The period between free agency and the NFL Draft is my favorite time of year as a dynasty owner. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the upcoming season. Dynasty owners thrive on the uncertainty by crunching statistics and reading over team reports to find the next breakout players.
Around this time each year, I target a few players in my dynasty leagues that have breakout potential. Some of it is based on gut feelings, but mostly from watching game footage and finding players that have excelled in a limited role. Over the next few weeks, I will cover players I have targeted for my own teams. Last time I covered tight end Kyle Rudolph. Next up on my list of breakout candidates is Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker.
Jake Locker was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after a stellar career at the University of Washington. Locker played on some talent-deficient teams during his time in college, but he still managed to flash future first round ability as a dual-threat quarterback. The biggest knock on Locker in college was his completion percentage, which at the conclusion of his four-year career was a paltry 54.0%. Locker was highly thought of enough by scouts as a potential No. 1 overall pick before the 2010 college season, despite his poor completion percentage in college.
Because of the NFL lockout last offseason, it looked like Locker was going to get the starting job at quarterback until the Titans signed Matt Hasselbeck in free agency. Hasselbeck was brought in on a multi-year deal to help bridge the eventual transition to Locker. Locker only saw action in five games in a relief role and did not start a game as a rookie:
Week 4 at Cleveland (6 snaps) – Locker threw one pass on one drop back in the 4th quarter which was not completed.
Week 7 vs. Houston (5 snaps) – Locker entered game in the fourth quarter and dropped back for two passes (one sack and a 12 year completion to Lavelle Hawkins).
Week 11 at Atlanta (23 snaps) – Locker entered the game in the third quarter down 23-3, and led team to 14 points. He completed nine of 19 attempts for 140 yards and two touchdowns (Both to Nate Washington: 40 and 4 yards) and added an 11 yard run.
Week 14 vs. New Orleans (45 snaps) – Locker entered the game in the second quarter and had his longest playing stint of the season. He completed 13 of 29 attempts for 282 yards with a touchdown (40 yards to Nate Washington) and added six rushing attempts for 36 yards and a highlight touchdown run from six yards out.
Week 15 at Indianapolis (19 snaps) – Locker entered the game in the fourth quarter and completed 11 of 16 attempts for 108 yards with a 7-yard touchdown to Nate Washington and a rushing attempt for nine yards.
That is a lot of fantasy production in less than 100 snaps played. To put that into context, here is how Locker stacked up against all the other quarterbacks in the league in 2011 on a per-play-basis.
|Pos||Name||Team||Games||Snaps||FP||FP / SN|
Yes, you read that correctly. Locker scored more fantasy points per snap than Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. The takeaway here is not to extrapolate Locker’s sample size statistics to a full season, but to show he can be a productive fantasy option when given the chance.
Finding a comparable player to Locker is a tough task. In November, I compared him to Tim Tebow because they both scored a lot of fantasy points as rookies in a limited role. Also, at that time, Locker shared a similar completion percentage to the now-former Denver quarterback. In hindsight, this comparison sells Locker short as a passer.
Locker can make significant strides in his development as a quarterback. His sample data from last year in comparison with the league averages for quarterbacks goes give us a glimpse of what to expect going forward:
|QB Stats||Jake Locker||League Avg|
|Avg Depth of Target||9.1||8.8|
Locker’s completion percentage was significantly below the league average as excepted. His passing yards after completion and passing touchdown rate were higher than the league average and both are a near certainty to regress going forward. Although both statistics were higher than normal, Locker’s average depth of target indicates he was challenging the defense downfield and not just settling for shorter routes. His sack rate was right on par with the league average, while his scramble rate was over 1.5 times the league average. Locker’s rushing ability will be a key asset to his future fantasy value.
Although Locker did not start any games in 2011, we can still compare his rookie season to his peers of the 2011 NFL Draft class. Locker’s snap totals are more in line with fellow rookies who saw mop up duty in Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick than the rookies who received some if not all their teams starts like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.
|Pos||Name||Team||Games||Snaps||FP||FP / SN||FP / Gm||Comp %||Yds||TD||In||Att.||Yds||TD|
2012 and Beyond
It is clear that Jake Locker has plenty of upside in dynasty leagues based on his impressive performances in a limited role. However, the most important question regarding his fantasy value has been avoided until now – will he start in 2012? Matt Hasselbeck is in the second year of his three-year deal. It is clear the Titans will not hand the reins over to Locker until he is ready, in the words of Titans head coach Mike Munchak:
“Neither one of those guys want the job handed to them, they want to compete for it. We’ll try and do the best we can and in May, June and in training camp. We’ll put them in a situation where they are competing and hopefully it will be obvious who should be the best guy to lead the team, because you don’t want the quarterback question to be going on every week, ‘Who’s the guy? Who’s the guy?’ We are hoping they can compete and things will work out.”
Both Locker and Hasselbeck can breathe a sigh of relief that Peyton Manning chose the Denver Broncos over the Titans. If their camp battle persists through the summer, it will only help suppress the value of Locker in the short-term. It can be tough to roster a backup quarterback in many leagues that have small roster limits – but Locker is worth the wait.
Another wildcard to Locker’s value is the return of Kenny Britt. Britt had already been lost for the season by the time Locker saw his first NFL snap in Week 4. Locker’s favorite target was Nate Washington by a wide margin, and all four of Locker’s passing touchdowns went to Washington. Locker’s pass distribution with a heavy emphasis on the outside receivers over the tight ends and running backs offers even more promise for a Locker-Britt duo going forward.
|Player||Targets||% Aimed Passes|
|Chris D. Johnson||4||6.6%|
I ranked Locker 14th at the quarterback position in my recent dynasty rankings update. Most early drafters agree in startup drafts, as Locker is going as the 15th quarterback off the board in the 10th round range according to ADP.
If you are looking for a high-upside quarterback for your dynasty team, look no further than Locker. His athletic skill-set, upside, situation and current value make him an excellent low-risk, high reward trade target and a player who could be a cornerstone of your dynasty team from initial drafts.
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