Locker’s Decision Makes Sense

I’m not the one who stands to make millions of dollars, but it seems as though Jake Locker’s decision to stay in school was a no-brainer. Because while everybody seems to talk about how much a player could make if he comes out, they never talk about his long-term prospects. . . .

The cautionary tale, of course, is provided by Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. He might have been the No. 1 pick last year, but stayed in school and missed most of the season with injuries. Bradford’s decision to remain at Oklahoma cost him millions.

But in Locker’s case, I think the question is how does he maximize his career, not just his draft position? Some had projected him as the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft if he came out this year. But considering the progress that Locker made this season, his first with competent coaching and a pro-style offense, I think he will be vastly improved a year from now.

That doesn’t mean he will be drafted any higher; it does mean he will have a better chance at succeeding in the NFL. Recent history is littered with the carcasses of quarterbacks who were high draft picks but NFL busts. Anybody remember Tim Couch or Akili Smith? They were the Nos. 1 and 3 picks in 1999, and neither of them had success as a professional. They still got paid, but they would have been paid more if they had been good enough to have long careers.

Locker might get hurt next season or play poorly and see his draft stock fall. But if he learns and develops the skills that will help him as an NFL quarterback, it will be worth it in the long run. For all of his talent, when it comes to understanding and being prepared for the NFL, he’s still a neophyte.

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