Mindfreak: Jake Locker on the Grassy Knoll

Something happened to Jake Locker on his way to becoming the next John Elway.

His senior season.

Does John Elway care?

At this time last year, Locker was both victim and beneficiary of the hype machine (the same machine that now has its sights set on Andrew Luck).  Had Locker declared for the NFL draft as a junior, it's very possible that he, not Sam Bradford, would be the QB for the St. Louis Rams.   

Consider what Mel Kiper Jr. said about Locker last April:

If you had to ask me right now who is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, I would say it's etched in stone it's going to be Jake Locker. You can mark that down. Jake Locker, if he's not the No. 1 pick, it's an upset.

That's certainly high praise from the high priest of draft geeks (otherwise known as guys I could shove into a locker with one arm)

Elway, following the Broncos' selection of Tim Tebow, had this to say about the youngster:

He's got the potential, he won at the college ranks, and won the Heisman, so there is talent there, there's a want there. I think we have a great competitor so that gives us hope.

My, how twelve months changes things.  Commodities may be up, but both Locker and Tebow are experiencing some serious deflation.  Elway has since come out and named Kyle Orton the starter, despite not actually being the head coach.  I suppose, for now, that we'll take him at his word.  At the same time, the draft pundits have accordingly accused Locker of exhibiting every malady from poor footwork to leprosy.  He's now persona-non-Husky (wolf hybrids are tougher anyway).

Suddenly the value of both quarterbacks seems to be degraded.

Suddenly I feel an itch I have to scratch--at least until I get some orange and blue lotion.

Right now, there's not a lot of news coming out of the NFL, unless you count the fight between the billionaires and millionaires dudes who will lose all their money within 24 months of retiring.  So maybe I'm just spoiling for a good conspiracy (this is what happens after you apply blue and orange lotion to any part of your body).  But I'm wearing my tin-foil hat, and something doesn't seem right to me.

I see Jake Locker sitting on the Grassy Knoll.

Here's how the conspiracy goes:

  1. John Elway really means it when he says that looking at all of the QBs for this draft (including a visit with Locker) isn't a smokescreen.  
  2. John Elway really means it when he says that Tebow isn't ready to be the Broncos' starting QB.
  3. John Elway really means it when he says he doesn't want to pass up a franchise QB in this draft.
  4. John Elway thinks Jake Locker is a franchise guy because he reminds Elway of, well, himself.
  5. John Elway isn't bringing in any tight ends for draft visits because he doesn't intend on drafting one.
  6. John Elway sees Tim Tebow as the next Dallas Clark (white, nerdy, and a tough coverage assignment).

I don't doubt for a moment that Elway sees a lot of himself in Locker.  You've probably heard the comparisons by now, but if not, let me give you the rundown--in the present tense so it seems especially dramatic.  Both quarterbacks have a talent for baseball; both quarterbacks play in the Pac-10; both have losing records as college starters (Locker: 15-24, Elway: 20-23); both are insanely mobile; both have rocket arms; both struggle with accuracy; both were born in the month of June (this means nothing actually, but it still sounds cool).

The more I consider the situation, I am beginning to doubt Elway's need to attach himself to Tebow.  Although I'm on record on numerous occasions stating that I think Tebow is already a better option at QB than Kyle Orton, Elway has struck no such chord.  He's no more loyal to Tebow than he is to any of the other Broncos draft picks during the Josh McDaniels era.  Further, given his recent comments on Jay Cutler, I think Elway is still in love with the idea of the mobile, gunslinging QB with the rocket arm.

Tebow--along with the other two quarterbacks on the Broncos' roster--doesn't fit that billing.

Jake Locker does, and he's likely to be available when the Broncos pick in the 2nd round.   So might Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick, all of whom the Broncos have taken a closer look at with pre-draft visits.  Yet Mallett has drug allegations that the Broncos won't touch, Ponder is too much like Kyle Orton, and Al Davis will probably trade his entire draft so he can move into the 2nd round to take Kaepernick.  That leaves Locker.

Sure, Elway knows he needs to draft defense with the Broncos' first-round pick.  But with two second-round picks and a deep draft class relative to defensive linemen, he's not going to shy away from Locker if he's feeling frisky.  Elway can justify the pick by comparing Locker to himself (sure to silence any Broncos critic) and note that Locker played through a giant rib injury through most of his senior campaign thanks to an unfortunate hunting accident against the Nebraska Cornhuskers early in the year.

Elway's getting frisky.

I'm just getting paranoid.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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