Senior Bowl: The Jake Locker Phenomenon

Is Jake Locker worth the hype?

Jake Locker has hype, but can he deliver? Getty Images.

A year ago Washington’s Jake Locker was considered a sure thing and was expected to go early in the 2010 NFL Draft. Faced with the dilema of possibly being drafted by the St. Louis Rams, an honor Locker kindly left uncontested for Sam Bradford from Oklahoma, Locker decided to return for his final season at Washington.

A return for his senior season was received with great praise by the Husky faithful in the Seattle area and the school saw it as an opportunity to use Locker to get their own name out in the media. Locker was heralded as a Heisman contender and given top billing on a tour to the east coast to visit with the New York media and make a round through ESPN’s “car wash”, in which a college player goes from show to show on ESPN including SportsCenter, First Take, multiple radio shows and even Ivan Maisel’s podcast. Locker was everywhere and you could not avoid it.

But the question remains; Why?

In his junior season Locker completed 58.2% of his passes for 2,800 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Locker added 388 rushing yards and seven more touchdowns on the ground. Though his numbers look to be pretty average scouts always thought that the fact that he was playing for a team that went 5-7 was a reason Locker was being held back in terms of overall production. His skills, scouts say, are made for the pro game and even if his college stats look average at best, the potential factor would make Locker worthy of a high draft pick.

That’s what they were saying after last season and that is what they are saying this year even though Locker’s stats went down in every major category (passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, passer rating). Locker did miss one game due to injury (Oregon) but he played in the same number of games this past season as he did the year before because of a bowl appearance in 2010.

“The bottom line is, you need one of these guys,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says. “The hard thing is figuring out the intangibles: What kind of kid is he? What kind of worker is he? And how good is his football IQ?”

Jake Locker may be this year's Mr. Potential in the NFL Draft. Getty Images.

That is what will be scrutinized from every possible angle this week. Locker will be one of the top players to watch this week during Senior Bowl week. The Husky quarterback is the quarterback with the most to prove given his high expectations heading in. The rest of the QBs in Mobile, Alabama this week are good college quarterbacks but other than TCU’s Andy Dalton and Florida State’s Christian Ponder there are few who figure to have a great chance to make any impact in the NFL.

Although, if Caleb Hanie can find himself in a position to make a run at a Cinderella type story in the NFC Championship game, who knows what the future has in store for Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, and Alabama’s Greg McElroy?

Noted NFL Draft analysts for ESPN Mel Kiper no longer has Locker as a first round draft pick. According to Kiper’s latest mock-draft he has the Seattle Seahawks passing on Locker with the 25th pick and drafting Ryan Mallet from Arkansas. I do not tend to take too much stock in mock drafts but I find this to be an interesting opinion. If the Seahawks, a franchise playing in the same area as the Huskies, passes on Locker after being able to watch him for years, just where would he land? For Kiper this is a big change in thinking as he declared before and after the 2010 NFL Draft that Locker would be taken first overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Clearly, in terms of money, Locker should have declared for the NFL last year. After watching what I did of Locker in 2010 I fail to see what all of the hype is about. I am not alone either. Patrick Johnson from In the Bleachers agrees and says that Locker should realize he is best suited for baseball. “Sooner he accepts it, the better,” Johnson tweeted at me over the weekend. Locker was named Baseball America’s top prospect in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League in 2008 while playing outfield for the Bellingham Bells.

I close with this week’s featured poll question. Do you think Locker is worth a first round draft pick? Should the Seahawks follow Kiper’s thinking and take Mallet if given the option? Should Locker focus on baseball instead? This poll will close on Thursday evening and I will review the answers on Friday. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section as well. Some comments may be featured. Or you can e-mail your thoughts as well.

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About the author

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com and managing editor of Crystal Ball Run. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.