Washington Huskies Jake Locker Down But Not Out

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent INovember 18, 2010

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies gets up after being tackled during the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on September 18, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, Washington quarterback Jake Locker made the questionable decision of returning to Washington for his senior season. Locker was considered the favorite to be taken by the St. Louis Rams with the first overall selection and would likely collect an outrageous contract.

Less than a calendar year later, Locker has seen his draft stock plummet to the point where some are questioning whether or not he belongs in the first round. In that time, Andrew Luck has passed him as the unquestioned best signal caller in the 2011 Draft Class.

What has changed for Locker?

Jake Locker’s critics argue that his play in 2010 has highlighted some glaring weaknesses in his game. However, Locker is the same talented prospect; he just has no talent around him with which to work.

Jake Locker has taken heat for his erratic production throughout his senior season as a Husky. The game most commonly cited by critics of Locker is his 4-for-20, two interception effort against Nebraska. Locker made irresponsible throws all afternoon long and looked overmatched for much of the contest.

What gets lost in the stats is what little help Locker had. He was forced into making unwise throws in order to try and make something happen. Locker cannot be held responsible when there are no receivers open, and he has no time to throw. Nebraska’s defense is arguably the best in the country, and Washington was clearly over matched.

Against Stanford, Locker suffered from much of the same problems. His receivers did not make plays, and he was under pressure on nearly every throw. Of his two interceptions, one was due to a receiver quitting on the play, and the other was the result of Locker attempting to make something happen when his team was down 38-0. It is ridiculous for Locker to receive the bulk of the blame for a game in which the defense puts the team in a hole, and the receivers and offensive line provide little help.

Locker remains the same physically talented, high upside prospect everybody was ready to anoint the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2010. He has a great arm and can make all of the throws at the next level. He is mechanically sound in both his footwork and throwing motion with great accuracy. On top of all that, he is a terrific athlete. Granted he still needs a bit of work.

Locker has shown a tendency to lock onto receivers in addition to some pocket presence issues. However despite his shortcomings, I have seen nothing on tape that would suggest that Jake Locker is not the top quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft.

By returning to school, Locker cost himself quite a bit of money. With scouts across the country writing him off, Locker presents tremendous value if he falls outside of the top five picks in the 2011 NFL Draft.