You guys know the deal, we are asking some of the writers on bloguin.com what their opinions are for some of the prospects that the Bills may be interested in drafting. Today, I decided to reach out to James Satterberg of Seatown Sports, to discuss the pros and cons of Jake Locker. I know Locker won’t be picked with the 3rd selection, but I thought since he’s one of the top QBs for this year’s draft, it would be educational to see what he brings to the table.
Q1) What type of player is Locker? Strengths and weaknesses?
A1) Jake Locker’s strengths are his arm strength, his mobility, and his incredible athleticism. Evidence? He has a 4.5 forty time, a 35 inch vertical, and ran 4.12 shuttle at the NFL combine. For a quarterback with a 6’2″ and 230 pound frame, having this athleticism is rare. However, with the arrival of head coach Steve Sarkisian and his pro-style offense to Washington, Locker’s running ability became gradually less of a part of his game; he ran for 986 rushing yards his freshman year under Tyrone Willingham and only ran for 385 yards last year during his senior season. Despite this, Locker still has the ability to roll out of the pocket and buy himself time to throw with his legs. Locker’s cannon arm allows him to make all the deep throws required of an NFL quarterback. As a result of two years under a pro-style offense, Locker has more experience than quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Mallett in terms of taking snaps from under center and making reads in the pocket – things which any NFL QB must be able to do. Locker is tough physically and has no problems playing through injuries (as he did for half of his senior season). Furthermore, he is said to be a natural leader in the clubhouse and has an excellent reputation off the field. He should be able to handle the social and media pressures of being an NFL quarterback.
Locker’s biggest weakness by far is his accuracy. As a long time Husky fan, I think this can be worked on to some extent by coaching Locker to stop throwing so many passes on the run, but the truth is that Locker probably just is not very accurate. That is not necessarily a deal breaker for an NFL quarterback (Donovan McNabb was never super accurate either), but it is a major red flag. Also, though Locker now has two years of experience in a pro-style offense, his ability to read defenses never has reached the level that Husky fans hoped it would progress to. It is unlikely that Locker would have major success as a rookie, and it has been suggested by those around the game that he might fit best on a team that could afford to keep him on the bench for a year or two while he continues to refine his accuracy and learn the intricate details of the offense.
Q2) What was his best game you seen him play and what happened?
A2) The best game Jake Locker has ever played was the season finale of his junior year against California, who at the time was ranked No. 19. Locker lead his team, which would finish with 5 wins on the season, to a surprise 42-10 blowout of the Cal Bears, going 19-23 for 248 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Locker also ran for 77 yards on 14 carries with 2 touchdowns. During the entire game, all of Husky Stadium was chanting “Don’t Go Jake!” so loud that Locker had to motion to the crowd multiple times to shut up when they were on offense so that the rest of the offense could hear him.
The worst game Locker has ever played was last September’s blowout loss against Nebraska, where he threw 4-20 for 71 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. In that game the offense could not get going at all and Locker’s accuracy problems were magnified while his receivers were being smothered by Nebraska’s top pass defense.
Q3) What happened to Locker’s stock? I remember at one point, some scouts thought of him going 1st in the draft last year.
A3) As I mentioned earlier, Locker’s best game ever turned out to be the final game of his junior year. Scouts looking at that game saw the absolute best of Jake Locker, and many were convinced that Locker had outgrown his problems and was able to fully harness his unbelievable athleticism and rocket arm. It should be noted that last year, the top two quarterbacks were a guy who missed almost all his senior year due to a shoulder injury (Sam Bradford), and Jimmy Clausen. Jake Locker saw past the hype. He claimed that the biggest reason he stayed at Washington for his senior year is that he felt he wasn’t ready yet, and he turned out to be right. After the first Nebraska game, which as I mentioned may be the worst Locker has ever played, the same “experts” who had earlier called Locker the best prospect in football ran as far away from that prediction as possible, which leads to the weird inconsistency of Locker’s draft speculation today. Some people think he is still a top 15 pick, and some think that he belongs in the third round. Personally, I don’t think that there is any way he slips to the second round, as it only takes one team to fall in love with his athleticism and potential and draft him with their first pick.
Q4) In passing situations, the Bills love to run 4-5 wide looks, do you see Locker fitting into that scheme?
A4) Locker’s freshman year (and sophomore year before a broken thumb sidelined him after 4 games) was played in a spread offense. Locker should not have any trouble working in 4 or 5 wide receiver sets, and it might allow a team to make better use of his mobility.