Mel Kiper has struggled with where to slot Jake Locker, a common problem ahead of the 2011 NFL Draft. Locker has been up and down throughout the process, riding the waves of performances that lacked consistency. From a struggle in the Senior Bowl that saw him fall out of many mock drafts to a strong NFL Combine that pushed him back in, it's been impossible to tell which Jake Locker will show up in the NFL. Will it be the inconsistent passer who struggles with accuracy? Or will it be the phenomenal athlete who shows flashes of brilliance at time?
In his final 2011 NFL mock draft, Kiper has Locker back in the top-half of the first round. From what we've seen in the past few days, it appears Locker may be destined to come off the board when the Washington Redskins pick at No. 10 or the Minnesota Vikings pick at No. 12. Kiper agrees with the latter assessment and has Locker heading to Minnesota with the 12th pick, though he hints the Vikings may trade down with the belief Locker may still be around in the No 16 to No. 20 range.
Here is a quick sampling of Kiper's evaluation.
This pick comes with a caveat: I think the Vikings will actively be looking to move down and get Locker later. But if they do get him here, what they get is a guy with an exceptional package of skills and intangibles. Locker's struggles last year and his fall in the eyes of evaluators is well-covered ground, but what's kept him as a first-round option is a big-time arm, athleticism that matches that of Newton, a solid work ethic and the kind of moxie and leadership skills coaches crave.
Locker will be a player to watch as the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday. It's unlikely he falls out of the first round and if he's still on the board late Thursday evening, we may see teams trading into the first round to get him. One things for sure: Locker's ride has been a wild one and the drama will continue all the way up until his name is called on Thursday night.
For the latest on Locker's draft stock, stay with this StoryStream. We'll continue gathering projections in an effort to see just where he may end up as the 2011 NFL Draft gets started in New York on Thursday evening.