The eighth overall selection in the 2011 draft, Jake Locker is a strong sleeper candidate coming into this season. His average draft position is 13.11, making him an intriguing backup fantasy quarterback. Let’s take a further look.
Locker’s college career at Washington was impressive overall. He was expected to be the first overall selection in 2009, but opted to stay his senior year. During his college career he had a low completion percentage of 53.9 percent. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 53:35, so accuracy is an issue. Locker also struggled to stay healthy with his aggressive running style. In 2008, he partially tore his hamstring. His athletic ability can’t be denied though. He rushed for 1,939 yards in his career and scored 29 touchdowns. At the NFL Combine, Locker ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, the same time Cam Newton ran in the same Combine. In the three-cone drill, Locker put up a faster time then Newton at 6.77 seconds. However, this has not always translated into elite production.
Last season, Locker threw four touchdowns with no interceptions in five games. He had 542 passing yards and added 56 rushing yards on eight attempts. His completion percentage is still a concern as he completed just 51.5 percent of his passes. His first significant amount of snaps was against Atlanta in Week 11, and he threw for 140 yards and two touchdowns in that game. In Week 14, Locker had an impressive game against the Saints when he threw for 282 yards and rushed for 36 more. He also added a touchdown on the ground and one in the air. His best completion percentage in a game came during Week 15 against the Colts, where he completed 11 out of his 16 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown. Locker never started a single game the whole season, so the majority of his stats came in garbage time. However, he was able to close the gap against Saints with a final score of 22-17.
This season Locker is in a tight quarterback battle with Matt Hasselbeck. They have taken an equal number of snaps during training camp. Locker is the favorite for the job, but the decision will come down to how they play on the field. Hasselbeck started in the first preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday. He completed five passes in nine attempts for 45 yards. What won’t help is the two interceptions he threw, although one of them was bad luck. When Locker came in, he completed 7-of-13 attempts for eighty yards. Neither were very impressive in their first test.
The situation for Locker when he gets the starting job could not be much better. It is expected that the Titians will use the spread offense more. This connects with the strengths of Locker. The Titans have plenty of weapons on offense as well. The running game, led by Chris Johnson, will take away some of the pressure on the young quarterback. Kenny Britt, when he gets back from suspension, and Kendall Wright are both solid young wide receivers. Nate Washington, who was featured as a sleeper here at the Cafe, brings a veteran presence to the young receiver group. The Titans also have a solid tight end in Jared Cook. Simply put, Locker has the cast to make him a solid quarterback.
With a low average draft position, Locker is a good low-risk, high-reward player. I would recommend selecting Locker if you have a quarterback that is rated within the top eight. He is not a player I would rely on in a fantasy quarterback-by-committee situation, but he could be reliable by the end of the season.
Stever is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Stever in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of 11stever11.
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