Quarterback Jake Locker chose to return to the University of Washington for his senior season, despite being predicted as a possible 1st overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. However after a wildly inconsistent senior season, his draft stock has fallen considerably. Locker is expected to be a 1st or 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft.
Here are some of the pros and cons to drafting Jake Locker. All stats are courtesy of CBSSports.com and ESPN.com.
#1. Arm Strength
Locker has an arm strong enough to put a tight spiral on deep passes, despite playing in the blustery Pacific Northwest. He can throw a reasonably accurate pass about 60 to 65 yards.
Several reports indicate that Locker has been clocked by baseball scouts throwing in the 90 to 95 mile per hour range.
Locker does need to learn how to throw the ball with better touch. On short and intermediate routes, he frequently rockets the ball at the receiver much harder than it needs to be. This leads to deflections or missed catches, particularly if the receiver uses their body to make the catch.
#2. Experience in Adverse Weather
Locker has regularly played through high wind, rain, and snow. The experience should serve him well if he’s drafted by a northern franchise.
Locker received a team captaincy twice, with the 1st coming in the 2009 season and the 2nd in 2010. He was also awarded the Guy Flaherty Most Inspirational Award at the conclusion of the 2009 season.
With excellent speed and quickness for a quarterback, Locker is capable of scrambling for a big play. His speed is believed to be in the 4.5 range. He is able to juke or dodge a defender, but isn’t quite agile enough to escape some of the faster linebackers and secondary players.
Locker measures in at 6’3″ and a sturdy 230 pounds. Although he can outrun most defensive linemen and linebackers, he will initiate contact if a defender is coming up to make the tackle.
#1. Sloppy Fundamentals
Despite playing since his freshman year, Locker still has a number of issues with his fundamentals and throwing mechanics. In particular, his footwork needs considerable attention.
Because Locker frequently fails to set his feet solidly, his passes land inconsistently. Receivers have to stretch to make the catch. This slows them down and prevents them from gaining much yardage after the catch.
Most of the issues with his fundamentals are correctable, but it could take some time.
#2. Poor Reads of the Defense
Locker needs to improve his vision of the field. He frequently will lock on his 1st read until the receiver gets open or the play breaks down, allowing defenders to make an interception or knock the pass away. At this time, Locker is not suited to go into a scheme that requires him to make multiple complicated reads.
Locker will occasionally ignore the defensive coverage and throw a ball to a receiver facing double coverage. He’ll need to learn to rein in some of his aggressiveness.
#3. Desire for Contact and Injuries
Although Locker’s dual threat abilities are an asset, he frequently refuses to slide. He’s too willing to initiate or accept contact from a defender. Most NFL teams will not want Locker to take more hits than necessary. The roster limits are much more stringent than in college and there are fewer capable backup quarterbacks.
Locker’s aggressive running style led to several injuries during his career. These included a broken thumb, broken ribs, a neck sprain, and torn ligaments.
#4. Lack of Accuracy
In the past 2 seasons, Locker has completion percentages of 58.2% for the 2009 season and 55.4% for the 2010 season. Locker has never had a season where he’s completed more than 60% of his passes.
The lack of accuracy is a significant concern. Most quarterbacks will not be able to improve their completion percentage much over the course of their career without years of practice and hard work.
Locker’s poor senior season is sharply contrasted by his stellar junior season. He has a considerable upside, but a quarterbacks coach will need to be extremely patient with him. All of Locker’s deficiencies should be fairly correctable and he hasn’t had any problems off the field.
Franchises may need to investigate whether Locker will be fully committed to the NFL. He has been taken in the MLB draft 2 times, both by the Los Angeles Angels. Locker is currently under a 6 year contract with them, but the contract stipulates that he will be trying his football career before playing baseball.
Although I think Locker is still a likely 1st round pick, his play in 2010 has turned him in a middle or late 1st round draft pick. I think his best draft value will be late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd round.
CBSSports.com Jake Locker’s Player Profile. January 22nd, 2011.
ESPN.com Jake Locker’s Player Page. January 22nd, 2011.