It’s being reported that Jake Locker won’t feature in Saturday’s game between Washington and Oregon. A broken rib will keep him out indefinitely, with the earliest possible return on November 18th against UCLA.
The injury itself won’t be of great concern to scouts. It makes sense to keep Locker out of a game Washington haven’t much hope of winning any way and allowing time to heal. What it does do however is eliminate another key game from the schedule for Locker to flash his talents on a national scale.
The Ducks are currently ranked number one in the BCS Rankings. A performance of any kind in that game would’ve been duly noted. Instead scouts will linger on another disjointed display in Saturday’s blowout to Stanford, which renewed memories of a previous stock-killer against Nebraska.
Admittedly it would be harsh to pin much blame on Locker’s shoulders. He barely had a chance against Stanford, who systematically destroyed Washington in the trenches and regularly stopped Locker before he had a chance to flash his undoubted ability.
However – NFL teams will look at a prospect who hasn’t taken a leap forward as a fifth year senior. His numbers are not improved, his best win will probably be against USC again and he hasn’t shown any greater poise as a passer to compliment the playmaking ability. They’ll bare in mind Locker’s circumstance, but they’ll also wonder if the upside is high enough to warrant the big investment.
Right now I would put his stock firmly in that 25-40 range, depending on where certain teams are picking next April. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Locker will go earlier, it’s all about draft order. He isn’t going to fall out of the second round because there’s a high enough ceiling to justify investment earlier than that. He’s a far better prospect overall than Jimmy Clausen in my opinion.
Promise will not be enough to justify a high selection. Unless someone is really sold on his potential, I don’t see him falling as high as we thought before this season began. The emergence of Cam Newton (QB, Auburn) is an interesting side-story too. In my next mock draft this week, he’ll be making a first appearance. I’ve raised serious concerns about Newton as a passer. However – I do feel, like Tebow last year, someone will roll that dice in round one. The difference being here – Newton is a much, much greater athlete than Tebow and is nowhere near the mechanical headache Tebow was as a passer.
When you throw Ryan Mallett into the equation and potentially Blaine Gabbert too, there will be alternatives to Locker available.
Lot’s of people will point to Locker’s decision to return for another year at Washington. Certainly it’s been proven that staying in college gives scouts the chance to further dissect your game and perhaps lower your grade. Could this hurt Locker? Maybe – but you can also look at Sam Bradford who went back to Oklahoma, got injured and missed the entire year but still went first overall. Alternatively, Jimmy Clausen declared as an underclassman and didn’t go as high as he expected. Locker supposedly wasn’t given a first round grade by the draft advisory group before deciding to pass on the 2010 draft.