March 1, 2011 in Sports

UW’s Locker helps himself in NFL Combine drills

Danny O’Neil Seattle Times
 

INDIANAPOLIS – Jake Locker wasn’t quite as fast as initially reported at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday.

He was, however, a little more accurate than some anticipated.

And he left town with no regrets after getting the NFL’s stiffest predraft once-over.

“I thought it went well overall,” Locker said. “I thought I showed what I can do. Obviously, you want to do as well as you can. You want to compete with the other guys, and I felt I stacked up pretty well.”

Now it’s up to the draft analysts – and ultimately the NFL’s 32 teams – to see whether he will become the first quarterback from Washington chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.

But there was a consensus Sunday that this constituted a step forward from Locker’s week of practice before the Senior Bowl in Alabama last month.

“He helped himself,” said Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst from NFLDraftScout.com. “That’s not entirely unexpected. I think that we all thought he would help himself during the interview process, during the athletic portion of the drills of the combine.”

Locker ran the 40-yard dash Sunday morning, and his time was initially recorded by the NFL Network as 4.52 seconds, faster than all but three quarterbacks at the combine over the past five years. The official time, however, was posted as 4.59, tied with Cam Newton for third-fastest among all quarterbacks this year. Tyrod Taylor of West Virginia was the fastest at 4.5.

Locker was fast. The more important thing was throwing.

He wasn’t perfect. Two of the three curl throws he was asked to throw were off line. But he was at his best throwing downfield, specifically on the post-corner route and the deep ball that are considered most difficult for a quarterback.

“His arm strength stood out in a group that had some other very impressive quarterbacks,” Rang said. “So I think that he helped himself.”

Mike Mayock is a draft analyst for the league’s official television network, someone who won’t rank a player until he’s studied extensive film. What were his impressions of Locker?

“It looked like he hit that back foot and got the ball out,” Mayock said.

That’s a compliment. It means Locker was following instructions, throwing to a spot rather than reading off the receiver.

Mayock has said consistently he sees four quarterbacks available in this draft with first-round ability: Locker, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, Newton of Auburn and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas.

Of those four, Mallett was the most impressive throwing the ball Sunday, which was hardly a surprise. His arm isn’t in nearly as much doubt as his decision-making.

Newton was uneven in his throws, and while Gabbert opted not to throw, he was the only one of those four quarterbacks Mayock would declare a definite top-10 pick.


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