2011 NFL Draft: Where Does Jake Locker Fit In?

Russell FarradayContributor IIFebruary 2, 2011

Jake Locker
Jake LockerChristian Petersen/Getty Images

It's been a bumpy ride.

From the time of his declaration to stay for his senior year to the Senior Bowl last Saturday, one thing's for sure: It's been a very interesting year for the young NFL prospect out of the University of Washington.

It all began last offseason. Locker had just come off a stellar year in which he threw for career highs in completion percentage, yards and touchdowns. There was heavy debate about whether he would forgo his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.

Some even projected him to be the first overall pick—ahead of Sam Bradford—and that he would go play for the St. Louis Rams.

However, Locker ended that debate on December 14, 2009, with the two simple words—"I'm staying"—that he uttered to coach Steve Sarkisian, announcing his plans to stay at UW for his senior year.

While there was much surprise at his decision, it was figured that he would just have another superb year and stay atop everybody's mock drafts for the next year as well. However, things didn't quite happen that way.

The reason why is still a mystery. There were no known major injuries or notable changes in the offensive scheme that would make it any more challenging, but Jake Locker's performance on the field dropped off considerably from his 2009 campaign.

In the '10-'11 season, Locker completed nearly three-percent fewer passes than he did the year before; he also threw for almost 600 yards and four touchdowns less.

Then, in the Senior Bowl, as if to put a rotten cherry on top of a nightmare season, Locker missed two throws on third down, got sacked and fumbled the ball in the same play, and showed immaturity as he repeatedly abandoned the pass only to run for a couple yards after getting through just his first read of the defensive coverage.

In fact, on the play in which he fumbled the ball, Locker actually had receiver Dane Sanzenbacher wide open in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.

This shows that, as mobile as Locker can be, he can't keep his eyes downfield as he scrambles—not a good sign for someone who is supposed to be a top 10 pick.

So now the burning question: Will someone take a chance on Jake Locker in the first round?

If someone decides to take Locker in the first round, it has to be a team that knows how to coach a quarterback. Like I mentioned before, Locker still has problems keeping his eyes downfield, as well as accuracy issues that need to be addressed.

Teams that I can see taking a chance on Locker in the first round include Jacksonville (16th overall) or possibly Seattle (25th). Another team like Tennessee, Washington or Minnesota could take a chance on him, of course, but I think that, at this point, players like Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton are ahead of Locker on most teams' draft boards.

However, if all three of the aforementioned quarterbacks get chosen, say, in the top eight (Carolina, Buffalo, Arizona, San Francisco and Tennessee are all quarterback-needy teams in the top eight), then you may very well see Locker drafted by Washington or Minnesota at picks 10 and 12 overall.

While Locker certainly has first round talent, he may not get drafted there. What I suspect will happen is that Locker drops to the early-to-mid second round and gets picked by a team like Cincinnati or Carolina, who would likely have to trade up to get him.

Jake Locker will be a successful quarterback in the NFL; his play-extending ability is off the charts and he's got a huge arm. Somebody will pick him in the NFL Draft on April 28th, but will it be in the first round? I mean, hey, the guy's a winner. After all, it only takes one.