. Haener missed some time with injuries last year so the stats weren’t as good as in 2021, but his 72% completion rate was among the best in the country.
The former Bulldog will probably best be remembered for the 2021 win against 13th-ranked UCLA in which he threw for 455 yards. He threw two touchdowns in the final three minutes. Haener had been crushed by the Bruins defensive line and was in obvious pain, struggling to even walk down the field. But Haener’s toughness prevailed as his second touchdown pass won the game for the Bulldogs with 14 seconds left. That’s the kind of stuff that can’t be taught. Haener’s willingness to take a hit to make a throw is one of his strongest assets but at times is also his biggest weakness.
Haener led Fresno State to wins over UCLA, San Diego State, Washington State, and even-handed Boise State a rare loss on the Blue.
At only 6′ tall, Haener’s size will be a drawback. But the success he’s had is undeniable, and some of that has been played behind an offensive line that, to be blunt, sucked at times. A big knock on Haener is his inability to avoid sacks, but when you’re running for your life most of the time, the problem might not be the quarterback 100% of the time. Haener behind a solid offensive line could be a really, really dangerous quarterback.
I’m not saying Haener will have the same level of success in the NFL, but in the right situation, he has the potential to be the next Drew Brees.