Jake Locker: Why the Tennessee Titans' 1st-Rounder Will Be a Franchise QB
Locker at No. 8?!?
Most draftniks went crazy with the news that the former Washington quarterback was not only taken in the top 10 but also ahead of Blaine Gabbert.
All I thought to myself was, "Thank God someone else sees it."
It's a misconception to think that Jake Locker would have been the No. 1 overall pick had he declared in 2010. Look how much he got torn apart after a season in which I feel he got better in most respects.
The only area of his game that regressed a bit was his pocket presence, which tends to happen to QBs when playing behind a porous offensive line I do think he probably would've gone fourth overall to the Redskins, but I don't feel that he would've challenged the eventual top pick, Sam Bradford. Bradford was much more NFL-ready, which is what St. Louis needed.
How good can Locker be? Let's look at where he's at now.
Physically, he has a very unique skill set. He can put the ball anywhere on the field. He's much more accurate than people give him credit for, which we'll get into in a second. He shows glimpses of the former running back in him, with his speed (4.59) and willingness for contact.
Back to his accuracy, which Sports Illustrated's Peter King recently described as "scattershot."
I admit, he misses open receivers from time to time. Accuracy is one of the most important attributes a QB can have and is rarely correctable. In the case of Jake though, I believe it is.
Most QB's that are inaccurate lack that inherent touch for putting the ball in the perfect spot. It's a feel for the game, realizing where defenders are positioned in respect to the receiving target and putting it on the money.
Locker most certainly has that quality. I've seen him make every single type of throw, some throws that I'm not sure I've ever seen the elites make.
Jake's problem stems from his footwork, which is fixable. He doesn't consistently give himself a good throwing base, making throws off balance and misses on some easy ones. While quarterbacks do need to throw off balance at times, Locker has a penchant for making routine throws much more difficult for himself.
With a good QB coach hammering fundamentals into his head, he'll get better and better. Keep in mind, he's only been in Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense for two seasons. Before that, he was just all raw talent and didn't have anyone really working towards refining his ability for the next level.
People try to pinpoint a singular quality that is most important in projecting a quarterback: accuracy, arm strength, toughness, intelligence, mobility/pocket presence. Truth is, there is no attribute that provides a fool-proof indicator.
Every prospect must be analyzed by himself, not in comparison with guys that have passed through the NFL ranks before him. I've heard Locker compared to Steve Young, Brett Favre and Kyle Boller. Go figure.
One has to take a holistic approach in scouting quarterbacks. You really have to look at the whole picture. I feel that is the main reason that most QB's fail. More than any other position, intangibles are so important for a QB and they have a tendency to get either ignored or overblown.
Some players with great skill sets can make scouts and coaches drool, but they are terrible presences in the locker room and have poor work ethics (see Leaf, Ryan).
Some less physically-gifted players are just tagged as "winners" or "leaders." While I agree those are key qualities to have, give me a definable physical quality as to why that QB will be successful at the next level.
I'm not making this about Andy Dalton. I just want to make the point that it is for this reason I'm not on the Dalton bandwagon.
We've already been over Locker's physical gifts, but it is his intangibles that will make him a great QB. He is such a tough guy. Getting knocked around gets him amped up. Some guys just don't like getting hit, which is why they get so rattled when they make the transition to the next level.
Being a Bills fan this is pretty tough to say, but watch how Tom Brady reacts to getting plastered. He gets fired up. Brett Favre? Never left the field. Steve Young? He would drag himself back onto the field if he could. It's such a physical game. If you're a QB that thrives off getting beat up, you are much better suited for the next level.
Locker's a leader and his teammates rally around him. He's shown the ability to take his less-talented team down the field in the clutch to win big games.
He has such a passion for the game and has the work ethic to push himself. You know he's going to have his own timeshare at the team facility.
Looking at his decision to return for his senior year shows his loyalty and the fact that money doesn't own him. He wanted to get the Huskies to that bowl game and he did it. It probably only ended up costing him four draft spots. I'm pretty sure Locker would've been happy with the decision if it cost him 34 draft spots.
Talk about willing your team to victory in times of adversity. The Huskies season started off pretty poorly. Washington needed to win its last three games for bowl game consideration.
Locker didn't pout or rue the day he made the decision to come back. He was the guy he's always been and geared his team up for the run. They finished the season winning those games, culminating in a 19-7 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
There is a QB premium in the NFL, and that won't be changing anytime soon. The league-wide emphasis on the position is only growing. That's why quarterbacks get so over-drafted every April.
Was Jake a similar case? Yes and no. Realizing he was going to need some time develop, I gave him a high second round grade. At this point in his development, he's an above-average QB. He obviously has the potential to become an elite NFL QB, but you can only grade what you see, in my opinion. I try not to inflate grades too much based on potential.
Even with that being the case, though, you knew another team wouldn't let him fall that far. The Vikings kept showing a lot of interest in Locker and GM Mike Reinfeldt wasn't going to take a chance on missing him. He made the right move in taking him where he did. My logic would be, if someone is going to over-draft him, I'd rather it be me.
Jake Locker will prove to be the best QB in this class and will only get better. If I had to count on a person to make me look good, I'm glad it's Locker.
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