In my most recent mock draft, I listed the Jaguars as selecting a new face of the franchise quarterback by taking Jake Locker with the 16th overall selection in the 1st round. Naturally that’s going to be disagreed upon by many readers who feel that the Jaguars need a quarterback for the future of the franchise, but don’t necessarily feel that Locker deserves to be taken that early and wouldn’t be worth the 16th overall selection. In my opinion, he would be absolutely worth it.
Last year, Jake Locker was categorized by many as an elite prospect that would be drafted among the top 5 in the 2010 NFL Draft if he decided to come out and was considered a possible candidate for the 1st overall selection in 2011 when he decided to stay. A year later the 6’3, 230 pound quarterback is argued by some to be a 2nd round prospect and not even worth a 1st round investment.
What made him a elite prospect in the first place was his athleticism. While he did struggle in 2010 more so than his junior campaign, the differences between the two years was minimal. He displayed the same type of arm strength and mobility that he did in 2009 and won two more games than in 2009. The largest stat that was negative by comparison was a drop in completion percentage from 58.2% to 55.4%.
Particularly poor were his performances against the Nebraska secondary whom he faced twice during 2010. Among the players in the Nebraska secondary are Prince Amukamara, an All-American cornerback and consensus first round pick in April, and Alfonzo Dennard, a cornerback that is rated the #1 cornerback of 2012 by NFLDraftScout.com. In the first meeting he completed 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in a 56 -21 loss. In the second meeting he completed 5 of 16 passes for 56 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions in a 19-7 victory. In 2009 he faced no such defense.
Essentially this is the same player that was considered a top player in 2009, so why is he a late first round one year later? Was it the lack of progression? If you’re waiting for me to answer, you’re not going to get an answer because I don’t know.
What I can tell you is that the main concerns with Locker are his accuracy and footwork. When he’s on the move, Locker’s accuracy is very strong, but when he drops back he struggles to set his feet and step into an accurate throw. It is not a problem with his arm as I believe he is very capable of making all the throws in an accurate manner, but a rushed delivery.
I blame the rushed delivery on an offensive line that allowed Locker to get sacked 74 times while a Huskie and rarely allowed for him to reach the apex of a five-step drop. I also blame his completion percentage on receivers that were not open for Locker and didn’t always catch the ball when he fit the ball into the tight windows that were afforded to him.
For these reasons, I actually believe that Locker is more ready from a mentality standpoint than the other quarterbacks that will be drafted in 2011. He has seen pressure in his face and has had to find receivers that aren’t as open as he would like them to be. A year with an NFL quarterbacks coach to work on his footwork in the pocket and I believe he can be a face of the franchise type of player.