Saints QB Jake Haener brings polish and poise to NFL rookie journey
Every time an NFL franchise spends a draft choice on a quarterback, the natural reaction of the fanbase is something like this.
“Did we just find our quarterback of the future?”
As history shows, that is not normally the case outside of the first round.
The Saints have spent 23 draft picks on quarterbacks in their history. Very few have ended up in a starting role for an extended period of time.
The latest rookie addition to the New Orleans roster, Fresno State’s Jake Haener, was taken in the fourth round with the 127th overall pick.
“He’s a six-year senior, so he’s really mature for having been a college player,” Saints assistant general manager and college scouting director Jeff Ireland explained. “He’s had several fourth quarter comebacks. He does remind you or there’s some similarities to No. 9 (Drew Brees). He’s undersized. The way he creates windows, processing speed, quick release accuracy.”
Analysts have said Haener likely would have ended up in the first three rounds this year if not for concerns about his size.
“You wouldn’t think he was six feet tall when you watch,” Ireland said. “He has great processing ability, great vision. He’s got a quick stroke. He’s extremely smart.”
Standing at just under six feet tall and 207 pounds, Haener was named the 2023 Senior Bowl MVP following a 12-of-19 performance for 139 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was clearly several steps ahead of the other quarterbacks that entire week in Mobile.
Haener now feels comfortable working within the Saints’ scheme.
“I can process things quickly, fast,” Haener said. “I play with anticipation, timing and accuracy. The system fits me well. The faster that I can learn means the faster I’ll be able to play. I’d like to process things faster with more confidence.”
Haener is the eighth quarterback out of Fresno State ever drafted.
Although following in big footsteps like brothers David and Derek Carr, he amassed some impressive numbers while in a Bulldog uniform.
Haener recorded 300-yards or more in a game 18 times with a trio of 400-yard passing performances. He also threw 214 consecutive passes without an interception. Haener finished near the top in a number of Fresno State career passing categories including 9,013 passing yards, 67 touchdown passes and 1,072 attempts with 731 completions.
“It all starts with preparation,” Haener noted. “The ability to process information, things as you see it.”
Haener has impressed at rookie minicamp and OTA’s with back shoulder offerings and tight window completions. His advanced skillset is hard to miss.
“Extremely intelligent, that would be the first thing,” Saints head coach Dennis Allen said. “You can watch him out there, fundamentally he does a good job getting through his progressions. He throws the ball with timing and accuracy. A lot of qualities you like from the quarterback position, particularly from the neck up.”
“I’d like to think I can put the players in the correct position in order to execute plays in critical moments,” said Haener. “I try to make the right read, to keep myself calm, at ease and make sure that I can make the right throw.”
Haener is not necessarily viewed as a mobile quarterback, but he was handicapped during much of the 2022 campaign after he suffered an ankle injury during the third quarter against USC in the third week of the season. A hit sidelined him four weeks and Haener was not working on two healthy legs after that. He now feels that he is back to his normal self.
“My knowledge has to continue to grow better, my ankle is better,” Haener said. “I can move better. Last year, I was playing on a fractured ankle. Having a healthy ankle is a step in the right direction.”
Back to normal physically, Haener can maneuver in the pocket and buy time as a passer.
“I try to be able to extend plays with my feet,” Haener said. “I’m not trying to always run. I want to be a passer. When I have to tuck and run, I will. You see a lot of athletic guys have success because they have the ability to move around.”
His immediate future as a member of the New Orleans Saints will be as a protege under starter Derek Carr, who he views as a mentor already due to their Fresno State roots. Carr served as a sounding board during Jake’s time in college but he rookie understands his current role.
“He can be a great help, but I don’t want to bog Derek down with a lot of questions,” Haener said. “He’s the starter and I’ve got to be able to help him if he needs it. I’d like to be a resource, if possible. That’s all going to come with working hard, understand what’s going on. The biggest thing for me is watching how Derek works. He’s been in the league for 10 years. He’s done a lot of good things. Understanding that I’m going to take a back seat, but I’ve got to be able to learn, grow and progress every day.”
Reaching the highest level in his football career, Haener approaches the challenge of playing before a packed Caesars Superdome with anxious anticipation. “Who Dat” nation has a reputation for feverish loyalty to their beloved warriors.
“I’m looking forward to meeting them,” a confident Haener said with a seemingly always-present gleam in his eye. “Looking forward to interacting with the fans here. Hopefully, I will be able to perform for them.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…