3. Jake Locker, Washington
- Scouting Report: First and foremost, Locker is an athlete. Running a sub-4.6 40 time and boasting one of the biggest arms in the draft, he has a ton of raw potential if he can fix his accuracy issues and make better progressions. Considered one of the top picks in last year’s draft, Locker’s stock has slipped following his disappointing Senior season, though some question if he suffered from a poor supporting cast at Washington. He is a tough player and is relentlessly competitive.
- Experience: Locker enters the draft as a Senior and four year starter at Washington. He was knocked out of his sophomore year in the fourth game of the season with a thumb injury, but still managed a total of 38 college starts.
- Character: Was a captain his senior year. Has fought through multiple injuries and is lauded for his competitiveness, work ethic, and modesty – Locker often had to put a mediocre Huskies team on his back to win games and was able to do so almost single-handedly. Active in the community with no concerns to speak of.
- Accolades: 2010: Honorable Mention All-America 2009: Honorable mention All-Pac 10 2007: Freshman All-American; Pac-10 Freshman of the Year
- Jaguars Outlook: Now this is a little more like it – Locker stands out as a prototypical GM Gene prospect to me. He has all of the intangible and credentials Smith looks for and is likely undervalued going into 2011 following a disappointingly uneventful year at Washington. Like Alualu, Jags fans should not be surprised if the Jake Locker in Gene’s crystal ball looks a lot more impressive than Locker’s stat sheet. He is a tough guy, born to lead, and has all of the tools to be a dangerous NFL Quarterback. His flaws seem to be of the “coachable” kind. He could easily be availabe at the #16 pick if the Jaguars are comfortable taking him that early (although there have been some rumors linking him to the Vikings at #12) or they may attempt to trade back and pick him in the late 1st/early 2nd if he’s their guy. One question I would raise is if he fits the offense the Jaguars are trying to build – the receivers Gene Smith has drafted (Mike Thomas, Jarret Dillard, Zach Miller) are built more for separation in the short to intermediate passing game and for gaining yards after the catch (YAC). When Smith picks his “guy” he may be looking for more of a Matt Ryan type – extremely accurate, cerebral, with great timing – whereas Locker is more of a downfield thrower.
4. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
- Scouting Report: Mallet is a prototypical pocker-passer with a towering build (6’7″) and elite arm strength. He has sound mechanics and has been very productive in a pro-style offense. He sometimes lacks accuracy and touch on shorter throws and suffers from almost no speed or mobility – one of my favorite quotes describing is a “statue with a cannon arm”.
- Experience: Entering draft as a redshirt Junior. Had a few starts in place of injured Chad Henne at Michigan his freshman year. Two year starter at Arkansas. 29 total starts.
- Character: Was not a team captain has received no special praise for work ethic or leadership ability. Many teams question his maturity and ability to command an NFL huddle. Many character concerns, including rumors of drug abuse and an arrest for public intoxication. One reporter was quoted as saying that Mallett “thinks he’s Eminem”, which though disconcerting, could be worse, as Eminem is the lesser of rapper Marshall Mathers’ alter-egos – the decidedly sociopathic “Slim Shady” being the more notorious of the two.
- Accolades: 2010: All-SEC 2nd team; Premier Player of College Football Trophy Winner 2009: All-SEC 2nd team; Liberty Bowl MVP
- Jaguars Outlook: Forgetaboutit. Gene Smith would not touch this guy with a ten foot pole – Mallett has “locker room cancer” written all over him and in no way fits the mold for what Smith, Wayne Weaver, and Jack Del Rio have been striving to build in Jacksonville in the last few years.
5. Christian Ponder, Florida State
- Scouting Report: Ponder has been tabbed as a “West Coast quarterback”, which is typically a way of politely saying a guy has insufficient arm strength. However, he has shown enough arm strength to make all the throws at the professional level and reportedly had the “best combination of arm strength and accuracy” of all prospects who threw at the Combine. He is extremely accurate and has great mobility and ability to buy time, throw on the run, or tuck the ball and scramble for the first down. His dropback mechanics are very good, but Ponder will need to advance his decision making and pre- and post-snap reads.
- Experience: Entering draft as redshirt Senior. Three year starter at FSU. In his sophomore year, overcame incumbent starter Drew Weatherford and started all 13 games that season. Started 9 games in 2009 before being injured. Battled arm injuries senior year, but started 11 games. 33 starts total.
- Character: Ponder checks out across the board here. He is well respected by his teammates, is known to play through pain, and has been praised for his on and off field leadership and composure in all situations. He is active in the community and has excelled in his college studies, with a 3.7 GPA and double major (Finance and Sport Management) and is also known to be working on his MBA.
- Accolades: 2011: Senior Bowl MVP 2009: All-ACC honorable mention. ACC All-Academic team.
- Jaguars Outlook: Like Jake Locker, Ponder is a prospect who was just last year considered a top pick and may be undervalued based on recent struggles. An arm injury kept him out of a few games this year and may have been affecting his throws, but everything seems to be healed now, as he has had arguable the best post-season out of all prospective quarterbacks, dominating the Senior Bowl and the Combine. He has all of the signature GM Gene attributes with ample college starts, a record of overacheivement, leadership qualities on the field, and a sterling reputation off the field. He has been tabbed as one of the most complete and pro-ready quarterbacks available in the draft and can likely be fit to the Jaguars pick – with his quickly rising stock, #16 would not be too much of a reach and if the Jags are able to trade down, he can likely be selected in the late 1st/early 2nd. He would also seem to fit the efficient offense Gene Smith has been crafting as he is extremely accurate and poses a viable running threat if the downfield options are covered. Of the five quarterbacks listed here, I believe he is the most likely to become Gene Smith’s quarterback of the future.
– Andrew Hofheimer