As I spent the 2010 season watching QB Matt Hasselbeck look less and less like the All-Pro player of 2005 it became clear to me that his days in the NFL are numbered. It also became clear to me that Charlie Whitehurst is not the long term solution. Whitehurst is a career backup who might be able to win the occasional game off the bench but he is certainly not someone who you can build the offense around. I think the victory over the Rams in week 17 is exactly what Whitehurst is capable of, stepping in for an injured starter and playing a conservative game that keeps the Hawks competitive against average teams. At this point it is uncertain what roles Hasselbeck and Whitehurst will play in 2011 for the Hawks. While these points can be argued back and forth let's assume the Seahawks are going to spend a first round pick on a QB, who should they take?
Now that more and more 2011 NFL Mock Drafts have been posted in the past few weeks we can begin to see what the experts say the Seahawks will do with the #25 pick in round one of the draft. We could sit here all day long and talk about what Missouri's Blaine Gabbert or Auburn's Cam Newton could do for the Hawks but the chance of either of them being available to Pete Carroll is slim. I think the next two QB's available in my mind, Washington's Jake Locker and Arkansas' Ryan Mallott, are players the Hawks will be watching closely and comparing.
I took a peak on ESPN.com to see what Mel Kiper's thoughts were and he has Seattle selecting Mallett at #25 and Locker slipping out of the first round altogether. Their other primary draft analyst, Todd McShay, has Locker going to the Titans at #8 and Mallett to the Jaguars at #16 (Hawks take Wisconsin DE JJ Watt). McShay had predicted Locker as the #1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft before Locker decided to return to UW for his senior year. Kiper had predicted Locker at the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft prior to the college season beginning. Their selections are conflicting and couldn't be less helpful to me in determining which of the two will be a better NFL QB. Another NFL Draft Mock site I like (WalterFootball) has Locker to the Vikings at #12 and Mallett falling to round two (Hawks take Miami CB Brandon Harris).
Mallett has an absolute cannon for an arm and at 6'6" is quite a specimen. He torched SEC defenses for 7500 yards, 62 TD's and 19 INT's in two years at Arkansas, completing 60% of his passes during that time. While these numbers are impressive, Mallett quite simply played well against weaker teams and struggled against stronger opponents. He threw 11 TD's against UTEP, Tennessee Tech, and UL Monroe while only 3 versus Alabama, LSU, and Auburn this past year. While it is clear he is a great passer, he is not particularly mobile, something Seahawks fans have become used to seeing at the QB position recently. As NFL veterans like Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers, as well as rookies like Tim Tebow, show what a versatile QB can bring to the game, Mallett's lack of mobility both inside and outside the pocket is concerning.
Locker passed for 7600 yards over four years at Washington along with 53 TD's and 35 INT's while his completion percentage was 54%. It's Locker's inaccuracy that has negatively affected his draft position this past season. Locker brings a different dimension to the QB position however, his ability to run the ball, accounting for nearly 2000 yards on the ground at UW. Of course, statistics don't tell the whole story. Locker can be frustrating in that he will sometimes play well against top teams (two wins vs USC) then struggle against weaker opponents, his inconsistency is maddening.
Mallett was surrounded by plenty of talent at Arkansas, who finished #12 in the nation this past year. Locker was often a one-man show at UW, a team that would most definitely have been well below .500 this past year without him. Locker also has a slight advantage in his favor, in my mind, in that he played his high school and college football in Washington. If the Hawks decide that Locker and Mallett are very closely rated I think Locker is the best choice simply because Hawks fans, for the most part, know and love Jake Locker (okay, maybe not WSU fans). I don't see how the Hawks could risk passing on the local hero and taking the chance that Locker is successful elsewhere if they select Mallett and he is not. I know many of you will think taking this into account is ridiculous, but I think that Hawk's fans would love a player like Locker to get behind and create a waiting list for season tickets again.
What's happening off the field? More recently, reports are swirling that Mallett is perhaps a bit of a meathead and that his Wonderlic score may challenge Vince Young's for the lowest of all-time. There is also speculation of further off the field problems. Of course, I don't know this to be true, but it's something the Hawks will be looking into. Locker, from what I can tell, seems like a standup guy, the kind of guy who will stay out of trouble for the most part. Again, I certainly don't know the details, but if it's true that Mallett has baggage and Locker has a level head on his shoulders, this should matter to the Hawks.
On a related note, I would like to see John Carlson play a bigger role in the passing game. I think a mobile QB like Locker can better use play action passing, role out of the pocket, and utilize Carlson better. I think that Jake Locker would be a fantastic pick at #25 for the Seahawks. I think if the Hawks have the choice between Locker and Mallett they should pick Locker. If Todd McShay is correct and Locker is gone prior to pick #25 then I think the Hawks should focus on another position, especially if they intend to bring Hasselbeck back next year. I think the aforementioned players Brandon Harris (CB) or JJ Watts (DE) would be excellent selections as those are positions that the Hawks need help in.
How does everybody else rate Locker/Mallett?? Should the Hawks focus on a different position entirely in round one?