Jake Locker's draft stock has been all over the board if you follow the inconsistent pulse of some draft analysts.
Last year, some speculated Locker could be the first overall pick if he had declared for the NFL draft after his junior season, but others wondered if the draft grade he got back from NFL teams that were surveyed convinced him to stay at the University of Washington for another season.
What is clear is that the Vikings are putting in extra effort scouting the top quarterbacks in the draft and, according to the National Football Post, Locker worked out for the Vikings this week. Whether he would be a consideration for them with the 12th overall pick – or even still available (Tennessee at No. 8 also reportedly has a strong interest in him) – remains to be seen.
Locker maintained at the Senior Bowl that he didn't regret returning to Washington and expanded on his reasons at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"As a player and as a person, I'm a lot more prepared for this process. Doing things like this, going through this process and being comfortable going through it. I don't think I would have been as prepared for it last year," he said. "To be able to go out and go through the workouts and have confidence in what I was doing personally, I feel a lot better after having another year playing with the coaches that I did and the system that I did. I'm very thankful for that."
In 2010, Locker 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 for the Huskies.
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.
His performance at the NFL Scouting Combine left most observers impressed.
"From what I saw of him, it looked like he hit that back foot and got the ball out," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Locker's showing in Indianapolis. "It looked like he didn't worry as much about whether or not the wide receiver made the speed turn correctly or he didn't make it correctly. A lot of guys were stumbling."
After his uneven senior season, there are questions that remain about how effective Locker can be at the NFL level. He knows most of those criticisms revolve around his consistency and accuracy. He's working with former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien to improve some of those issues while is stressing his leadership qualities.
"I think that to be able to bring good character into a locker room, somebody that guys can trust and believe in, and then I also believe that I also have the opportunity to kind of improvise, create with my legs and extend plays, give guys the opportunity to work downfield," Locker said. "One thing - it's no secret, I don't think to anybody - moving in the pocket and throwing in the pocket is something that I'm working on and will continue to work on."
Locker is known for his athleticism and ability to extend plays with feet, not necessarily looking to scramble but keeping his vision focused downfield in hopes he finds an uncovered receiver, and that's probably why he enjoys watching Aaron Rodgers.
Right now, Locker seems to be gaining momentum after an inconsistent Senior Bowl week in January and a better day throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. If he continued to progress and reacted well in his interaction with the Vikings, maybe he will sneak back into the top half of the first round and come full circle for draft analysts.
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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