Every once in a while, a player comes along that really gives you fits when trying to project what he might be at the NFL level. There's no better example this draft season than Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Considering that the Miami Dolphins are clearly in the market for a quarterback or two this offseason, let's take a few minutes to discuss Locker - and the headache he's giving NFL scouts.
Following his junior season at Washington, Locker was considered by many as a sure top ten pick - and was ready to do battle with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford for the first overall pick. But Jake chose to stay in school and earn his degree - a very respectable thing to do. But his senior season, surrounded by below average talent, was a big disappointment. The Huskies were 6-6 when he started that includes a Bowl win over Nebraska despite a dreadful passing performance from Locker to close out his collegiate career (5 for 16, 56 yards).
In his senior season, Locker saw a drop in every major passing category, highlighted by his 55.4% completion percentage in 2010. But numbers don't tell you the whole story.
Talk to any scout, and they'll tell you that Locker has a number of positives. Strong arm. Tremendous athleticism and a QB who can make plays with his feet. An outstanding leader. High character guy. Goes through progressions. Experienced in a pro style offense.
And there's always that "but" when it comes to Locker. Actually, there are two issues that bother scouts most. And I'll let two of the better draft analysts break it down very simply.
"He needs a lot of work still," ESPN's Todd McShay said this week. "He was coached well, but the problem was he just didn't show the improvement from one year to the next."
This makes you wonder how much upside Locker actually has. It's not that Locker regressed in 2010. But he should have been better than he was. He should have improved. But he didn't. And it's the same problem that continues to pop up - and has been plaguing him down in Mobile during Senior Bowl practice - accuracy.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock released his preliminary positional rankings. And his number two quarterback in the draft is Locker. But that doesn't mean Mayock doesn't have his concerns. He has the same concerns as everybody else.
"I think he has top-15 ability," Mayock said on Monday. "My question mark would be the accuracy in the pocket. He's great outside the tackle box, but inside the pocket he's got to show people that he can be accurate and find passing lanes."
His career 54% completion percentage in a weak football conference just highlights the biggest problem with Locker. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, who are surly doing their homework on the kid, accuracy - or lack thereof - is perhaps the biggest criticism of their current quarterback, Chad Henne.
Here in lies the conundrum that is Jake Locker. The Dolphins sit in the middle of the first round. Despite that, they might have a shot to get a quarterback who many had going in the top five a year ago. Maybe this is a good problem for the Dolphins. Perhaps scouts are over-analyzing Locker. Perhaps his struggles during his senior season will prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Dolphins - their first stroke of luck in a long time at the quarterback position.
Or maybe, like Mel Kiper points out, Locker is indeed the next Kyle Boller.