With an impressive pro day workout, Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker made a strong statement in his final group workout before the NFL Draft that he should be considered worthy of a first-round investment.
Locker completed 38 of 40 passes to a trio of former Huskies, demonstrating more consistency in his footwork and weight distribution than he had during his career at Washington, the Senior Bowl or the scouting combine.
Jake Locker shows the pros some big improvement. (AP) “I thought he had a great day. He was loose, he was extremely confident, feeling good about himself and he ripped it. He had a great, great workout,” Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider said.
Locker, who elected to stand on all of his other results from the combine, threw to wide receiver D’Andre Goodwin and two fullbacks, Austin Sylvester and Dorson Boyce.
Each helped Locker, at times. Goodwin and Boyce, in particular, demonstrated the ability to pluck sizzling passes from Locker. Goodwin, who timed at 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash earlier in the workout, wasn’t able to catch up to Locker’s two deep balls, his only two incompletions of the day.
Both deep passes were thrown with the proper trajectory and were accurate, just out of the former Huskies receiver’s reach.
Scouts flocked to Seattle hoping to see Locker improve his accuracy from within the pocket. To be more accurate, Locker needed to show improvement in his footwork and weight distribution throughout the throw. He was successful in both areas.
Throughout the week at the Senior Bowl and certainly during his career at the UW, Locker had a tendency to keep his feet too close together as he took the snap and read the defense. Then, he’d over stride when stepping into his throw, often forcing high and wide passes.
Teams are generally unwilling to alter a quarterback’s stock much based on a scripted throwing session with no defense, but in the case of Locker — who has only two seasons in a pro-style offense after essentially serving as a running back taking snaps — the improvement he has shown in the three months since Washington’s season ended may be enough to convince a team to pull the trigger in the draft’s opening round.
The steady improvement will be viewed by some as evidence that with time and coaching, Locker’s undeniable talent can be harnessed.
“I feel like (the workout) went well,” Locker said. “I’ve been working on the same things throughout this process with the intention of improving (in those areas) and I thought I was able to do that.”
Asked specifically what those areas were, Locker said, “Focusing on the fluidity in my drop, getting my feet in the right spot. One thing I worked with (quarterbacks coach) Ken O’Brien was bringing my hand over the top, rather than dragging my hand, which I have a tendency to do sometimes. When I bring my hand over the top and really point that finger at my target, I’ve been spinning the ball a lot better and coming off my hand a lot better.”
Asked to grade himself, Locker said, “I was better (today than at the combine). I was more consistent. There were a few throws at the combine that I didn’t like, that I would have liked to have done over again. Today, I felt like every ball came off my hand good. I felt confident. And it went the way I wanted it to.”
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“You can definitely see that he’s definitely improved (since the combine),” Schneider said. “He’s been working on it. That’s a credit to both he and Ken O’Brien, as is noticeable improvement.”
With representatives from approximately 15 NFL teams on hand to watch the workout, including a large contingent from the hometown Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, Locker’s workout was well attended, especially considering all these four teams are thought to be considering drafting a quarterback.
Among the Titans’ contingent were vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer.
Schneider was joined by head coach Pete Carroll, and a host of assistants, including quarterbacks coach Carl Smith and linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr.
Representatives of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and New York Giants were among the other teams on hand for the workout. Considering the talent these clubs have at quarterback, it is safe to say they were likely there to scout Washington’s “other” prospects, including outside linebacker Mason Foster and safety Nate Williams, two other Huskies who were invited to the combine.
Foster was the more impressive of the two. While scouts appreciate how his instincts and open-field tackling skills helped him finish second in the country in solo and total tackles last season, there had been questions about his pure speed and agility in coverage.
Foster, whose fastest electronic time at the combine was 4.79 in the 40-yard dash, shaved more than a 10th of a second off of his time Wednesday, according to one scout in attendance, who had him at 4.65 seconds. Foster also showed surprising fluidity in his positional workout, dancing through bags and catching every pass but one from Norton, Jr., who orchestrated the drills.
Williams was unable to significantly help his 40-yard dash time, clocking in between 4.72-4.76 after registering a 4.78 at the combine. Williams did a nice job during the ball drills, showing the ability to track the ball over his shoulder and pluck outside of his frame, but was high in his backpedal and clearly lost a step or two in transition.
As a classic in-the-box strong safety type, Williams’ jump into today’s pass-happy NFL could be a difficult one.
The other Huskies taking part in the pro day certainly benefitted from the attention Locker brought to the event – similar to what his presence provided the Washington program the past four years.
Though he was occasionally high with some of his longer throws Wednesday, Locker’s feet remained in proportion to his shoulders. By remaining more balanced, his passes were more accurate.
Accurate enough that Locker could wind up hearing his name called in the first round, after all.
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