Jake Locker, QB, Washington Huskies
40-Time: (NFL Scouting Combine Time Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 to be added)
Jake Locker is a rare breed of quarterback. He is one of the few college quarterbacks that is a better passer on the run than in the pocket. I can't recall seeing anybody make as many throws back across his body with the accuracy of Locker. He has the agility and arm strength to pull up and make a deep, accurate, down field throw in mid-stride. It doesn't matter if he's rolling to the left or to the right.
Locker is a dual threat quarterback that can tuck it and run on any given play. His size and speed combination is a rarity at the quarterback position. I expect to see him run an official 40 time around the 4.48 - 4.52 range. That's a weapon in its own right, but when you factor in that he has that type of speed, along with the fact that he doesn't mind lowering his shoulder and trying to run over defenders, defenses could have a hard time planning for him. He plants that back foot and delivers a rope of a ball through a nearly prototypical throwing motion. But there are some cracks in his armor.
Even though Locker has all the tools and a great release, there are several troubling factors in his game. Locker seems way more comfortable outside the pocket than in it. When he's in the pocket, he'll usually lock onto his #1 target on that particular pass and won't go through his progressions. Due to his lack of looking off coverage or giving himself multiple options, one of two things usually happen. He either tucks the ball and runs way too often and doesn't let the play develop, or he attempts to force the ball into non-existent windows.
This lack of pocket patience has caused other flaws in his game. Locker's ability to make things happen with his feet throughout his collegiate career has delayed the development of his pocket awareness. He doesn't sense the blindside tackler on most downs. This also leads to him not being prepared to protect the ball and leads to him having an excessive amount of fumbles. His internal instincts tell him that he's not comfortable in the pocket and that's what has made him so good outside the tackles.
Throwing the ball outside the pocket so often has created another flaw in his game. It's weird because it's a weakness but he's the best at doing it. Jake throws off his back foot with more power and accuracy than 95% of the quarterbacks in the pro game. This could still backfire on him at the next level. Corners close a lot faster in the NFL and are usually able to make quarterbacks pay for throws off the back foot.
Also, Locker goes through moods of inaccurate passing. This goes back to his comfort level in the pocket. If the blitz starts getting to him, he seems to panic on his throws and makes bad reads. When you factor that into him not going through his progressions, then it leads to the secondary being able to make Jake look bad.
Locker didn't have a lot of talent around him at Washington. You can see on game film numerous times where this makes him look bad. He attempts to make the big play and force the ball to receivers that just aren't talented enough to make an adjustment on the ball.
Jake Locker has always been a talented baseball pitcher and outfielder. Playing the two sports year-round has made a noticeable difference in his arm strength. Usually quarterbacks with a baseball background are known to have a cannon of an arm and it's no different in Locker's case. Locker was talented enough to be drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 10th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft. Obviously he chose to stay committed to football.
Locker has natural talent. He was the 1st player ever to start as a freshman on his high school football team for his coach, Vic Randall, who has been coaching for 21 years. He needs to take that natural talent and land on a team with a good offensive line, and a great quarterback coach.
Potential NFL Team, Round
As mentioned above, Locker needs to be developed more. He has a raw skill set that if managed and protected in the right offense could lead him to a great career. I feel that Jake would be a mold of what Jay Cutler was in Denver if Mike Shanahan put him in that same type of offense. Shanahan used a lot of play action with Cutler and everyone felt that he would be a top five quarterback of the future. If Shanahan used Locker in that same mold and built a solid O-line around him to build his confidence, Locker could eventually flourish in that system.
Wherever he goes, he needs to have an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and head coach that realize he has flaws in his game and are willing to work with him to make him succeed. If the Buffalo Bills takes Locker, he'll fail without an O-line to protect him and no true number one receiver.
I believe that Locker will be the first quarterback taken in the 2011 draft. I've stated before that there isn't a quarterback worth a 1st round pick in this draft, but teams are going to want to get their guy and in the end, you are worth what a team drafts you at. If they are going to reach for a quarterback, Locker is the one I would reach for, with all things being considered.
Jayson Braddock appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ JaysonBraddock
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