6 Senior Bowl QBs in 6 days: Jake Locker

Jake Locker might have been the No. 1 overall pick last year if he didn't return to school. Now he'll spend the next few months trying to convince NFL scouts and coaches that he's a worthy first-round pick. We look at his accomplishments and perceived weaknesses.

Stanford's Andrew Luck was considered a consensus No. 1 overall draft pick if he declared himself eligible for the NFL in 2011. He didn't, choosing another year at Stanford and hoping his draft stock remains as high next year.

Jake Locker can relate, with a couple of differences. Locker wasn't necessarily considered a consensus No. 1 overall pick, but some people certainly considered him the best that the 2010 draft class would have had to offer if he hadn't returned to Washington. Now that he did stay in school, scouts have found more faults in his game.

Inconsistency is one of the knocks on Locker, from a game-to-game standpoint and even from play-to-play.

One NFC scout told Sport Illustrated's Don Banks that Locker's biggest weakness comes with his decision-making in the pocket. NFL Network's Mike Mayock agreed.

"Last year at this time everyone wanted to say he'd be the No. 1 pick in the draft, and now he's an afterthought in most people's minds,'' Mayock told Banks. "I don't understand that logic. He's got all the tools to be a top-level quarterback, all the physical tools. The size and the arm strength. I just question his pocket awareness. And that's where his accuracy issues come into play.

"When he moves outside the pocket, either right or left, and not just scrambling, because they did a good job with plays that moved him outside the pocket and had him throw on the run, he has good vision and is as accurate as any quarterback you'll see. But he gets into some trouble in the pocket, seeing the field, and that's where his accuracy breaks down. I'm really excited to see him at the Senior Bowl and see him working with other receivers. To me he's got first-round ability. But I just need to get more comfortable with him, and his pocket awareness.''

Locker will get a chance to prove his critics wrong next week as one of six quarterbacks on the North and South teams at the Senior Bowl, which is attended by hundreds of NFL talent evaluators, from general managers to scouts to coaches.

At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Locker has the size typically associated with NFL quarterbacks. He also has the college stats.

In 2010, he passed for 2,265 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 55.4 percent of his passes. All of those statistics were down from 2009, when Locker made a big impression with 2,800 yards passing, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 58.2 percent of his passes at Washington.

He missed most of his sophomore season with torn ligaments and a broken right thumb, but as a freshman he threw for 2,062 yards, but had 14 touchdowns against 15 interceptions and completed only 47.3 percent of his throws.

Compared to some of the other successful quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl, he also doesn't have wins – Washington went 6-6 during the regular season (although Locker wasn't part of the 53-16 drubbing by Oregon on Nov. 6 because of a broken rib). His Huskies did win the Sun Bowl over Nebraska, 19-7, after the Huskers defensed him to his worst performance earlier in the year, when he completed only 4 of 20 for 71 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also struggled against the National Champion Stanford Cardinal on Oct. 30, when he went 7-for-14 for 64 yards and threw no touchdowns and two interceptions.

His inconsistencies belie his big arm, which keeps him in the conversation as a potential first-round pick on April 28. Like Brett Favre, Locker's big arm at times seems to make him too confident that he can throw into coverage and get away with it.

Locker is likely to impress at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, where his arm strength and athleticism should show well. But the bigger test might be next week at the Senior Bowl, where he will be exposed to NFL coaching and asked to read defenses without much time to learn a simplified offense.

Will he hesitate in the pocket or will he thrive under new conditions? It could be the difference in a full round of draft positioning.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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