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IF There's A Brock Purdy-Type Sleeper QB In The 2023 NFL Draft, It's Senior Bowl MVP Jake Haener From Fresno State

Been sitting on this take for a while. Was wondering when the ideal time would be to drop it. Seriously, had a draft up about Jake Haener being 2023's Brock Purdy since two days after Christmas.

The only reason that screenshot is there for reference is because multiple experts are beginning to feel the same way, such as The Athletic's Dan Brugler and NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah. They were among many draftniks and NFL personnel gurus observing practices at the Senior Bowl throughout this week, culminating in Saturday's game and Haener's MVP performance in a 27-10 win.

Yours truly was tecccchnically first with this Haener-Purdy analogy. The Senior Bowl was a bit of a snoozer of a game, but one thing that held my interest — albeit for purposes of posting this type of blog, to be honest — was Haener, whose stat line featured back-to-back drops on passes to one of the National team running backs.

It's evident on the awkward sort of deep ball TD Haener delivered to Stanford wideout Michael Wilson…the guy has plenty of arm strength and accuracy that extends well down the field. What impresses me most is Haener's intermediate throwing, as seen here. SEED ALERT(s).

You can see how Haener excels at layering the ball properly when an underneath defender is lurking, and it's clear that he can drive the ball when he needs to put extra velocity on it. Soon you shall see his touch and zip on outside-the-numbers throw. First, let's get into the Purdy parallels.

Here's an interesting tidbit: Both Haener and Purdy were rated as 3-star recruits. Haener ranked as the 27th pro-style QB in the class of 2017, whereas Purdy was 24th the next year. There's no question Purdy has Haener beat on quickness and athleticism when it comes to running the ball, and he is a tad taller and a touch thicker-built than the Fresno State standout is.

No prospect-to-pro comparison is ever going to be a perfect 1:1. However, Haener is similar to Purdy in a lot of ways. They both went to quality programs, yet a tier below the most prominent powerhouses in the country. Not blue-chip recruits. While Purdy climbed fast up the depth chart at Iowa State to start as a freshman, Haener played sparingly at Washington in 2018 after redshirting, which led him to change schools. The transfer portal wasn't the hyperactive, instantly-eligible Wild West it is now, so Haener had to sit out a full season before playing for the Bulldogs.

All Haener proceeded to do when he finally got the keys to the offense was start all three years at Fresno. The beginning of that was a six-game, COVID-shortened 2020. In his last two seasons, Haener was in total command, persevered through multiple injuries and led the Bulldogs to two bowl victories.

When an ankle injury forced Haener to be carted off in an eventual loss to USC, he managed to return after just four games out. Then, he promptly threw for 394 yards in a 32-28 comeback over San Diego State where the Bulldogs scored 22 unanswered to finish. Fresno had no running game to speak of, but Haener put the team on his shoulders and went on to win his final seven starts.

Haener was pulling off these heroic After Dark achievements all the time. Nothing was as incredible as his thrilling 455-yard passing performance in beating UCLA 40-37 on the road in 2021. You gotta see these highlights if you haven't already…

I skipped ahead to the best bit at the end. Dude was basically ready to piss blood on the field because of how mangled he was. Didn't matter. Just kept dropping back and kept throwing haymakers until he prevailed. Thing is, even though Haener is slighter of frame than prototypical QBs, he has a damn strong arm. Fully capable of making all the NFL throws he'd need to. That's a notable edge he has on Purdy.

Look at the back view of one of Haener's absolute seeds during the UCLA game-winning drive. It's sick.

Also helping Haener's cause to potentially become an improbable NFL starter is his success under veteran coach Jeff Tedford this season. Tedford is known for incorporating pro-style concepts into his scheme more than most college coaches. Not that there wasn't a ton of spread concepts in the Bulldogs' system. There were. Nevertheless, Haener didn't have the benefit of a ton of screen yards, and you don't complete 72% of your passes on nine intended air yards per attempt for almost 290 yards per game in 2022 without having a solid understanding of what defenses are trying to do to you and knowing where to go with the ball.

You heard the post-game comments after the Senior Bowl. Unless you didn't watch that video above. If you didn't hear Haener, he said:

"I love proving doubters wrong. I love the motivation. I love the passion that it brings me. Let's go. Keep coming. Keep coming with it. It's fun."

LOL that sounds like someone I don't wanna mess with. If you're a moderately quarterback-needy fan base and you're sitting there on late Day 2/early Day 3 of the draft, Jake Haener is the guy you take a flier on. He stands out to me so much more than any of the other so-called second-tier quarterbacks, and as the kids say these days, Haener got that Fresno [bull]dog in him.

I realize Brock Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant and where I'm advocating Haener to be drafted is well before the final pick of the seventh round. But you know what I mean. Purdy stepping in on an instant contender, the moment not being too big for him, not physically stupendous but a smart distributor who, at the same time, isn't afraid to challenge coverage down the field.

Snort more Haener highlights below. Brock all night and Purdy every day.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok