Tag:Jake Locker
Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:05 pm
 

Locker wise to go all-in at Combine

Jake Locker has made a wise decision to participate in all the drills at the Scouting Combine next week. He's coming off a disappointing senior season and a very uneven week at the Senior Bowl.

Locker has built a reputation as a fierce competitor who won't back down from any opportunity to show off his skills. Everyone expects Locker to impress during his team interviews in Indy - his personality has always been his strongsuit. Remember, this is a kid who turned down a likely Top 10 selection last year to return to the Huskies.

And with Cam Newton unlikely to participate in the positional drills, it's an opportunity for Locker to stand out among the few top-level quarterbacks who will throw in Indy. It has become too commonplace for quarterbacks to bow out of the positional drills - even Dan LeFevour opted not to throw last year - and it turns off personnel men who are all huddled at the end of February in ice cold Indianapolis to see all the prospects under one roof.

Locker continues to provide a fresh alternative to the typical NFL Draft prospect. He's not risking a lot by throwing in Indy - most teams are already wary of his innaccuracy and will look at potentially using a first-round pick on him based mostly on potential. And a good showing at the Combine could vault Locker ahead of some of the other QBs he's fighting with for a spot in the top 32.

--Derek Harper

Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 3:17 pm
 

Interviews most underrated component of Combine

The workouts get all of the attention and savvy NFL draft followers know that the medical grades are actually the most important part of the Combine.

One critical piece of the Combine pie that gets very little exposure is the player interview process.

In the past, the interviews teams get with players have only earned attention when something bizarre occurs -- like last year when the Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland asked then-Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant about his mother's ... uhhh... profession.

In reality, however, this is an integral part of the Combine.

Teams are attempting to learn through a 15 minute interview if the young man sitting opposite them is one of the rare individuals who will actually work harder after signing a multi-million dollar contract.

When I visited Athletes Performance for an article two years ago on the process high-ranking athletes go through in Combine preparation, everyone there was willing to talk about the revolutionary techniques in exercise, nutrition and rehabilitation. Few, however, talk about the significant coaching that players go through to prepare for interviews.

Based on polling various scouts throughout the league, here are 15 high profile players who have as much riding on their interviews with teams as they do the other more hyped components of the Combine.

Players are listed alphabetically.
  • Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
  • Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
  • Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
  • Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
  • A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  • Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
  • Jake Locker, QB, Washington
  • Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
  • Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
  • Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
  • Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh
  • Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
  • Tyron Smith, OT, USC
  • Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
  • Titus Young, WR, Boise State


Posted on: January 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Don't put it past Locker to star in Sr Bowl

Washington's Jake Locker was the most scrutizined player in Mobile throughout this week's Senior Bowl practices.

The game will be no different -- except in one very key area.

I don't recall a single snap during the week of practice in which Locker ran with the ball. He clearly was attempting to put to bed concerns about his accuracy in the pocket. While he was unsuccessful in doing so, he also took away the element that makes him special.

Most of the mobile quarterbacks in the NFL lack elite accuracy. Their ability to buy time in the pocket or force secondary defenders to come up in run support and thereby leave their coverage responsibilities is precisely the skill that helps some passers succeed despite great accuracy.

Locker may have stuck in the pocket to his own detriment, at times, during the week of practice. In the game, however, his competitive juices could force him to vacate it -- especially if the South's defensive line is successful in rushing the passer -- as is the case in most all-star games, including last Saturday's East-West Shrine game.

This fact sets up the three most mobile passers in the Senior Bowl -- Locker, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Florida State's Christian Ponder -- to enjoy some success.

Kaepernick and Ponder have each helped themselves this week with strong performances. Sure, they'd like a strong finish to their week, but a ho-hum game will not hurt the impression they've already made on scouts.

Locker, however, has more riding on the game than the others due to his mediocre practices. That fact, as well as his re-discovered mobility could result in a strong, perhaps even MVP, performance.

The Senior Bowl will be televised by the NFL Network. It begins at 4 pm EST.
Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:28 pm
 

10 impressions from Senior Bowl weigh-in

Before we can get to the field in Mobile, Alabama for the first Senior Bowl practices we had the weigh-in this morning. Rather than simply copy and paste the results, I thought it best to list the ten biggest surprises of the session.

  • Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan surprised by weighing in at "only" 255 pounds. He'd been listed at Purdue at 263 pounds and many expected that he'd put on weight to come in bigger and stronger. Instead, he came in at a chiseled 255 and looks poised to make the switch to outside linebacker if he can demonstrate the fluidity in coverage this week.
  • Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller eased concerns over his listed 6-2, 240 pound frame by coming in at 6025. It might not sound like much to come in 5/8" of an inch taller than initially projected, but at nearly 6-3, Miller does have enough length to project as a 3-4 rush linebacker. Clearly, the Butkus Award winner is a terrific pass rusher. Some teams however, had concerns whether he had the size to fit this role in the NFL. That 5/8 of an inch could make Miller millions and help him retain the title as the best and most versatile linebacker in the 2011 draft.
  • Two relatively "small school" receivers showed off a couple of the most impressive physiques, instantly providing some evidence that they deserve to be in this contest. South Alabama's Courtney Smith (6040, 220) and San Diego State's Vincent Brown (5110, 184) sported chiseled frames. In all-star games such as this one, the first step towards making a jump up draft boards is by making a first impression; Smith and Brown certainly helped their cause by doing precisely that.
  • Washington quarterback Jake Locker came in slightly shorter than expected at 6022, 228 pounds. He had been listed at 6-3, 230. Again, the 3/4 of an inch doesn't sound like a big difference, but one of the elements that scouts had liked about Locker was his prototypical size. It isn't fair to list Locker's size as an attribute when he's only a 1/4" inch taller than TCU's Andy Dalton and 3/4" of an inch taller than Alabama's Greg McElroy -- two QBs who have been often knocked for their lack of ideal height in the past.
  • Two highly touted Big 12 pass rushers came in smaller and with less than impressive builds than expected. Texas' Sam Acho (listed at 6-3, 260 by the Longhorns) came in at 6016, 257 pounds. Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal (listed by Oklahoma at 6-3, 267) came in at 6023 and 268 pounds. Acho's significantly shorter frame and Beal's sloppier build won't help either combat the growing sentiment among scouts that each has been a tad overrated due to their high motor play for major programs. 
  • I've been pretty outspoken about my feeling on Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan, but today's weigh-in only added to the reason why I believe he'll ultimately rank as one of the more impressive players in Mobile this week. Jordan measured in at 6041 and 287 pounds. More impressively, he had 11 1/4" hands and 34.5" inch arms, one of the reasons why I believe he can be successful playing inside or out in either front. 
  • Derek Sherrod measured in with 35.5" arms and 11" hands -- the biggest of each among this highly competitive offensive tackle class.
  • The most impressive build among the offensive tackles, however, was surprisingly turned in by Boston College's Anthony Castonzo. I've been critical of Castonzo's thinner than ideal frame in the past, but the former 260 pound tight end looked very comfortable at 6071 and 305 pounds. Few offensive linemen can boast a six pack. Castonzo's is slight, but it is there. His long arms and defined pecs prove that his weight gain is legitimate and likely to remain (and increase) in an NFL weight-room.
  • As expected, Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor was the heaviest man in the Senior Bowl. He measured in at 6034 and 337 pounds. Taylor's bulk was evenly distributed, however. In fact, he showed less jiggle than many linemen closer to the 300 pound frame.
  • Also as expected, West Virginia running back Noel Devine was the smallest and lightest player in this game. Devine measured in at 5070 and 160 pounds. He wasn't the lightest by much, however. Miami cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke weighed in at 168 pounds despite being just a shade under 6-1. 
Posted on: January 23, 2011 6:00 pm
 

QBs, OTs ones to watch in Mobile

NFL scouts, front office executives and coaches are heading to Mobile, Alabama today to scout every one of the prospects in the 2011 Senior Bowl.

Much of their attention, however, will be focused on two positions -- quarterback and offensive tackle.

As two of the premium positions in today's NFL, quarterback and offensive tackle are typically among the areas to focus on. The 2011 class is especially competitive at these positions, however, making the battles between the top-rated passers and blockers all the more intriguing.

Consider that while Washington quarterback Jake Locker remains a likely first round prospect, I've spoken to scouts whose teams currently rank other seniors just as highly. For some teams, a strong week by TCU's Andy Dalton or Iowa's Ricky Stanzi could vault them ahead of Locker.

The "second tier" quarterback talent available in this draft, in fact, is one of the year's hidden strengths. Considering the risk I see in Locker, Auburn's Cam Newton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, it might prove wiser for teams with quarterback needs to look elsewhere in the first round and grab a Dalton or Stanzi (or Devlin, Ponder, Enderle) a frame or two later.

The competition is perhaps even more intense at offensive tackle. Having spoken to representatives from four clubs in the past two weeks about the tackle class, I've yet to find any consensus as to the order they will (or should) be drafted.

If there is a "favorite" it is probably Colorado's Nate Solder. I, however, have serious reservations about his technique, especially against speed rushers. He's expected to work out very, very well and therefore build some momentum as the draft approaches, but he certainly has flaws.

Unfortunately, for teams needing tackles, so too do the other top rated tackles. Boston College's Anthony Castonzo lacks the bulk most teams prefer. He may be the best pass blocking left tackle in the draft, but he's struggled to generate movement in the running game. Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is the opposite. He can dominate as a drive blocker, but gets too high in pass protection and doesn't have the footwork, in my opinion, to remain on the left side in the NFL. I've rated Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod as the top tackle throughout much of the year, but his wide shoulder, narrow hip makes him top-heavy and therefore inherently vulnerable to bull rushes and good double-moves. He, too, might be best served as a right tackle. USC junior Tyron Smith has the feet and wingspan teams want in a left tackle, but he's quite raw and remains a projection, having played right tackle throughout his abbreviated career with the Trojans.

The beauty of any all-star game is that strong performances there can impact player rankings. 

For this year's Senior Bowl, the rankings of senior prospects - especially at quarterback and offensive tackle -- could wind up completely re-shuffled.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 1:31 pm
 

Favre aiding agent recruit Cam Newton

For those of you who just can't imagine football without Brett Favre, there is the following nugget from The Sports XChange's Len Pasquarelli in his new Tip Sheet.*

*Lights, Cameron, action: So what's Brett Favre up to these days, given that he has opted to retire, and that this time his departure from the game seems official? Well, one of the things occupying his time, besides riding the tractor around the farm in Hattiesburg, Miss., The Sports Xchange has learned, is the recruitment of Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Word is that Newton's choice of agent representation is imminent - possibly as early as Friday - and that one of the finalists is Bus Cook, who represented Favre during his entire 20-year NFL career. Favre was part of the interview process when Newton met with Cook, and reportedly spent about 20 minutes talking with the Auburn star. It's a pretty good bet the two weren't swapping fishing tips. The other agents believed to still be in the hunt for Newton, as least as this was being written: Joel Segal, Peter Schaffer, and the newly-formed Pat Dye-Jimmy Sexton alliance. The representation for some of the other top quarterbacks in the 2011 draft: Both Blaine Gabbert of Missouri and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas are said to have hired Condon. And word is that David Dunn has landed Washington's Jake Locker. Condon, by the way, has represented five of the past seven No. 1 overall choices and five of the seven top quarterbacks chosen in the 2004-2010 drafts.


Agents using former or current players to help recruit new clients is hardly a new strategy. It is interesting that Cook is using Favre in this way, however. Favre is a superstar, an obvious first ballot Hall of Famer whose name and style of play is as recognizable as any in the history of the game. Unfortunately, his off-field actions have become just as consistent of a source of news as his play on the field recently.

As a prospective NFL quarterback with his own off-field concerns, Newton can relate, potentially making Favre a brilliant recruiting tool by Cook.

Despite what some may think, NFL teams don't typically put a great deal of thought into which agents players sign with. While certain agents are known in the scouting community as being particularly aggressive in their contract demands, trade requests and holdouts, most agents serve as little more than the link between the player and the team.

Newton's choice of agents, like those of the other top quarterbacks that Pasquarelli cites in his piece, make up some of the most successful companies in the industry -- and are counter to a odd year in which some of the biggest names in college football have opted to sign with lesser known agencies. Patrick Peterson and Nick Fairley, for example signed with Patrick Lawlor and Brian Overstreet, respectively, according to Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. 

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

*This piece hasn't been published yet. For last week's Tip Sheet, click here.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Newton's upside could result in a Top 10 pick

Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Cam Newton made the announcement Thursday we all knew was coming -- he's forgoing his senior season at Auburn and declaring early for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Newton is entering the draft at the perfect time. With the success of Michael Vick this season (as well as rookie Tim Tebow), there is increasing evidence that a multi-purpose threat like Newton can be successful in the NFL. Furthermore, the poise he demonstrated both on and off the field this season has impressed scouts.

With Newton, however, it is best to temper our expectations of what he can do immediately at the pro level.

Newton's dominant junior campaign in Gus Malzahn's offense does not mean that he'll take the NFL world by storm. Quite the opposite is possible, in fact.

Like virtually every quarterback playing in today's college football, Newton will have to make significant adjustments to the complexities of the NFL game. The beauty of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's spread option offense is that it simplified Newton's reads. For most plays the quarterback only had to make one or two checks. If his options were covered up, he simply ran the football. He did most of this out of the shotgun.

In the NFL, he'll be asked to drop back from center more often, make multiple reads before and after the snap and won't have the luxury of simply running half of the time. Essentially, he'll be forced to make twice as many decisions in half the time. 

The BCS Championship game perfectly encapsulated the positives and negatives of Newton's game.

On the one hand, it was clear that Newton had a long ways to go in reading defenses and in his footwork. He was badly fooled by some of Oregon's coverages, resulting in a 1st quarter interception. Of even greater concern is that Newton failed to set his feet on many of his simplest throws, diminishing his accuracy as critical moments -- such as on the 4th and goal flutter ball that died in front of fullback Eric Smith.

But for the poor plays that every armchair quarterback watching the game saw Monday night, scouts couldn't help but acknowledge his rare blend of size, arm strength and mobility. Newton showed the ability to fire the ball down the sideline to shred Cover-2. He repeatedly bought time in the pocket with his mobility. And when he left the pocket, he was a load to bring down, carrying defenders on multiple occasions for first downs.

Clearly Newton needs time to develop before he can be expected to lead an NFL team. In terms of pro-readiness, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Washington's Jake Locker, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and even lesser prospects like Florida State's Christian Ponder and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi rank ahead of him.

As we've seen on so many occasions in the NFL, however, the draft is all about upside.

And in the eyes of most scouts, there isn't a quarterback in this draft who can match's Newton in that category.

If Newton is able to alleviate teams' concerns about his so-called character red-flags, he could enjoy a steady rise up the board, perhaps winding up as the first or second quarterback selected in 2011. With QB-needy teams like the Panthers, Bills, Cardinals, 49ers, Titans and Redskins all drafting in the top ten, it isn't difficult to imagine one of these clubs rolling the dice on his potential.

His rise could be very similar to the one that saw Vince Young bump Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart in 2006.

Remember, they too, were considered more pro-ready, at the time.

Posted on: January 6, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2011 7:07 pm
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com