2011 NFL Mock Draft: Why We Chose Jake Locker

Earlier this morning, it was announced at MockingTheDraft.com that we'd selected Washington QB Jake Locker for the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 2011 SB Nation NFL Writers Mock Draft. We strongly encourage you to stop by the announcement post, read my abbreviated rationale for the selection, take in Dan Kadar's reaction to the pick, and to grade it, as well.

After the jump, I've gone into a bit more detail behind the circumstances of the pick, for anyone that's interested. First thing's first: all of what follows happened on April 6. It's not fun sitting on this for five days, wondering if your logic will look sound six days later.

Just as I did when I selected LSU CB Patrick Peterson in the first round, I took the war room approach to making this selection. Due to the fact that we addressed one of Buffalo's secondary (literally and figuratively) needs in the first round, however, I made the decision to limit the scope of the war room approach to players at critical need positions. Therefore, I looked solely at quarterbacks, offensive tackles, defensive ends and outside linebackers.

By the time we got down to pick 30, when I really started to formulate my list, the five-technique depth had been severely depleted. Cameron Heyward had been picked by New England at No. 28. In addition, an OLB candidate that made a huge slide was snagged at No. 26 by Baltimore in Aldon Smith. Still, there were options, and I presented those to you over the weekend.

  • QB: Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Ricky Stanzi
  • OT: Nate Solder, Derek Sherrod, Ben Ijalana, Orlando Franklin, Marcus Gilbert
  • DE: Adrian Clayborn, Allen Bailey, Christian Ballard
  • OLB: Brooks Reed, Jabaal Sheard, Martez Wilson

I built this list after the Jets took UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers at No. 30. It didn't take me long to whittle it down to four names.

The most difficult name to take off of my short list (I needed four names for four picks) was Clayborn's. He represented the best value, and he made an intriguing flip end between 3-4 and 4-3 looks. In the end, I decided to let him pass because he's not a fit as a five-technique, and that remains the long-term goal of the club - to run a 3-4.

So I needed four names for four picks, and came away with Locker, Sherrod, Solder and Sheard. From there, I tiered them off, so that Sherrod sat atop my list, followed by Locker, Sheard and Solder. I'll be quite frank - I was rather bummed when Green Bay took Sherrod at No. 32. He'd have been my pick. But thanks to the brief mock draft I'd concocted as part of the war room process, I kind of figured Sherrod wouldn't be there to begin with - I actually thought Pittsburgh would take him (they took Solder).

New England took Brooks Reed at No. 33, which gave me the option of taking either Locker or Sheard at No. 34. I like Jabaal Sheard quite a bit, and don't think he's a serious candidate to be a Bill simply because of the Dave Wannstedt connection. He's a rock solid prospect in his own right, has the ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, and would fill that need for the Bills. He's just not an explosive athlete nor a high-impact player, however.

Locker has that type of potential. I was a little bit shocked when at No. 16, Jacksonville passed on Locker for Christian Ponder to, as our Jaguars blogger put it to me, get the base hit rather than swing for the fences. Jake Locker is just as talented as the Cam Newtons and the Blaine Gabberts of the world - probably more talented, in fact - but an extra year of exposure led to a lot of nit-picking, and as such, Locker's name is pretty much mud in draft circles.

All of the reasons that Newton and Gabbert are linked to Buffalo as good fits - a QB-friendly coach in Chan Gailey, the perceived mobility prerequisite, and the development time afforded by the presence of Ryan Fitzpatrick - apply to Locker, as well. He's got off-the-chart intangibles and maturity, all the physical talent in the world, and in Buffalo, he'd have the ideal situation to sit and learn Gailey's offense and work out the mechanical kinks.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm aware of Locker's flaws - namely, accuracy issues and a questionable, at best, ability to read a defense. I believe these things are correctable, and he'd have the time to make those corrections before he ever saw the field. At No. 34 - safely into the second round, with a fraction of the monetary and round-value investment - I stumbled across a franchise-caliber quarterback. It would have been insanely idiotic to pass on him there.

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