That's the assertion made by ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero in his latest report. While I have gone on record an occasion or two to state that Locker is an intriguing prospect that must be considered by the TOA, my views of him being a top prospect have cooled as of late.
I think that Locker has outstanding intangibles in terms of his leadership, work ethic and character. He is also undeniably a great athlete. But I am a little concerned with one scouting report that questions his ability to see the field. I am also concerned with his injury history (ribs, concussion). Perhaps the injuries were a result of his tendancy to use his athleticism to extend plays, however it just may add another part of his game to the list of flaws that Locker will have to fix in order to have a successful NFL career.
Back to the title of this post. After the jump I will highlight some quotes from Pelissero's article. And while it is all speculative at best, it does appear that Jake Locker just might have the attention of multiple teams in the first half of the first round.
And while it's too soon to peg Locker's spot on the Vikings' draft board -- team officials begin nine consecutive days of draft meetings on Monday -- there is a growing sense around the NFL they're preparing to pounce on the Washington quarterback at No. 12 overall.
"He doesn't have Brett's arm talent," said an executive in personnel for another NFC team. "But of this group of quarterbacks, if we were going to a park and go play, you'd pick Brett Favre and you'd probably pick this guy (Locker). He's such a tough-ass football player."
Was that a gratuitous comparison to Ol' #4, or is that just me? There is an interesting comparison brought up again between the two signal-callers, read on.
A year ago, toughness wasn't the primary attribute on Locker's side. He was coming off a junior season in which he completed 58.2% of his passes for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, putting himself in the conversation as the No. 1 overall pick.
Then, Locker returned to school, took a beating on a rather horrid Huskies team and saw his numbers (55.4%, 2,265 yards, 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions) go to pot along with his mechanics.
"His motion was off," the NFC executive said. "His release point was all over the place. So, guess what? Now, it's pretty good. He worked on it, fixed it in the offseason."
According to NFL sources, that fundamental improvement has been evident in a series of recent workouts that left scouts thinking they'd seen the 2009 version of a talented playmaker whose athleticism, intelligence and competitiveness never have been in doubt.
"Old-school guys remember how Dan Marino fell (to No. 27 in the 1983 draft) because of a subpar senior year," an AFC personnel director said. "You have to go back and look at the whole body of work and if you feel comfortable, because if a guy shows you he's got the ability, he's got it.
"The guy (Locker) didn't become less intelligent. He didn't become less athletic and all those things in the course of a year. You just have to figure out if the reason for the lack of production or the struggles is something that you're comfortable with and you buy into. So, that becomes a matter of opinions.
"Put it this way: I don't see any reason why somebody would not consider him there (at No. 12)."
That doesn't mean accuracy -- particularly within the pocket -- is a nonissue for Locker, who completed only 53.9% of his passes over four college seasons and threw 35 interceptions against 53 touchdown passes. (Incidentally, Favre completed 52.4% of his passes at Southern Mississippi with 34 interceptions and 52 touchdowns.)
So it IS possible to improve your accuracy in the NFL. But before we get all warm and fuzzy about this example, it did take Favre a few years and a change of scenary before he was able to improve his game.
One NFC area scout who identified himself as "a Locker fan" nonetheless pointed out the Ferndale, Wash., native was "stroking 'em in some games, and there's some games where he's played like a dog."
The Huskies lost three games at midseason by a combined 108 points, including a 53-16 rout against national runner-up Oregon when Locker was sidelined by a broken rib, but rallied to win their final three and then upset 18th-ranked Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
"To (Locker's) credit, he had to carry them, which in a sense is what you need to do at the next level," the area scout said. "So, he's already done that and made some decisions. Obviously, he's athletic. He has all that, the moxie, the intelligence that you're looking for off the field. He's a good piece to build on."
Now that part I like. The ability for a QB to carry his team and lead them to victory when the game is on the line is far more important than any stat line. However, no QB can accomplish this if he is not accurate, so the debate rages on.
The question for the Vikings is how good Locker can be -- and how good all of the NFL's other quarterback-needy teams think Locker can be as well.
One popular theory suggests the Vikings -- who have conducted private workouts with several quarterbacks, including Locker on March 15 -- might trade back from No. 12 and take Locker later in the first round. That'd be one way to recoup the third-round pick vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has said he wants to recoup from the Randy Moss debacle.
However, after watching Locker's "lights-out" campus workout last month, one NFC decision-maker speculated he could go as high as No. 8 to Tennessee. The Washington Redskins, who want to replace Donovan McNabb, are another possibility at No. 10.
"Coming back at the top of the second round, there's still a gauntlet of quarterback-needy teams ahead of Minnesota (at No. 43)," the AFC executive said. "If they don't get one in the first round, you've got to watch what they do, because Arizona, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Buffalo and the list goes on with teams that need them. Maybe they have to make a move."
It is unlikely that Locker will be available at #43. So if the Vikings are targeting him, they will likely have to pull the trigger in round 1.
Spielman acknowledged on Sunday that the odds of hitting on a rookie quarterback plummet significantly after the first round. But he reiterated that reaching for a quarterback "could set your organization back" and said the team has identified "12 or 13 blue chip-type players, which is more than normally out of any other draft."
The Vikings' process over the next nine days will include narrowing a field of seven or eight quarterbacks to perhaps as few as two, Spielman said -- then figuring out what needs to be done to land one of them.
"I think it's a deep quarterback class," Spielman said. "I think you'll be able to get some players even through your second and third rounds. But each of them have a hole or a flaw in them, and you've just got to try to make the right decision on what's going to best fit for your organization, what's going to best fit for your offensive system."
At this point, it would be no surprise if the Vikings' answer to both questions is Jake Locker.
Well quite a few people around here still question Spielman's ability to evaluate the QB position; and for good reason. It appears as he might get another chance to prove himself as a talent evaluator of the most important position in sports. Hopefully it's not his last...