A sheepish grin emerged when asked by a reporter how fast he thought he would run the 40-yard dash at this week’s scouting combine.
“I guess we will see on Sunday,” said Washington quarterback Jake Locker, smiling.
Well, Sunday arrived, and Locker’s legs didn’t disappoint, as his unofficial time of 4.52 seconds had the media room buzzing in the morning.
That time was later amended to 4.59 on the league’s website, good enough for a tie for third with Auburn’s Cam Newton for quarterbacks. The two quarterbacks also tied for third in the vertical jump with marks of 35 inches.
The impressive marks proved a good omen for the Ferndale, Wash., product looking to erase doubts among NFL GMs and scouts about his accuracy.
Locker completed one of the better passing performances of the day, showing a compact release, good footwork – and most important – accuracy on a wide range of throws, including deep outs, fades, post-corners and comebacks.
Locker officially measured in at 6-foot-21/2 inches and 231 pounds.
As expected, Locker’s trademark athleticism was on display. He finished in the top five among quarterbacks in the broad jump with a mark of 10 feet. He had the top time in the three-cone drill, a measure of speed and agility, at 6.77 seconds.
“He’s an amazing athlete and an incredible person,” said UW linebacker Mason Foster about his teammate. “When I came in as a freshman he was running high 4.3s, and just as strong as any linebacker on the team. But as he got older the coaches kind of stopped him from lifting as much, but he’s still just as fast.”
Eye-popping marks aside, what had draft analysts raving about Locker after the workout was his accuracy during the throwing drills.
“I thought he threw very well today,” said Charles Davis of the NFL Network. “And it was the Locker we were all kind of waiting to see. He looked confident, he looked in control, and he was very accurate throwing the ball, and that had been the big knock against him.”
The same can’t be said of Newton.
Predictably, Newton dominated the drills, but really struggled with his accuracy during the throwing session, again creating doubts about his ability to make the transition to an NFL quarterback.
“I was somewhat frustrated, but at the same time, I was having fun out there,” Newton said of his performance.
Two others who helped themselves were Florida State’s Christian Ponder and Ryan Mallet of Arkansas.
Ponder probably showed the most accuracy of any quarterback. He also proved an underrated athlete, running a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash. And a day after getting irritated about questions about alleged drug use during a media session with reporters on Saturday, Mallet put all that behind him, showing why folks consider him the best pure thrower in the draft. Mallet showed great arm strength, accuracy and footwork, throwing the ball effortlessly during the hour-long throwing session.
Newton, Locker, Mallet and Blaine Gabbert – the only quarterback who did not throw Sunday – all are considered possible first-round picks, while signal-callers like Ponder, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and TCU’s Andy Dalton are among the second-tier prospects who could be had in the second or third round.
And with possibly a dozen teams looking for quarterbacks, considered the premier position in the NFL, look for things to heat up as April’s draft inches closer.
With Carolina at No. 1, Buffalo (3), Arizona (5), San Francisco (7), Tennessee (8) Washington (10), Minnesota (12), Miami (15), Jacksonville (17) and Seattle (25) possibly taking a quarterback in the first round, expect the competition to be fierce for the next two months.
Seattle has yet to re-sign free agent Matt Hasselbeck, and reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst did not get enough of an opportunity last season to prove that he’s the quarterback of the future, so Seattle could look to add depth at quarterback.
“We’re always going to be trying to find those guys to compete at that position,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. It’s the most important position on the team.”