NFL Rookie Watch: Jake Locker
A year ago, University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker was being praised for making the difficult decision of returning to college for his senior season. Many NFL draft experts had pegged Locker as a top 5 pick -- some felt he was the best player, period. But when Tennessee grabbed him with the eighth overall selection in April, fans gasped. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert was still on the board. Locker's poor accuracy numbers (53.9 career completion percentage) and his lackluster senior year had made him a mid-first round prospect, at best, in the minds of those same experts.
What on earth were the Titans thinking?
Unfazed by popular opinion, Locker marched in front of reporters with a Titans shirt and camouflage cap and said of Tennessee, "It's a team that I'll be proud to be a part of." Titans fans were divided on whether to be proud of the pick.
What everyone seems to agree on is Locker's work ethic; it became the focus of almost every early story written about the team's first round pick. "[Head coach Mike Munchak] is a worker, [offensive line coach] Bruce Matthews is a worker," said Warren Moon, who played with both coaches in Houston, "and those are the type [of] guys they like to be around ... Jake Locker will bring that -- he will work as hard as anybody." Said Tennessee offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, "We have a new culture here at the quarterback spot, a guy who is going to be the first one in here and the last one out."
The easiest thing about Locker's transition to the pro game will be handing the ball off to Chris Johnson. The star running back's presence will keep defenses honest and will provide some cushion to Locker's learning curve. Still, Locker has his work cut out for him if he is to improve a passing offense which ranked 25th in the league last season.
Sorry if this scares you. Clausen posted an embarrassing touchdown-to-interception ratio (3:9) for the Panthers last season. Locker has a stronger supporting cast, so his efficiency numbers should be a tad better (even though efficiency was the biggest red flag scouts raised about Locker). But, in terms of opportunities, Clausen serves as a good model for fantasy owners to gauge Locker's year one potential. Clausen appeared in 13 games for Carolina and attempted 299 passes.