Archive for January, 2011

Todd McShay on Cam Newton & the draft

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Thursday mocks

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Andrew Perloff at SI.com published a top-24 projection which excludes the playoff teams. He has Blaine Gabbert going first overall to Carolina – something that shouldn’t be ruled out. Perloff: “Quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall eight out of the past 10 years. CAA, which represents Gabbert, has represented seven of the past eight overall No. 1 picks. Despite playing in a spread offense at Missouri, Gabbert is the top-rated quarterback and is the kind of player Carolina could sell to its fans.”

Walter Cherepinsky has a four round mock draft available at WalterFootball.com. Brandon Harris is Seattle’s choice in round one, followed by Rodney Hudson with the 57th pick. Both are solid projections.

Chad Reuter and Rob Rang have updated mocks on CBS Sportsline. Reuter throws a new name into the ring for Seattle – Corey Liuget a defensive tackle from Illinois. Reuter: ”His Texas Bowl performance should convince scouts to bring his strength and quickness on board early in the draft.”

Larry McDaniel Jr at Pro Prospects has the Seahawks taking an old Pete Carroll favorite – Tyron Smith (OT, USC). In my opinion, Smith is undoubtedly the best offensive lineman available in this class and due to the premium nature of the position should secure a place in the top-15 picks – possibly even the top ten. I’m not convinced Seattle will draft a right tackle this early (and Jimmy Smith is available here – you know what I think of him) – but it’s another name to discuss nonetheless.

NE Patriots Draft is a team related draft blog I frequently visit for reference. It’s a great site worth checking out and there’s some very interesting picks here. The Seahawks take Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State) at #25. I’m not convinced he’s a great scheme fit because he’d have to play the 5-technique role used by Red Bryant. He gives up considerable size to RB but also hasn’t proven to be a consistent pass rush threat during the last two years to compensate.

SideLion Report is another team draft site worth visiting. The Seahawks take Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue) - someone I wouldn’t rule out if the team is prepared to draft a LEO rusher in the first round.

I’ll be updating my own mock draft after the deadline passes for underclassmen to declare on Saturday with some substantial changes so stay tuned for that.

Jimmy Smith tape & where to find it

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

If you want to watch game tape on some of the top prospects available in the 2011 NFL Draft, I’d strongly recommend adding Aaron Aloysius’ YouTube page to your favorites list.

Aaron writes for the equally recommended Draft Breakdown website. He’s compiled footage of a number of prospects in individual games – and he doesn’t edit out the bad bits either.

I’ve added Aaron’s tape of Jimmy Smith vs Oklahoma below. The Sooners offense is a production machine through the air so it’s an interesting match-up. Personally, I think Smith is a top-10 talent coming out of Colorado. In the footage you can see his ability to stick with the receiver in man but also flash an incredible closing burst when in zone. He’s a sure tackler – but needs to improve shedding blocks.

There’s one particularly telling play where he jams star receiver Ryan Broyles at the POA forcing an in-completion.

There aren’t many prospects I rate higher than Smith. I don’t like to make outrageous comparisons to NFL stars but he’s certainly got a similar skill set and size/speed combo to Nnamdi Asomugha. I don’t say that lightly but certainly I think the potential is there for Smith to become one of the top NFL cornerbacks.

I suspect he will run a very quick forty yard dash at the combine which could propel his stock way up the board. Just an exciting player to watch and one that I think could be set for big things.

BCS Championship – thoughts on Newton & Fairley

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Nick Fairley was again impressive against Oregon

With Auburn winning the BCS Championship last night – it was an opportunity to put their two top prospects under the spotlight.

I’ve been mocking Cam Newton as a potential #1 pick ever since Andrew Luck’s decision to stay at Stanford. His performance against Oregon wasn’t one you’d necessarily associate with a prospect so highly touted.

This wasn’t classic Newton – he was a complete non-factor on the ground (22 carries for 64 yards) and while he put up decent numbers in the passing game (20/34 for 265 yards and two scores) it wasn’t a crisp display.

He threw one interception – a bad decision against double coverage – and almost had another thanks to a common problem he’s had all year. Newton’s arm is strong enough that it doesn’t really matter when he throws off balance or when he leans his weight onto the back foot. He’s still capable of getting the ball out and placing it downfield, but his accuracy and velocity suffers as a consequence.

Shortly after throwing that first pick he almost had another by taking a chance down the right sideline, leaning back and floating a pass dangerously into coverage. The defensive back made a great play for the ball and was unfortunate not to maintain possession in bounds.

Both touchdowns were products of smart game planning – exploiting Oregon DE/OLB Kenny Rowe in coverage to grab two comfortable scores.

Overall it was slightly underwhelming considering what we’ve seen from Newton in the past. It highlighted the project he’ll be as a rookie – his footwork at times looked awkward and certainly he’ll have to learn from scratch how to drop back from center and read a field without advice from the sideline. The brilliant playmaking qualities weren’t there to offset those issues.

However, it’d be too easy to drop him down the board after one average game against a strong Oregon team. Newton has dominated the SEC – clearly CFB’s toughest conference – and beaten many good defenses on his own along the way. I still maintain that he’s capable of becoming a big-time playmaker at the next level. His ceiling may be higher than Blaine Gabbert’s, but the drop may be more significant too if it doesn’t work out.

I still maintain, however, that both are still substantially better long term investment’s for Carolina than Jimmy Clausen. That doesn’t mean Carolina will necessarily agree. In my next mock I’ll have a look at what they could do if they don’t draft a quarterback with the #1 pick.

A lot of people will be projecting Nick Fairley as an option after another big performance last night. He took his sack tally to thirteen for the year and had a major impact on Oregon’s defense.

It has to be qualified though that he was often unblocked for some unknown reason. Time and time again the Ducks offensive line allowed Auburn’s best defensive player a free route into the backfield. When he was being monitored he still found ways to make significant plays, whether it was collapsing the line to help make a 4th-and-goal stop, dropping into coverage to keep an eye on screen passes or just using his speed off the snap to explode through and make the splash.

Fairley’s main strength, in my opinion, is when he’s playing three-technique and can line up with the intention of getting through the gap, using his speed and getting into the backfield. I don’t think he translates as well to 3-4 DE (or five technique) position lining up against the tight end and tackle where he’ll have to stand up blocks for the outside linebacker and rush from an angle. He could probably do the job, but you’d want him lining up in the heart of the line attacking the passer. He’s not a logical fit at the nose due to a lack of size/strength.

Carolina appear to be on the brink of appointing Ron Rivera (DC, San Diego) as their next head coach. He’s used both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes in the past. If he switches the Panthers to a 3-4, I think it makes it less likely that they’d draft Fairley and more likely they’d take Da’Quan Bowers.

If they stick with a 4-3 even then there are some concerns about Fairley perhaps being a bit of a one-year wonder.

Really it’s anyones guess what Carolina might do with the #1 pick at the moment.

Updated mock draft (Jan 10th) and more

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Tonight Oregon take on Auburn in the BCS Championship. The two sides are very different – Oregon as a system and man-for-man team are by far the best in the country. Auburn by contrast have one superstar player who happens to be unstoppable.

It’d be unfair to place all of the Tigers’ success on Cam Newton – clearly Nick Fairley has been stunning this year for the defense. However, Newton represents his team’s only chance tonight – and it was no different against LSU or Alabama.

I’ll be watching (and tweeting) so feel free to join in the discussion. I’ll have a post on the blog covering the game tomorrow.

Following confirmation that Janoris Jenkins (CB, Florida) and Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State) won’t be declaring, I’ve decided to update the mock draft to represent prospects who are likely to be available once the deadline passes on January 15th.

I’ll come onto the mock in a moment, but first a quick thought on the why prospects like the two named above may have chosen to stay in school.

The draft advisory board are notoriously conservative with their gradings. We all know Jake Locker got a grade in round 2-3 last year, although I have a hard time believing he would’ve got past Washington with the #4 pick overall (whether that would’ve been deserved or not is another question).

This year the likes of J.J. Watt, Jenkins and Blackmon have also received similar grades. All three – in my opinion – were first round certainties. I’m not sure if it needs to be re-affirmed to these prospects that the gradings are given with the intention of leaving room for improvement. If everyone got given their exact grade – it could technically send out the wrong signal. For example – let’s say you’re a first round pick before any workouts. It only sets a prospect up for potential disappointment and maybe even lethargy.

Jenkins in particular announced he was going to be leaving Florida to declare for the draft but appears to have made a U-turn after getting his grade and speaking to Florida’s new coaching staff.

I’m not entirely sure what Jenkins has to gain by going back to Gainesville. Alshon Jeffery, A.J. Green and Julio Jones all had their worst games statistically against Jenkins. Teams will throw on the tape and be wowed by those three performances. He may have struggled to tackle Terrance Toliver – but watch him cover the elite potential of Green and the obvious quality/size combo of Jeffery and Jones.

The one knock on Jenkins was a lack of elite size in comparison to Patrick Peterson and Jimmy Smith. That won’t change in 12 months.

Perhaps he’ll benefit from a 2012 draft that won’t be as deep at cornerback, or maybe he’ll struggle to match his 2010 season and drop down the board? Either way – I think the draft advisory grades could do with being defined a little better. The draft has lost two real talents in Jenkins and Blackmon – in a year when Seattle could use as much depth as possible now they won’t be selecting until the latter part of the first two rounds.

To see the latest projection click here or select ‘Mock Draft’ in the title bar.

The mock only has a few tweaks to ammend for the prospects that now we won’t be available and the updated draft order. It means some prospects that previously received second round grades have sneaked into round one. I wanted to wait and see Aldon Smith at the combine before putting him at #20, but with the depth weaknening I think he’s almost certain to be a first round choice health permitting.

Picking for Seattle was tough this time, with a lot of potential picks off the board. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks made moves up or down the board next April.

It was difficult to pass on Mark Ingram but I don’t believe this regime will draft a running back in round one. It’d be a big investment so soon after trading for Marshawn Lynch and you’d struggle to justify it behind a line that hasn’t blocked well for the run.

Baldwin has been soft at times this year and his effort has been far too inconsistent. At the same time – he’s got a unique blend of elite size and genuine ability to get deep and make big plays. Did he lose interest in what has been a farcical year for Pittsburgh? Will turning pro re-focus his undoubted talents? Questions that need to be answered, but he might be BPA after Ingram.

Muhammad Wilkerson vs Penn State

Monday, January 10th, 2011

I was recently asked about Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. I’ve not had access to Owls tape this year, so haven’t previously been able to comment. He’s declared as a junior and reportedly got a grade in rounds 2/3. That’s the same grade that Janoris Jenkins received – who would (in my opinion) have been a sure-fire first round lock. It’s also the same grade given to Jake Locker last year and probably Justin Blackmon too – considering he is staying at Oklahoma State.

I managed to find some footage of Wilkerson against Penn State from September last year (see below). It’s only one sample but doesn’t restrict you to the ‘best bits’. What interests me in this montage is seeing Wilkerson like up at end. He’s 6-5 and 305lbs and being asked to rush off the edge and also seal it against the run. Given his size, it’s possible he could be an option at the Red Bryant 5-tech position.

Of course – Bryant did a fantastic job and was arguably the teams defensive MVP before a season ending injury. However, he has picked up knocks in his career and perhaps adding depth at the position (especially when these guys can also kick inside if needed) may be of benefit to the Seahawks.

Certainly to me at least it appears that 5-tech and the inside 1&3 technique positions carry most importance in Seattle’s scheme as opposed to the LEO rush position. Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock have enjoyed production despite their relative ‘plug in and play’ situation. The important characteristic of the LEO appears to be quickness and the ability to exploit one-on-one blocking – which is more frequently afforded when the other three lineman can penetrate and carry blockers.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the scheme allows the Seahawks to find consistent production from their LEO rushers, which maybe decreases the likelihood the team will spend a high draft pick on the position. Of course, that would probably change if a Demarcus Ware clone was sitting on the board.

Wilkerson has proved he can get to the passer with his production. In 2010 he had an impressive ten sacks and he has 16-total the last two years. Bryant’s key strength is working against the run – and he’s not built for rushing at around 330lbs. The Temple prospects’ size won’t necessarily negate any impact against the run, but he also flashes in the clips below that ability to get into the backfield and be a disruptive force.

It’s important to note the level of competition. It’s good to see how he fairs against Penn State’s line, but his sacks came against Buffalo (3), Kent State (3), Central Michigan (2), Army (1) and Miami Ohio (1). Clearly the competition level has to be taken into account - Nick Fairley’s twelve sacks came against top-level opposition. The same can’t be said for Wilkerson.

With more prospects opting not to declare, we’re going to see others rising. I’m tentative to grade Wilkerson as a potential round one pick based on the evidence of one game but I do believe it’s a position the Seahawks will consider adding depth to. Take a look at the footage yourself and let me know what you think.

Jenkins and Blackman opt not to declare?

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I will post a list of underclassmen who have chosen to declare over the next couple of days. The deadline falls on January 15th.

Two big name prospects appear to be leaning towards staying in college. There’s a lot of speculation coming out of Oklahoma State that receiver Justin Blackmon won’t turn pro. Today Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins wrote a tweet which suggested he won’t be declaring.

Both prospects I would rank third at their position. Blackmon has natural fluidity at wide out, great control and playmaking qualities. I’d grade only A.J. Green and Julio Jones above him. Jenkins is my third ranked corner behind Patrick Peterson and Jimmy Smith. Top receivers Green, Jones and Alshon Jeffery had their worst games statistically against Jenkins. He’s proven reliable against coverage despite a lack of true size – but he struggled with open-field tackling particularly against Terrance Toliver (WR, LSU).

The receiver position will be further hit if Juron Criner (WR, Arizona) opts to join Nick Foles in staying with the Wildcats.

The CBA, free agency and trading up

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

A couple of people have asked about Nnamdi Asomugha comments section and via email. It was announced today that he’ll become a free agent after his contract with Oakland was voided due to incentives that were not matched.

I mention this because it raises an interesting point. The prospect of Asomugha being available is enticing not just for the Seahawks, but every other NFL franchise. He’s undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the league at any position - a true shutdown corner. 

However, unless a new collective bargaining agreement can be signed nobody will have the chance to sign him this year.

No trades or signings can be made until the new CBA is agreed. Everyone hopes that it will happen very soon – mostly to avoid a lockout and no football next season. With regard to Asomugha, I wonder if the Raiders structured the deal as such understanding that football was possibly going to be unlikely in 2011?

The draft is slightly different in that it’s secure as part of the existing CBA and will take place under any circumstance. Let’s consider a not-unlikely scenario where free agency does not occur and the draft is set to take place.

I just wonder how teams would approach it? If there’s no prospect of football in 2011 and if you’ve not been able to add any players during free agency – it changes things surely?

The Seahawks will have a pick in the #25-32 range in rounds one and two. They don’t have a third round pick. So let me put this question to you…

If we get to a point where football is unlikely 2011 – would you be more prepared to trade a substantial amount of your draft to move up from that late first round position? Consider that the team would likely have a free agency period and another draft in 2012 before football eventually returned. Would you treat it like ‘business as usual’ or would you consider the big, bold move to get one prospect knowing that depth isn’t really an issue in a year without any games?

I’m not suggesting the Seahawks or anyone else would actually do this – it’s merely a discussion starter to see what kind of opinions are out there. A one-year football sabbatical will change things in the NFL, we just have no idea how.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this one. If there’s a top quarterback, cornerback, defensive lineman, receiver – or any other position for that matter – would you be more willing to ‘go get them’ than in a year where you’re planning for a full schedule?

Consider that the eventual free agency period could be doubly strong with 2011 and 2012 free agents available and with potential trades on offer due to teams hoping to make considerable moves ahead of football’s return. Could the 2011 draft be used – in essence – to bank the guy you want at a greater cost and wait out the CBA? Or do you just treat it like any other draft?

Seahawks win – won’t pick earlier than #25

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I suppose many people will care little for this information after a 41-36 win over the Saints – but this is a draft blog.

I’ve double checked the rules on determining draft order. The Seahawks will now pick no earlier than #25 overall in the draft. That will also be the case in round two.

Although many won’t want to focus on the draft this week – it’ll be interesting to look at how this may change the dynamic of Seattle’s draft next April. Of course if they defeat Atlanta or Chicago – they will pick between 29-32 next April.

The quarterback market – status check

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Andrew Luck’s decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft has left the quarterback class one prospect lighter.

It’s time to take a status check on the market.

I’ll run through each of the four prospects I consider to be in first round contention.

 

 

 

 

 

Cam Newton (Auburn)

Status check: Newton will compete for the BCS Championship on Monday when Auburn take on Oregon in Arizona. Expect an announcement shortly after on the quarterback’s intentions to declare. Controversy based around his recruitment by Auburn and an unexpected winning season have eliminated any doubt that Newton will be part of the 2011 draft.

Draft stock: With Andrew Luck out of contention, Newton and Blaine Gabbert will gain greater focus. A lot of attention has been spent looking at Luck and talking about him as the #1 pick and nobody else has really been considered. Both Newton and Gabbert could be the first overall pick this year. Newton’s abilities on the field (rare athleticism given his size, sound throwing motion/arm strength, more capable as a passer than some believe) make him a prime candidate to go first overall.

His stock will be defined by team meetings during the combine and leading up to April’s draft. There are two main concerns in my opinion. Firstly – with everything proving so easy in college football due to his undoubted talent, how is he going to respond when life becomes more difficult in the pro’s? Is he going to be the ‘last out of the building’ type who can dedicate himself to tape? Will he struggle and lose interest and attempt to live off his athletic qualities?

Secondly, a story surfaced in November reporting that Newton was facing expulsion for academic cheating during his time with the Florida Gators. It needs to be distinguished whether this story is in fact true and whether it leads to any concerns about Newton’s ability to diagnose information. He’ll need to master a substantially larger playbook in the NFL than the one he’s used at Florida, Blinn and Auburn. Of course, the story may be true and justified in other ways – lack of academic interest for example (which may have since been rectified). It needs to be checked out though to justify the first overall selection.

It’s impossible to speculate whether any of this will affect Newton’s stock because unlike NFL teams – we have such little access to information and background checks. We won’t be able to meet with Newton regularly leading up to the draft like GM’s and coaches.

Talent wise he’s more than capable of being the first overall pick. If these issues prove enough of a concern to put teams off, you wonder if he will fall on draft day. I believe Newton has greater potential than Vince Young. In 2006, Young reportedly scored just six on the wonderlic but still went third overall. On-field talent can sometimes dwarf off-the-field concerns and that could also be the case for Newton.

Interested teams: With all four of the quarterbacks it’s still too early to accurately project who will be definitely interested. Teams will sign free agents, make trades or consider other needs that suggest they’ll avoid drafting a quarterback in round one. Even so – I would suggest seven of the teams in the top ten picks are very likely to consider the position early in the draft. Carolina (2-14) with the #1 pick have to consider Newton – who is a far superior talent to Jimmy Clausen. If he gets past the #1 pick then Buffalo or Cincinnati may keep him in the first round.

Even in a worst case scenario it’s hard to imagine Newton falling past Tennessee at #8, Minnesota at #12 or Miami at #15. He’s a top-15 lock who could easily go first overall.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Blaine Gabbert (Missouri)

Status check: Gabbert confirmed he would declare for the 2011 NFL draft earlier this week. The decision was made after a largely positive outing in the Insight Bowl against Iowa – although his interception return cost Missouri the game.

Draft stock: He lingered in the back of most minds throughout the 2010 college football season. Consensus opinion believed he would return to Missouri for another year, but it became increasingly clear over the last month that Gabbert was seriously considering the NFL. Despite losing the game with his pick-six, the Insight Bowl showed off his talents as a big-bodied, strong-armed quarterback capable of making NFL throws.

There’s a lot to like about his game – specifically how he understands when to take some velocity off the ball and make touch passes. Against Iowa he consistently flashed ability to thread the ball into a tight window with inch-perfect accuracy. NFL scouts will look at the arm, the size, the mobility and see major potential.

You’ll very rarely find a faultless prospect coming out of college – particularly at such a scrutinised position like quarterback. Gabbert is no different. The spread offense at Missouri had a lot of scripted or one-read passes which aren’t a great demand for a young passer as talented as this. Like Newton, he’ll have to learn the complexities of the pro-game to maximise his talent. The investment is in potential here that he could be the complete package. It’s whether he’s prepared to work – as Sam Bradford has done this year – to make the most of his physical talents.

All reports suggest Gabbert is a leader with good character and work ethic. There’s no reason to believe he won’t work on the things he needs to develop.

The other main issue is Gabbert’s occassional reckless decision making. He takes risks and sometimes needs to realise when a play is broken and it’s more important to live for another down. He isn’t the greatest throwing on the run – a similar issue to Ryan Mallett (see below) but these are coachable problems that don’t compare to the positives Gabbert will bring to a team.

With so many clubs needing a quarterback this year, it’s hard to imagine a guy like Gabbert making it out of the top-ten. There’s every chance he could be drafted first overall by Carolina. Right now his stock is firmly placed in the top-ten range and I see very little that can change that between now and April.

Interested teams:I look at the seven teams I’ve identified in the top-ten as likely to consider drafting a quarterback and it’s improbable to think none will take this guy. If he gets past the first wave of teams (Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati), there’s no way he’ll get past Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee or Washington. If someone wants Gabbert bad enough they’ll have to trade up – but I can’t see him on the board when the 11th overall pick is called.

 

 

 

 

 


Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)

Status check: It was confirmed yesterday that Mallett will enter the 2011 NFL Draft. This was a forgone conclusion after coming close to declaring for the 2010 event. After transferring from Michigan to Arkansas, this was always expected to be the year he went pro.

Draft stock: Mallett made major strides this year – positives that are too often ignored to concentrate on the negatives. He’s improved his completion percentage from 56% to 65% this season. One of the biggest complaints about him was the poor record Arkansas had on the road in 2009 – something that improved in 2010 with key victories over Georgia, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Overall he’s looked a much more polished prospect who always had incredible physical tools (amazing arm and size).

But aside from the physical qualities the biggest compliment you can give Mallett is his ability to dissect a defense, go through his progressions and open up the offense. He’s not just a big-arm who resorts to a series of long-bombs and some underneath stuff. He’ll go to a third or fourth option when he’s given time and in that sense, he might be more developed than any of the other prospects available in this class.

The problems really start and end with his footwork. This was no more emphasised during the Sugar Bowl – when Ohio State created constant pressure and didn’t allow Mallett to settle into the pocket. Although suggestions Mallett is a ‘statue’ are way off the mark (he’s more than capable of avoiding pressure when he needs to) he struggles to re-set his feet. Against the Buckeye’s he was constantly being asked to step into/out of the pocket and throw downfield. When he can’t re-adjust and needs to get the ball out – he loses the technique and mistakes happen.

Arkansas lost the game against Ohio State because of such an error – throwing straight to a defender when put under pressure. It was a similar story against Alabama earlier in the year – when he threw one pick trying to get the ball out of bounds (technique wobbled, ball thrown poorly) and another where he wasn’t able to plant his back foot and lobbed an awkward looking pass into double coverage.

What you’re left with is a weapon that could be capable of big numbers in the NFL. It’s hard not to think of a Jay Cutler/Ben Roethlisberger type QB when you see Mallett in terms of the potential for extreme quality but also erratic play and mistakes. The fades he threw against OSU were incredible, but he should’ve won the game for Arkansas at the end.

There are lingering concerns about his attitude, character and work ethic – as emphasised by this tweet from the NFP’s Wes Bunting. As with Newton, it’s something teams will have to do their homework on.

Interested teams: Mallett’s stock is the most debatable at this point. The need at quarterback and positives to his game could easily keep him amongst the top-15 picks. Tennessee at #8 have been prepared to ignore character time and time again (despite the recent decision to move on from Vince Young). It’s unlikely – in my opinion – that he would go as high as #5 to Arizona or be a Jim Harbaugh pick at #7, but his stock could fall between the Titans at #8 and Miami at #15. What about Jacksonville at #17? It really all depends on the character issues and if they’re addressed. I could see Mallett in the top-15 and I can see him falling into round two.

 

 

 

 

 

Jake Locker (Washington)

Status check: As the only senior in this quartet we already knew Locker would be part of the 2011 NFL Draft. Despite a limited performance statistically, Locker played his part in Washington’s upset victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

Draft stock: Locker started the year amongst the top listed prospects for the 2011 draft. Some wondered whether he was a candidate to go first overall or even win the Heisman Trophy. It’s important to remember that the draft committee gave Locker a grade in the round two or three range last year. There was some speculation that he almost reversed his decision to return to Washington at the last minute.

It’s difficult to look at Locker’s 2010 season without some mixed feelings. The Huskies achieved a 6-6 record and made a Bowl game – before upsetting Nebraska in San Diego. For that reason it’s hard to question the decision to return – Locker achieved what he set out to do at the start of the year and his final game for Washington should be remembered fondly.

At the same time, he failed to improve on a 2009 campaign that put him on the national agenda. Scouts maintain concerns about his accuracy and decision making – he failed to become a more polished pocket passer. Disappointing performances against Nebraska (regular season), Stanford and Washington were of particular concern. Big games against USC and Oregon State were largely glossed over in comparison.

A lot of teams won’t regard Locker as a first round pick. I’ve read items that suggest teams don’t even consider him to be Washington’s best senior. That’s how negative some reviews have been – and clearly there are teams in the NFL who won’t be thinking Locker is worth the big investment.

However – there will be some that believe they are capable of turning him into a pro-level quarterback. Mike Shanahan is a fan of Locker’s and Washington own the 10th overall pick. I would be surprised if Seattle’s Pete Carroll didn’t share that enthusiasm. Although Locker’s stock will be defined by the team you’re speaking about – he will have admirers early in round one.

Interested teams: I would be very surprised if Locker lasts beyond the 10th overall pick and Washington. Shanahan will draft a quarterback and he’s a big Locker-fan. The question is for me – would someone take him earlier than that or trade up ahead of Washington? San Francisco are a possibility, what about Arizona and Tennessee? Would Minnesota or maybe even Seattle trade up above Washington? Even though I personally wouldn’t grade Locker that high – I think he will very likely be taken in the top 10-15.