When Jake Locker was drafted with the eighth pick by the Tennessee Titans, many people thought it was a reach. However, had Locker come out in 2010, the eighth pick would have been seen as a slide in the draft for Locker, as many predicted him to be among the first picks.
But after deciding to return to the University of Washington, Locker struggled in his senior year, and his draft stock began to fall dramatically, as many questioned his ability to succeed in the NFL. However, Locker was drafted by the Titans, and with Tennessee's acquisition of Matt Hasselbeck, Locker will likely not be rushed into the starting position, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the young quarterback.
In this article, I will identify five reasons why I feel that Locker will be the most successful quarterback in the 2011 draft class, better than Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and even Cam Newton.
Jake Locker doesn't have the reputation that sometimes follow young quarterbacks after they are drafted. Guys like JaMarcus Russell and Matt Leinart had their struggles in the NFL despite their talent. This was partially due to a lack of work ethic that would eventually be instrumental in them getting cut by their respective teams.
Locker is a well-respected leader in the locker room with a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn and improve. The Titans shouldn't have any problems motivating Locker to develop his own skills to make him more than just a college quarterback.
Both Locker's mobility and arm strength was showcased in the first preseason game against Minnesota, and while of course this is just a preseason game, he looked poised and confident in his debut, which is very impressive for a quarterback who is seeing his first NFL action.
In Washington, Locker was a playmaker, and despite whatever struggles he may have had his senor year, he has the talent and the athleticism to succeed in the NFL.
Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker had a preexisting relationship before both of them landed in Tennessee, as both of them were in Seattle just a year ago; Locker playing for the Huskies and Hasselbeck playing for the Seahawks.
Hasselbeck and Locker already proved that they can get along, and Hasselbeck is one of the classiest players in the NFL. Hasselbeck will not be like Brett Favre was to Aaron Rodgers was, or like Joe Montana was to Steve Young.
Hasselbeck knows he is in his last years in the NFL, and will embrace the opportunity to mentor a young quarterback that he already has a positive relationship with. Locker, likewise, will embrace the advice from an older quarterback whom he respects.
Locker is certainly set up for success more than Cam Newton or Andy Dalton might be. Locker is on a team with one of the best running backs in the NFL, as well as a solid offensive line, and several receiving threats, notably Kenny Britt.
The Titans may not necessarily be the best team in the NFL, or even the best team in the division, but they are an improving team that, as long as they draft well, should be ready for success when Locker is ready to take the helm.
Waiting can be a blessing in disguise; just ask Aaron Rodgers. In the draft, Rodgers was slated to be among the first picks, but found himself falling to the Green Bay Packers. As a result, Rodgers went to a team that didn't have an immediate need for a starting quarterback, so Rodgers waited behind Brett Favre as he learned the system and developed into the quarterback that he is today.
Had Rodgers been thrust into the fire on a poor team, he likely wouldn't have been successful. But Rodgers came into a good system and had time to grow and develop into a quarterback that is starting material. Very few quarterbacks are truly ready to start their rookie season, and Locker will likely not be ready, either. But he is coming onto a team that has a veteran quarterback that can take the pressure off of him and give him time to develop until he is truly ready.