If I told you "no one wants a QB who isn't accurate," you might think "duh, who wants an inaccurate QB?" Well, folks, let me put it this way: How many of you liked Jamarcus Russell coming out of college? Vince Young when he went to the Pro Bowl his rookie year? Brett Farve and Carson Palmer this year? Mark Sanchez? Now at different times, you might get all kinds of crazy answers, but in hindsight, we can see that having an accurate QB kills a defense, and not having one kills an offense. Don't believe me? Keep reading.With defensive players steadily becoming more athletic, the most important trait for a QB is accuracy. Let's compare the recent success of QBs with good accuracy and questionable arm strength (Drew Brees, Chad Pennington) to that of QBs with great arm strength but lacking accuracy (Vince Young, Jamarcus Russell). Brees won a super bowl and Pennington got the Dolphins to the playoffs twice. Young got himself fired and Russell fell off the face of the earth. All right, I know that's a subjective point. So here's some stats for you: The top 5 NFL QBs (as measured by QB rating) averaged a 64.4 completion percentage. The 5 most accurate passers combined for a mark of 66.4%. The only player in the top 10 for touchdown passes with a completion percentage below 60% this year was Matt Cassel, who, lets face it, is overrated. The two QBs in the super bowl also average about 63% completions. And, the piece de resistance, there were twenty starting QB's this year that completed 60% of their passes or better.
Why do I mention this? Because the Jaguars are in the market for a QB in this year's draft, and a lot of names are being thrown around. Myself, I've always been a production guy. Basically, my way of looking at players is: tape or it never happened. Guys with "potential" are nice, but "project players" usually end up more like Tavares Jackson than Chad Henne. Which brings us (through my absurdly circuitous logic) to Jake Locker.
For the last month and a half, people have been in love with Locker's arm strength. The guy could probably throw a football through bullet-proof glass, and plenty of the "experts" were drooling. Of course, if you tuned in to the All-Star Skills Challenge Friday, you might have heard the man himself, Mel Kiper Jr., drop Locker out of his top 25 prospects.
You see, what the numbers (and the tape) show on Locker is that Jake, while possessed of an excellent arm, isn't all that accurate. Locker only completed just over 55% of his passes... against college players. The bump up from college defenses to the pros is significant, and his accuracy numbers would already put him at 30th in the NFL. Dalton and Newton both completed 66.1%, Kaepernick completed 64.9%, Mallett completed 64.1%, Gabbert (who I'm still lukewarm on) complete 63.4%. Christian Ponder completed 61.5% of his passes even while injuries were damaging his season numbers. Seeing Locker listed alongside those other guys, I find myself humming "one of these things is not like the other" and questioning how far Locker might slide. Accuracy matters, and while an NFL QB should have a reasonably strong arm and pretty good accuracy, great accuracy can make up for a questionable arm. A strong arm, on the other hand, cannot make up for bad accuracy.