An 'Insider' look at Washington's Jake Locker

July, 7, 2010
7/07/10
2:08
PM ET
Interesting look at Jake Locker's NFL draft prospects here, for all of you who are ESPN.com "Insiders."

The article compares Locker with former Florida QB Tim Tebow. They share an impressive physical profile but little else. Tebow piled up wins in college. Locker hasn't. Tebow put up jaw-dropping numbers. Locker hasn't.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
AP Photo/John FroschauerJake Locker will lead an offense returning eight other starters.
And yet Tebow was -- and remains -- a questionable NFL prospect. Locker is a likely top-10 pick and may go No. 1 overall next spring.

The story ultimately concludes that Locker must improve his accuracy this season in order to be picked at the top of the draft.
But eventually, the tools need to work, and the accuracy question is the big one surrounding Locker. "He's got to get that number up," said one NFL evaluator, in reference to Locker's completion percentage. "[Sam] Bradford was playing catch a lot of the time in that offense, but his accuracy was never a question."

The magic number for evaluators is 60 percent. As a note on the resume, it's vital. And Locker knows he'll be judged by it. Consider that JaMarcus Russell completed 67.8 percent of his passes as a junior, far superior to Locker's 58.2 as a junior.

Get out your pen and paper. My reply is an iron-clad guarantee: Locker will complete more than 60 percent of his passes in 2010. Period. If I were naming a number, I'd say 65 percent.

And his overall passing numbers will be much better. He'll almost certainly throw for more than 3,000 yards. My guess is he'll be close to 3,750 yards of total offense.

Why? Let me count the ways.

  1. His completion percentage has improved an average of 5.5 percent annually over his previous three seasons.
  2. He'll be over 60 percent just because he's an experienced senior who will be more comfortable in his second year with Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense.
  3. The 2010 Huskies will be by far the best team Locker has led.
  4. Locker will be surrounded by eight other returning offensive starters, including an outstanding crop of skill position players. His top seven receivers from 2009 are all back as are four linemen to protect him in the pocket and 1,000-yard rusher Chris Polk to keep defenses honest.
  5. Locker started as a true freshman. He played only four games in 2008 for a terrible team before getting hurt. That's a big reason his career numbers are tepid.
  6. The Huskies play 11 BCS teams and BYU. That means no games in which Locker will be on the bench with a 50-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
  7. The Huskies' defense is questionable. It's unlikely Locker and the offense will often play conservatively trying to sit on a lead.
  8. Sarkisian is a good offensive coach -- see Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez -- as is quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier. Last year, they gave Locker introductory lessons. This year, Locker is taking graduate classes. Said Sarkisian this spring: "In my opinion, the real strides, the real improvement, occur from Year 1 to Year 2. That's historically what we've seen."
  9. Did you see the California game? In fact, in the final two games of the 2009 season -- both UW wins -- Locker completed 35 of 51 passes (69 percent) for 444 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while rushing for 171 yards and three TDs.
  10. Did you see Locker during spring practices? Three words: sharp, comfortable, confident.

There are plenty of questions with the Huskies. The biggest one: With such a brutal schedule, can they win six or seven games and earn bowl eligibility?

But the Pac-10 blog doesn't view Locker fulfilling his potential and producing a statistical breakthrough in 2010 as much of a mystery. You can count on it.

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