2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Reasons Jake Locker Will Work out for Tennessee Titans
I'll be the first to admit that, when the Tennessee Titans were on the clock on draft day, I was waiting for Nick Fairley's name to be called. I was livid when Roger Goodell said, "With the eighth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans select Jake Locker."
I yelled, I cursed, I asked why we didn't trade down, the usual.
Here are five reasons I think that he will pan out in the end.
1. He'll Have Time to Develop
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It seems most columnists on this site did not like the fact that the Titans moved for Matt Hasselbeck. I disagree.
I think picking up Hasselbeck was a necessary move that will ensure that Jake Locker will be ready when the time comes. Jake Locker is raw. I know that term is overused, but with Locker, it's a very fitting term.
Hasselbeck is not expected to take Tennessee to the Super Bowl; he is simply being brought in to show Locker how it's done, and be a stop gap for as long as necessary. I think the reason for signing Hasselbeck to a three-year deal was to make sure that he would be with the Titans, even if he wasn't starting, for as long as it might take Locker to develop.
If, at the beginning of the 2013 season, Locker is starting, but still making mistakes, Hasselbeck will still be there to give him advice. There's also the possibility that if Locker is injured running the ball (which is likely), Hasselbeck will be there to manage the game.
Hasselbeck still has plenty in his tank, despite what some may say, and he'll ensure that Locker has time to learn to be an NFL passer.
2. He'll Have Plenty of Playing Time While He Develops
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While Hasselbeck will be the unquestioned starter for at least the next year, since he's getting on in years, it seems likely that he'll be injured at some point this season or next season. If Hasselbeck is down, Locker will be up next.
As I said in the last slide, it's important that Locker is allowed time to develop, but it's also important that he sees some playing time while he develops, too.
When Hasselbeck inevitably goes down injured, Locker will be able to play more than a few downs in an NFL game, and he'll get a taste of what it's like. He'll see what he's doing well, what he needs to improve and what to look for next.
If he gets these glimpses of NFL gameplay for himself while still being the No. 2 guy, I think it'll help him in the long run.
3. Good Coaching
Chris Palmer was the quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants from 2007 to 2009. Eli Manning's completion percentage went from 56.1 percent to 62.3 percent in those three years. His yards per attempt went from 6.3 to 7.9, his touchdown:interception ratio went from 23:20 to 27:14 and his QB rating went from 73.9 to 93.1 (his career high).
If you're suspicious of the statistics, look them up; in every one of those categories, there was an increase from 2007 to 2008 and an increase from 2008 to 2009. That is called improvement.
If you want more evidence, Palmer was quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. You might remember that as the year that Romo stepped into the spotlight and ended the season a Pro Bowler. His average number of yards per attempt that season was the highest of his career, and he was only more accurate in a partial 2010 season.
That gives me confidence that Palmer knows what to do with quarterbacks. With him in charge of Locker's development, we can expect good things.
4. Work Ethic and Toughness
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Jake Locker was the first to report to team facilities when the lockout ended, and I see that as a sign of things to come. One thing Locker's been known for is his great work ethic. Even when his draft stock was its lowest, everyone gushed about what a hard worker he was.
Hard work won't get you everything, but if Locker continues to be the first to arrive and the last to leave, I find it hard to believe that he won't have some success. It's that kind of mentality that makes everyone around you better, and that's exactly what people want out of a quarterback.
He's also one tough customer. I'll never forget Jon Gruden replaying a clip (over and over) of Locker tucking the ball and running right into a defender without any hesitation. Gruden was using the clip as an example of what not to do when running the ball, but it's also great for showing Locker's toughness.
Seeing that clip makes me think Locker will be the kind of quarterback that plays through an injury to win a game, or waits that extra second to throw the ball to a wide-open receiver, even if it means getting hit in the process.
That can be a good and bad thing, but Locker's built like a linebacker; I think he'll be able to take more punishment than a lot of other quarterbacks and keep right on going.
5. His Flaws Aren't Fatal
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I hate it as much as the next guy when anyone says blank is the next blank. So I'm not going to say that. Instead, I'll point out how similar two players happen to be, and leave the speculation up to you.
Brett Favre was a 6'2" quarterback from Southern Mississippi, a school near his hometown. He was a four-year starter with great intangibles, a solid work ethic and toughness, but his career completion percentage was around 52 percent, which hurt his draft stock.
Jake Locker is a 6'2" quarterback from the University of Washington, a school near his hometown. He was a four-year starter with great intangibles, a solid work ethic and toughness, but his career completion percentage was just around 52 percent, which hurt his draft stock.
Locker has also been compared to Steve Young and Drew Bledsoe. I think most of these comparisons are kind of silly, since no matter how similar they may be, Locker is not Brett Favre, or Steve Young or Drew Bledsoe; he is Jake Locker.
So why do I bring up these comparisons at all? They serve to illustrate a point. Locker has some big shortcomings (his accuracy), but those have been overcome in the past by guys in similar situations. Locker's road to being a franchise quarterback will be an uphill battle, but there are lots of reasons to think that he will, one day, get there.