I wouldn’t read too much into the report from NFL Network that the Broncos are planning to conduct a private workout with University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker.
First, there’s the smokescreen factor. Few private workouts go unreported anymore; when teams schedule them, it’s usually with the understanding that word will somehow seep into public discussion. No team is naïve enough to believe otherwise.
The Broncos’ workout of Locker could, at the very least, bring them into teams’ thoughts that he’s on their radar. Hypothetically, let’s say the Broncos have managed to trade down to a pick between the eighth and 20th slots. If Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert have been drafted and enough teams see Locker as a potential bargain, then Denver’s pick becomes more valuable and the Broncos can likely extract more — maybe a bundle of additional second- and third-round picks, maybe even an extra first-rounder in 2012. If the NFL remains in lockout mode and active players cannot be traded, selections in the 2012 and 2013 drafts will become the chips with which teams bargain as they look to move up and down this year’s draft.
Second, workouts don’t often indicate who the a team will select. The Broncos’ 2006 pick of Jay Cutler is a clear example. They didn’t work him out, and Cutler admitted that the Broncos hadn’t even had a conversation with him since the Scouting Combine.
But coaches and personnel types from teams do talk — over dinner, Pro Day workouts and the telephone. In this case, it’s not hard to connect the dots, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher — who coached Cutler in the Senior Bowl and privately worked out Cutler, Vince Young and Matt Leinart that year — shared thoughts on Cutler with then-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan once the Titans had decided to draft Young. Fisher “didn’t feel like (Cutler) had any flaws,” Shanahan said after drafting Cutler.
Sometimes the conversations are through head coaches; sometimes it’s assistants and scouts working the back channels. But teams get their information one way or another, even if there isn’t a private workout and a full day to get to know the prospect.
AS FOR LOCKER HIMSELF,, the Broncos are likely curious about him. Teams with picks between 6 and 25 — where the Broncos would only be with a trade-down — and perceived quarterback needs ought to be intrigued by him.
Even though Locker’s stock nose-dove last year, they would do well to investigate him and find out exactly why — especially if the reasons extend below the surface of having a shaky supporting cast while facing defenses whose game plans focused solely on defusing the threat he posed.
Locker’s accuracy came under scrutiny after a 4-for-20 disaster against Nebraska on Sep. 19 of last season, and he never shook the reputation of having a scattershot arm. But in five of the next six full games he played, he completed over 60 percent of his passes. Was the Nebraska game the anomaly, or the canary in the coal mine? How a team answers that question will determine how they feel about Locker.
If NFL teams can ascertain the true reasons why Locker’s senior-year performance was sub-par — and those reasons prove to be easily correctable — then he could be a mid-first round bargain.
He didn’t rise to being a potential No. 1 pick last year on a whim; it was borne out of stellar individual performance, excellent measurables and gritty leadership that helped UW win some games it shouldn’t have — most notably a home win over USC that snapped a 13-game losing streak to BCS-conference opponents.
If Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton don’t stir your pot — and to be honest, they don’t stir mine, at least not as top-10 prospects — then it’s worth taking a closer look at the guy who was the consensus No. 1 overall pick before the season started to get some questions answered.
The list of players who became draft-day bargains after seeing their stock fall in the season and months leading up to the draft is like the roster of rear ends kissed by Goose in Top Gun: “long, but distinguished.”