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Mel Kiper Jr. Still Showing Love For Jake Locker

This week we’ve noted that University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker has drawn criticism for his poor play in a home loss to Nebraska and been has been defended from criticism by other former UW quarterbacks.

One of Locker’s most ardent supporters, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., continues to show love, although he does say Locker’s performance raised questions in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.

But after the way Locker performed on Saturday — even against corners destined for good NFL careers — it’s only natural to wonder whether his great physical prowess and tremendous upside are ever going to add up to a topflight, elite signal caller in the NFL. Additionally, in this era of force-feeding rookie QBs — both Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will start in Week 3 — will a developmental-type prospect with enormous potential like Locker be afforded the opportunity to hone his craft and be eased into the pro game? He’ll improve, but any team evaluating him for a possible high pick is forced to ask this question. And it’s a significant one.

Despite that, Kiper implies in another column that Locker is still the favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL draft and ranks Locker the No. 1 quarterback in this year’s senior class.

The story of last weekend in college football was Jake Locker’s poor performance against a top defense in Nebraska — at home, no less — but it wasn’t enough to push him from his top spot among senior QBs… Locker is going to be legitimately pushed for No. 1 overall by Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett among QBs, depending on whether they declare.

Kiper did make a slight adjustment to his his "Big Board", dropping Locker from the No. 1 spot down to No. 4.

Without a doubt, the media was a touch too quick to seize on the importance of a career-worst performance by Locker against the Cornhuskers on Saturday. But that quickness to criticize is a byproduct of Washington’s continued failure to put together a winning football team. If Locker played poorly while winning, the veracity of his critics would be muted.