Unless Les Snead and the Los Angeles Rams front office manage to resign all three of their 2023 free agent quarterbacks, the signal-caller spot is looking like a need entering the 2023 offseason.
The Rams, though, don’t necessarily need to wait until March 15 to address their QB room behind Matthew Stafford. They can instead use the Saturday, February 4 Reese’s Senior Bowl as the early start to look into who could look appealing in a Rams uniform. And there’s one down in Mobile, Alabama who’s not just a California guy, but earned two memorable wins in L.A. during his college career: Jake Haener of Fresno State.
Not only has he been called “very underrated” by ESPN NFL Draft expert Todd McShay, but his L.A. victories involved an upset of No. 13 UCLA and ending his CFB career with a romp inside the “Rams House” on December 17.
Draft Expert Gives Haener Telling Prediction
While the Senior Bowl attracts Power 5 conference talent, the former University of Washington signal-caller turned mid-major prospect has created quite the buzz during the week of practice for the all-star game.
McShay called the 2022 L.A. Bowl winner and Mountain West Conference champion “the most intriguing quarterback prospect in Mobile, Alabama.” But the longtime draft analyst writes how he believes Haener could ascend on some draft boards during this week. McShay wrote:
“He’s undersized at 6-1 and 200 pounds, but his game is very underrated. He has fast eyes and distributes the ball in a flash, but he also extends plays and can make things happen when forced off-schedule. Haener threw for 2,896 yards, 20 touchdown passes and three interceptions over 10 starts this season, and I think he’ll have a great week in Mobile. Haener could absolutely work his way into the Day 2 discussion.”
Day two possibility — meaning round two or three for the Fresno State star who carved up defenses from 2020 to 2022 while in California’s Central Valley. Haener was once considered a late rounder with Pro Football Network calling him a day three find (rounds four to seven) back on December 17.
Again, he may not be a high draft priority for the Rams should they consider getting a QB through the draft. But, Rams Wire on USA Today mentioned Haener as a possibility Tuesday.
Traits That Could Make Haener a Fit Inside the ‘Rams House’
There’s a high number of elements that could make Haener and the Rams a pairing.
Beginning with the head coach he played for and the system he ran in Fresno: His college football head coach Jeff Tedford is the same man responsible for producing the following first rounders: David Carr, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Kyle Boller and, arguably his greatest find, a young Aaron Rodgers.
Fresno State ran a balanced attack of run and pass. But when Haener took to the skies, he became a 4,000-yard passer in 2021 (4,096 yards) and improved his quarterback rating (158.6) in 2022 while also elevating his completion percentage (72%). Haener, though, is most revered among FS fans for his blue collar grit — best magnified in ’21 at the Rose Bowl in the upset win over UCLA.
On the field, Haener mixed his grit with a knack for making off-script plays and still burning defenses. He’s also an immediate processor of plays and knows when to manipulate a defense then strike. Already, he’s wowing the scouts at Mobile with throws like this back shoulder one:
Meanwhile, NFL Draft analyst Crissy Froyd saw “impressive ball placement and accuracy at multiple levels of the field” when watching Haener throw, with only three incomplete passes during team drills:
His size and game have earned him Taylor Heinicke and Mike White comparisons by PFN. But, Haener coming from a renowned QB guru in Tedford then being paired with Sean McVay could become an underrated tandem. It also helps that the Danville, California native would reunite with fellow Fresno State star Ronnie Rivers if he walks into the “Rams House.”