On the 18th September, Jake Locker’s draft stock took a major hit.
Nebraska 56-21 Washington.
Locker: 4/20 passing for 71 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
This wasn’t the first time a team or a quarterback had been smothered by Nebraska’s ferocious defense. It won’t be the last. However – this day did a lot to shift Jake Locker from potential #1 overall draft pick in 2011 to border line first rounder.
It wasn’t all on Locker. Washington’s offensive line – not unusually – struggled under heavy pressure. Receivers couldn’t get open and Nebraska’s offense couldn’t stop scoring. We also saw what concerns scouts the most about Locker – decision making, a lack of poise and accuracy.
His first pick was made under no pressure – a deep ball thrown foolishly into double coverage. His second was a bad decision – a forced throw returned for six points.
It’s not a game that stands alone on the 2010 schedule. Locker struggled badly against Stanford (7/14 for 64 yards and two pick) and UCLA (10/21 for 68 yards and one pick). All three games happened under the national gaze and only one (vs UCLA) ended in victory.
Locker and Washington did enough to get to 6-6 – which seemed unlikely a few weeks ago. Now they get a shot at redemption when they face 10-3 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
The game doesn’t take place until December 30th. There’s plenty of time to prepare, rest and plot a road to a much improved performance. Nebraska aren’t the force Washington experienced in September and have lost significant momentum in three defeats when an unbeaten season appeared attainable.
It’s Locker’s last chance to put a solid game on tape against a good defense. A platform to grasp needed momentum ahead of a busy period of work outs, combines and interviews.
I’ve left Locker out of my last two first round mock drafts. He’ll return tomorrow in my latest update. That’s not because of anything witnessed in Saturday’s Apple Cup victory over Washington State. It’s merely because – when all is said and done – this is a quarterback league.
You look at the character, the physical qualities, the mobility and the potential – they are the plus points. He wouldn’t be the first quarterback in the history of the draft to be taken early despite serious accuracy problems. There are enough teams in need of a quarterback to guarantee all four of Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett and Locker an early exit on draft day.
The last quarterback who divided opinion so much was the guy losing to Seattle on Sunday – Jimmy Clausen.
Some commended his numbers and his experience of a ‘pro-style’ offense under Charlie Weiss. He tumbled deep into round two and I see a situation where he’s not even on Carolina’s roster next year.
Harsh, but a possibility. The Panthers will make major changes to their franchise in the off season and will draft Andrew Luck given the opportunity.
There are significant differences between Clausen and Locker. In Notre Dame’s offense it was all high percentage, low risk throws. A funky release and below-average arm never leant itself to a high first round pick. Then you throw in talk of character concerns.
Locker’s release, physical qualities and character are far superior to Clausen. The ceiling is much higher. Much more is asked of Locker in Washington’s system than ever was of Clausen – who was throwing to Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. Both prospects experienced play behind a sub-standard offensive line.
The accuracy issues with Locker are a concern for his pro-prospects and may prove to be his downfall. That’s the risk one team will take. I do not see, however, reason to believe (as of today) that they’ll lead to a similar fall that Clausen experienced.