Tonight I’ll be watching UCLA vs Washington. Jake Locker returns after sitting out the Oregon game and with his draft stock in the balance.
The emergence of Cam Newton and the continued form of Ryan Mallett is in stark contrast to the year Locker’s had. Washington need to win out to be bowl eligible, his numbers are down across the board and it’s been a struggle.
Impressive wins over USC and Oregon State have been usurped by struggling displays against Nebraska and Stanford. The doubters are growing.
In Mel Kiper’s weekly online mailbag, he was asked whether Locker could one day become a franchise quarterback. The response?
It would be a real stretch to call him a franchise QB right now, based on the way he’s played. He hasn’t played well. He’s struggling with accuracy. He’s struggling with game management. He should have been playing better. 4-20 earlier in the year against Nebraska. If you’re going to be franchise QB, you have to have a great year. That’s not to say that he won’t become one. He has all of the physical skills. If a QB coach can mold him, then yeah. He was the No. 1 player going into the year. He looked like a franchise QB going into the year, but right now, he doesn’t.
As Mel says – he came into the year the #1 ranked prospect. In his latest big board Locker is only placed at #1 – below Newton, Mallett and Andrew Luck.
The main issues for Locker are his lack of development this year and continued problems with accuracy. It was hoped another year in a pro-style system would further show off his star qualities. Instead, we’ve seen a few flashes of brilliance but far too many bad decisions and errors.
Rightfully some point to a below-par supporting cast. He had no chance agains Stanford – being pressured almost immediately as the offensive line buckled time and time again. Locker has been sacked 15 times this year and 43 times in total during 2009 and 2010. As a comparison, Andrew Luck has been sacked just nine times during the same period.
That clearly has some influence on his ability to impress scouts and coaches. It’s not a total excuse though for bad accuracy and decision making when he is given time – no better emphasised than a stunning throw into double coverage early in the Nebraska ‘massacre’ which resulted in a tone-setting interception (see video below, it’s the first play).
Tonight Locker will come up against the wildly inconsistent UCLA. This is the game Washington’s quarterback needs to impress. Akeem Ayers and Rahim Moore offer playmaking qualities amongst the Bruins defense, but it is a defense that can be picked apart. I’m looking to see if Locker can maintain poise in the pocket, limit his mistakes and make a few big plays.
The Senior Bowl workouts (Locker should attend) and the combine will offer Locker the opportunity to repair any damage caused during the 2010 season. In fact, nobody stands to enhance their stock more during those two events than the 22-year old Senior.
However – finishing the year strongly, starting tonight, will begin the repair job early.