It was a rough 2010 season for the purported UW savior. Jake Locker, rumored to be among the top prospects entering the 2010 campaign, has seen his stock take a decline since his decision to return to school for his final year of eligibility.
It is important to note that Locker began his tenure with head coach Tyrone Willingham, who did very little to develop him as an NFL ready QB. Former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was hired after the Huskies 0-12 season (in which Locker redshirted due to injury) and demanded that his QB, become a QB. Locker showed a tremendous amount of progression in his first season with the pro-style offensive scheme, posting 2,800 passing yards/58.2 completion percentage/21 touchdowns/11 interceptions and a 129.75 QB rating. Locker came into the 2010 season with a lot of buzz surrounding his name, but most of that buzz has been hushed by a seemingly surprising regression from ’09. With all of that said, let’s take a closer look at Locker’s scouting report.
Pre/Post Snap Reads: Definitely a weakness at this stage of his development. He rarely makes any line calls. What that means is, Locker relies on all of the play calls and audibles to come from the sideline. This means that he is not asked to disect the pre-snap formation of the defense as closely as someone who would have this responsibility. After the snap, it doesn’t get a whole lot better. Locker often gets tunnel vision for his first progression and tries to squeeze it in regardless of the coverage. He is often slow to pick up blitzes as well.
Arm Strength: Locker can definitely sling it. This is one aspect of his game that is rarely questioned. The kid can throw a frozen rope on an opposite-hash out route. Tends to sail the deep ball slightly, giving the defense time to recover, but this could be a reliability issue Locker has with his receivers (who aren’t exactly “burners”). He will gamble from time to time with the intermediate throws, trying to squeeze the pass in a small window.
Size: Prototypical size at 6’3” and 230 lbs. That is right around Donovan McNabb size. His height allows for him to easily see over the line of scrimmage, take the type of pounding the NFL demands, and maintain his mobility/agility.
Accuracy: Reads and accuracy are definitely Locker’s two biggest concerns for NFL GMs. The troubling thing is that his accuracy issues seem to stem from more than one issue, ranging from mechanical flaws to mental flaws. Locker has inconsistent arm angles at the point of delivery. Review the tape from any game, you will immediately notice that
Locker will throw from a 12-6 motion, 2-8 motion, and even 3-9 motion at times. You would like to see him work on a more consistent delivery to
ensure that the ball is always being released from a similar point. His next issue stems from his poor footwork. Locker often throws off his back foot in the pocket as soon as he sees a target, rather than stepping into his throw. Not only does this lead to wild inconsistencies in his accuracy, but it is also a hinderance to his arm strength. Even when moving out of the pocket, he will often times “hop” to throw the ball rather than setting up. Also, when watching the tape, I was often left scratching my head at some of his decisions. It became obvious that he simply misjudged the timing of the route. Whether this is on the QB or WR is left for judgement, but I
usually blame the player that is throwing the ball when the issue shows itself consistently. With all of this said, it is important to note that Locker has terrific accuracy when rolling out of the pocket and squaring his shoulders. It is truly amazing to watch him throw a pass running to the left when he squares up. His accuracy is also very precise when his motion stays consistent.
Mobility: Another one of Locker’s strengths. He has tremendous straight-line speed and it will be interesting to see what he posts in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Rumor has it that he can run in the low 4.4′s. If that’s the case, look for him to rise. He is very mobile within the pocket and successfully escapes the rush on more occasions than not. He has deceptive power in the open field and is not afraid to lower his shoulder. This could be an issue at the next level.
Intangibles: Say what you want about his inconsistent physical tools, but it is difficult to make a case against his intangibles. Even with the inferior talent he is surrounded by, Locker has turned the University of Washington into a winning program. This was a 0-9 football team without him in the 2008 season and he is a huge reason why he leaves the program with a winning record in 2010. Has shown his poise in big games, the decisive 2009 win over USC as one example.
Health: This is a kid that played through rib, head and hamstring injuries as recently as this season. Locker was injured after 3 games in the ’08 season after breaking his thumb throwing a block for RB Chris Polk.
Character: It is hard to question the character of Jake Locker. He is the definition of a team player. He has played through injury and shows his leadership on plays such as the aforementioned block he set for Polk, and there has been no mention of off the field concerns.
There will be two words that you will constantly hear when discussing Locker’s stock: “potential” and “inconsistent”. He has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class due to his rare blend of physical attributes. He also displays terrible inconsistencies in delivery, footwork, accuracy, etc. These will be questions he must be prepared to answer as draft day nears.
Player Comparison: Redskins QB Donovan McNabb. As noted before, both QBs have similar size. Both QBs have very similar mobility. They also share the inconsistent accuracy issues. McNabb has overcome those problems. Can Locker?
Draft Grade (0 terrible-5 elite scale)
1. Reads – 2.5
2. Arm Strength – 4.5
3. Size – 4
4. Accuracy – 2.5
5. Mobility – 4.5
6. Intangibles – 4
7. Health – 3.5
8. Character – 4
Draft Projection: 1st Round, #25 overall, Seattle Seahawks.
Locker was a player that Carroll recruited hard during his time at USC.
Hasselbeck is merely a band-aid at this point and this would be an ideal
situation for Locker to develop. Many will take into account the amount of talent that Jake Locker had to play with during his time at Washington. It is tough to progress when your WRs aren’t great route runners, don’t have great speed, and can not get off of press coverage. He has an early 2nd round grade from me, but I see him chosen in the 20-30 range in the draft.