The Jake Locker debate

December 16th, 2010 | Written by Rob Staton

Locker - back in the mock tomorrow

I’ve had a mixed reaction to my latest mock draft.

Understandably some have questioned the decision to once again pair Jake Locker with the Seattle Seahawks in the middle of round one.

I’ve spent a lot of time discussing Locker on this blog – and I’ve left him out of the first round altogether on occasions.

If you ask most GM’s or pundits what is the most important thing when it comes to a good, young quarterback – they’ll almost certainly say ‘accuracy’.

That is Locker’s biggest issue.

I certainly think the environment he plays in with Washington has had some effect. He’s been sacked 47 times in the last two years and constant pressure will tamper with any QB’s poise and accuracy.

In comparison, Andrew Luck has taken thirty-seven less sacks in the same time frame.

It’s not a complete excuse though.

Locker still made bad decisions and forced throws when afforded time in the pocket this season. Take a look at the first pass in the video below for an example of that:

That play was in the notorious Nebraska blow out from earlier this year, where Locker completed a meagre 4/20 passing.

The two teams meet again in the Holiday Bowl on December 30th.

When people see Locker make bad decisions like that and perform like he did against Nebraska and UCLA this year (where he was equally poor) – I appreciate why people want to know why I keep Locker in round one.

Plenty others have bailed on the former top ranked senior.

I could certainly see a situation where he falls into round two – or maybe worse.

At the same time, he could still be a top-15 pick.

To be presumptive, I’m not sure accuracy is as important to teams as perhaps they’d want you to believe.

Sure – we all want our team to have the quarterback who can dissect a defense with expert precision, make limited mistakes and achieve Tom Brady-esque perfection.

But there’s a history of physical ability trumping any other quality when it comes to the first round of the NFL draft.

Look at the recent history and you’ll see physically talented quarterbacks outnumbering those who are limited in that area.

Why else did Oakland take JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007?

Ok – that’s the Raiders. They have history in over-rating physical aspects in draft prospects.

There are other examples. Denver fell for Tim Tebow’s ‘upside’ last year despite serious mechanical and accuracy issues.

Miami passed on Matt Ryan in 2008 – in preference of selecting the bigger arm of Chad Henne in round two and the physically strong Jake Long first overall.

Vince Young, Jay Cutler, Matt Stafford, Josh Freeman and Joe Flacco. All physically gifted – all with question marks about their mechanics, experience or accuracy.

Jimmy Clausen wasn’t inaccurate for Notre Dame last year. He completed 68% of his passes (Andrew Luck is currently at 70%) and protected the ball well – he only had four picks in 2009.

The reason he fell – in my opinion – had little to do with character and more to do with being a physically limited quarterback.

Rather than working from a pro-style offense under Charlie Weiss, it was a lot of high percentage, short range throws and a limited variety of plays.

When Lofa Tatupu picked off Clausen for a touchdown in week 13, he read the typical Clausen dump off with consummate ease.

Even as a rookie starter for a hopeless one-win team, it’s no surprise that he’s thrown seven picks and just the one score.

He hasn’t got a weak arm, but it’s far from strong. His throwing motion comes from the side and he struggles to generate velocity throwing off his back foot.

Overall he’s just an incredibly limited quarterback.

Teams will not allow Locker to fall like Clausen. Someone, be it a coach or GM, will be confident (arrogant?) enough to believe they can develop him into a pro-passer.

He has ideal size (6-3, 230lbs) and an over the top throwing motion. Locker has the arm and will be capable of making a full range of throws.

He’s an above average athlete – certainly a grade above Tebow – with ideal mobility and that ability to make things happen on the ground.

Locker also has a faultless character and work ethic. You wouldn’t be concerned introducing him to a veteran roster as your starting quarterback.

The accuracy issues are a problem that will be difficult to address. They could prevent Locker from ever developing his tremendous physical potential.

But someone is going to take that chance.

It might be that a coach feels he can restrict the mistakes – encourage ball security but still offer enough freedom to allow Locker to improvise and be a playmaker.

A GM might think some time spent watching and learning will be the cure to such issues.

When or if it happens – drafting Locker early may prove to be a tremendous mistake.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

I look at the Seahawks, the Vikings and the Cardinals and see potential landing spots for Locker.

Landing spots in round one.

Things could change over the forthcoming weeks. Locker has another big game against Nebraska not to mention possible appearances at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine.

As of today – right or wrong – I think he can still be a first round pick.

6 Responses to “The Jake Locker debate”

  1. Dave says:

    Today while procrastinating instead of studying for an exam I was thinking about the following scenario: the Hawks drafting Locker in round 2 after passing on him in the first. I’m operating on the assumption that he has a great bowl game, senior bowl etc, the experts determine him to be great value in the first and the fall is highly unexpected. Pete Carroll would not doubt be telling Locker that he’s great, he’s a franchise QB etc. But in Locker’s mind he’s thinking ”well thats total bs, if you thought that about me, you would have taken me in the first”. This would be compounded if the first round pick was in the 20′s. In this situation Pete would not be able to say- we expected you to fall. In my view franchise QB’s do not get past the first round when thats where their value is determined, and if a team passes on them it’s because they don’t believe they’re capable of being the face of the franchise
    This is kind of the same situation but to a lesser degree in Cleveland with McCoy where the Browns possibly should have chosen him in the second. I’m just wondering that if you do that how do you convince the player in your faith in his ability to be the leader of the franchise. Because it is so important that players know that their coaches believe in them and Pete’s coaching style is built around it. Pete’s already had this situation with Taylor Mays. I suspect that in telling Mays to stay for his senior year he told him he was the best safety in College Football, only to pass on him for Earl Thomas. I’m kinda getting off point here, but it would be an interesting scenario.

    • Rob says:

      Hi Dave,

      I think in such a situation the player just has to get on with it. Different players have different characters, but I have a had time thinking a guy who falls so much in the draft would concern themselves with not being drafted earlier, rather than working on improving. The Mays situation was unique because Carroll had been his college coach until the end of his senior year. Nobody expected Mays to go in the top-15 so it was a pretty ridiculous situation that Mays complained – regardless what he’d been told by a coach looking to keep his players together.

      With McCoy – personally I wouldn’t have drafted him even in round three. Clearly lots of teams agreed with that because QB needy teams passed 3-or-more times on McCoy. I don’t think he’s a long term answer for Cleveland, despite all the hype this year (which I think is a little unwarranted). If a player in that situation needs reassurance, that to me immediately says they aren’t going to hack it in the NFL. You can’t concentrate on negative things like a draft fall. The day you start camp – you listen to your coach and get on with it. You appreciate the fact they drafted you at all. Any team that can get a guy they want a round later should do so without concern.

      I don’t think this is a problem Seattle will face with Locker – as the article suggests, I don’t think he’ll fall too much.

      • Dave says:

        You make good points. It’s not that I’d consider it a problem, it’s just a random thought that popped into my head

  2. jianfu says:

    How’s Jake Plummer for Locker’s comp/potential? (Complete with the lengthy learning curve before Plummer became alright.)

  3. trrrroy says:

    That Plummer comparison is one that makes me think Locker will be in the hawks crosshairs. Plummer had his best years in Shannahan’s offense, and I think it’s safe to assume that Bates, being a Shanny disciple running a similar offense, will be looking for the same type of QB.