If Brock Purdy changed one narrative during the 2022 NFL season, it’s that you can go from “Mr. Irrelevant” as the final pick of the NFL draft to now putting NFL teams in a position to find the next you.
In a copycat league, the sudden unexpected surge of the rookie San Francisco 49ers quarterback became the topic of discussion for onlookers in Mobile, Alabama during practices for the 2023 Senior Bowl — as scouts, teams and analysts now look for who could be a potential “Purdy” for the next season. Renowned college football analyst and Amazon Prime color commentator Kirk Herbstreit didn’t hesitate to make his pick: The Reese’s Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player Jake Haener out of Fresno State.
“You lookin for this years Brock Purdy?? My early odds would favor Jake and the grind he’s been on as a College QB…No shock he delivered today when it mattered. Congrats Jake!” Herbstreit, the former Ohio State quarterback, shared online.
How Haener Won Over Senior Bowl Spectators & Executive Director
Spectators down in South Alabama became enamored with Haener and the multitude of skills he possessed.
For one, his arm wowed viewers not only during practices but during the game — with this deep connection to Michael Wilson of Stanford with two defensive backs nearby:
Haener — who went 12-of-19 for 139 yards and the 44-yard touchdown strike — mixed his arm strength, decision making and grit to impress everyone who sat inside the Senior Bowl to the viewers who watched. But one man he also won over is a prominent figure for the bowl game: Executive director of the Senior Bowl Jim Nagy, who shared what NFL scouts love about the Bulldogs standout.
“If there were betting odds going into game for @seniorbowl MVP, one of favorites would’ve been Fresno State QB Jake Haener. Dude figures out ways to move his team. NFL scouts love his guts. Stood in & took huge hit on his 44-yard TD in fourth quarter,” Nagy posted.
Haener Has Bay Area Ties
If there’s any additional fuel to the Purdy comparisons outside of having a near similar stature (Purdy stands at 6-foot-1 while Haener is also listed as the same height), it’s the Bay Area ties.
Haener grew up in Danville, located 44 minutes south of Levi’s Stadium. He starred at Monte Vista High School where he originally committed to the University of Washington.
But the moment he transferred over to Fresno State, that’s when the national college football attention began to sprout.
Haener is best known for fighting through a right hip injury and leading the Bulldogs to the final touchdown with 14 seconds left against No. 13 UCLA:
Haener ended up leaving Fresno State as a Mountain West Conference champion by knocking off rival Boise State and winning the Jimmy Kimmel L.A. Bowl over Washington State. And the head coach he threw 67 career touchdown passes for? Well-known QB guru Jeff Tedford — the man who coached a young Aaron Rodgers at Cal and top three pick Akili Smith, who know Tedford as “Teddy.”
Any Thought of Purdy & Haener Being Teammates?
Haener has earned the “Purdy” label by Herbstreit. But what about becoming teammates with him and returning to the Bay Area?
Jimmy Garoppolo is already on his way out. Josh Johnson is also an unrestricted free agent. Purdy and Trey Lance will be in an active QB competition once both are healthy per head coach Kyle Shanahan. Could Haener become the potential third option?
Quarterback, though, isn’t considered a high need for the 49ers. Protection for the QB will be come April for the draft. And Haener’s MVP performance likely catapulted him even higher on mock draft boards.
There’s is one team that has already contacted him, though. The Las Vegas Raiders via Heavy’s Austin Boyd, who Haener said held a private meeting with him.