It comes as no surprise that Washington QB Jake Locker, fresh off the upset of No. 3 USC, is drawing the biggest buzz in scouting circles this week. The junior displayed excellent composure in the pocket behind an offensive line that did him few favors. He also seemed unfazed by the pressure of the moment, completing all four pass attempts during a 10-play, 63-yard drive that set up Erik Folk's game-winning 22-yard field goal.
Multiple injuries have stunted Locker's development and NFL scouts are obviously concerned about his long-term durability. Locker also has room to improve when it comes to reading defenses and seeing the entire field. However, when he's at full strength and in a groove like he was last weekend, it is hard not to be enamored with Locker's NFL potential. He's a big, strong-armed quarterback with excellent mobility.
The value of playing in a pro-style offense that new head coach Steve Sarkisian brought with him from USC should not be underestimated, either. It is much easier for NFL scouts to evaluate a quarterback in a system that translates to the NFL game, especially now with the vast majority of teams in the country featuring the spread formation. In addition, Sarkisian's influence can already be seen in Locker's improved footwork and overall accuracy as a passer.
There's no question in my mind that Locker would benefit in the long run by sticking around for his senior season. It would give him time to continue to polish his mechanics under Sarkisian, while increasing his game experience, which generally correlates to NFL success at the quarterback position. But I'm also a realist. Locker could easily emerge as a top-10 prospect if he avoids the injury bug and builds momentum off last Saturday's upset of the Trojans. While I would like to see Locker return to Washington next fall, it's hard to argue with a young man's decision to cash in a winning lottery ticket in the ballpark of $30-45 million.
As a quick side note, the 2010 draft class could be loaded at the quarterback position. Here's a look at the top seven eligible prospects, all of whom project as first- or second-round picks (* indicates eligible underclassman):
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