From Prospect to Pro: Comparing Taylor Kelly To Jake Locker
When comparing an NFL prospect to a current pro, statistics can be looked at; ultimately, they should be thrown out the window. The art of scouting lies in the ability to determine whether a player’s current skillset and style of play will translate successfully to the next level of competition. I can look at the stats of Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly and compare them to those of Jake Locker when he was at Washington and explain how they are similar, but that’s not how you determine a college player’s ability succeed in the professional game.
As I watched Kelly (6-foot-2, 203 pounds) play in 2012, I immediately thought of Locker (6-3, 234). Locker had a good career at Washington as a dual-threat quarterback. He started all four years, though he was injured most of his sophomore season. As a junior in 2009, he had his best season: 21 TDs and 2,800 yards passing while rushing for 388 yards and 7 TDs. He was drafted by Tennessee eighth overall in 2011 and went 4-7 last season while missing five games due to a shoulder injury. He has the chance to make a name for himself this year in his second season as the Titans starter.
Kelly already has had a more productive season in his first as a starter than Locker ever had in college. He threw for 3,079 yards and 29 TDs while rushing for 516 yards and one TD. Both he and Locker have big arms with the ability to throw tight spirals between defenders and to launch balls accurately on deep routes. They have a very similar throwing motion -- a mechanically sound overhand delivery. Both excel with their footwork and are able to drop back with great balance and step up and into their throws. Very rarely does either of them throw flat-footed.
Where Locker and Kelly are most alike is their scrambling and their ability to throw while running away from defenders and toward the sidelines. They are both quick on their feet -- threats to run for big chunks of yardage on any given play -- and their accuracy on the run is well-above average. Locker did not have an impressive season last year with the Titans but he looked good in his scrambles and in extending plays. He made some nice throws on the run and showed some promise. That will help scouts project how Kelly would be as an NFL quarterback.
In Kelly’s only full season as a college starter, he was much more accurate than Locker ever was in his four years at Washington. If Kelly can stay as accurate as he was in 2012 (67.1 percent), he has the chance to be a better pure passer than Locker in the NFL. Kelly is also a better decision-maker than Locker. It’s not that Locker lacks the football IQ; it’s that he takes a lot of chances. That is something a signal-caller needs to do, but he must know when to take those chances and when to throw the ball away.
Both quarterbacks are great runners with the potential to be great passers. Locker has his chance to shine this season and I think he will make some noise for the Titans. Kelly has the chance to climb up the ranks of 2014 draft prospects, and if he performs anywhere close to the way he did last season (he and the Sun Devils open their season on Thursday night), he will most definitely be taken somewhere in the mid-rounds.