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Locker leads the way at Washington pro day
SEATTLE, Wash. — The pre-draft process is a slippery slope for developing players — which means, just about every player in line to be drafted — when so much time is taken up with specific training to ace this or that drill which may or may not have anything to do with what actually happens on the field. In rare cases, a player is athletic enough to know that he'll do well enough in the 40-yard dash, and the three-come drill, and the bench press, and spend January through March working on his fundamentals.
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That's been the case for former Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker, whose primary questions to answer as the third-rated at his position on most boards and mocks behind Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton of Auburn is the fact that he's struggled with accuracy through half a decade at the UW. But after working for the last two months with former NFL quarterback (and current quarterback guru) Ken O'Brien in Irvine, Calif., Locker walked into the Dempsey Indoor facility in Seattle and nearly tore the roof off with an incendiary performance.
Locker completed 38 of the 40 passes he threw in a scripted throwing session that had him making all the throws, and missing on two overthrows of deep routes — the short-to-intermediate throws that have been problems in the past were consistently impressive, and the work that Locker has put in definitely paid off.
"Just focusing on fluidity in the drop," he said, when asked about the things he's been developing with O'Brien. "Getting my feet on the right spot, and one of the things I worked with Ken on was bringing my hand over the top as quickly as I could, rather than dragging my hand — I had a tendency to do that at times. When I bring my hand over the top, and really point that finger, I've been spinning the ball a lot better, and it's coming off my hand a lot better."
For Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian, it was just as much that Locker handled the big stage, which at least 13 NFL teams in attendance, as the way he threw the ball over and over. "(One), to see the mechanics, the footwork, ball placement, the rhythm in drops," Sarkisian said. "But two, how can he handle the setting, the venue. I thought of it all, that's the biggest thing I got out of it. If I was a scout watching Jake, this wasn't too big for him. That's some of the biggest battles guys have when you take that next step, is the venue too big and it definitely wasn't too big for him today."
Locker stood on the times he put up at the combine, which is easy to do when you put up the second-best 40-yard dash among quarterbacks at 4.50 (second only to Virginia Tech speedster Tyrod Taylor), the second-best 20-yard split (second again to Taylor), and the best three-cone drill.
What set this particular event alight was Locker's pure quarterback skills, and the fact that from the Senior Bowl, through the scouting combine, to his pro day, the improvement has been graphic.
"I think he helped himself considerably," opined Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com. "It's not so much the one pro day — it's that he's shown significant improvement in every step of the process. That's the evidence that teams are looking for that will cause them to believe that he could be the face of the franchise, and a starting quarterback in the NFL. Throughout his career at Washington, he was up and down, but he's made that progress, and that's what was so exciting about the progress he made today."
Rang said that the improvement in Locker's short to intermediate throws is the thing that really stands out. There's never been a question of his ability to fling it downfield — especially in motion or boot action — but he's now learning the little things. Staying in the pocket, getting that right touch and arc on the ball, insuring a consistent release point.

"That's one of the things we saw at the combine as well," Rang continued. "Some of the more difficult passes, like the post corner and things like that, were some of this best throws/ And we saw that again today. Even the deep throws that were incomplete were thrown on a good trajectory and they were catchable passes to a faster receiver."
Most mock drafts have Locker somewhere between the late first round and early second; the most recent Shutdown Corner mock didn't even have Locker on the first round … and that's the last time you'll see him out of the first on any mock, anywhere.
The final act of the Jake Locker pre-draft drama (at least, the part screened in front of the entire NFL all at once) had a happy ending.

NFL Lockout: Who Stands to Lose the Most?
 The NFL Lockout does not appear it will have any distinct winners right now, and it promises to have fewer as times progresses. The good people at Forbes tell us no individual or industry who rely on the NFL for revenue can be chalked up in the winner's column. There are, however, some definite losers should the lockout spill over into the regular season...
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from Monte Burke at Forbes...

The Lockout Losers:

1) Bars that carry the NFL’s Sunday Ticket: I religiously go to a Steelers bar in Brooklyn that has the Ticket. On NFL gameday, the place is always packed from noon until midnight with drink-and-food buying NFL fans. These bars will dearly miss that Sunday money.
2) Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s: I would never, ever set foot in either of those places if they didn’t have the Ticket. Unless I’m trying to get heartburn. Then I’d go.

3) NFL fans and fantasy football players: Duh.

4) Beer companies: Without the NFL, it will become less socially acceptable to crush a twelve-pack on Sundays.

5) Nike: The sports-apparel giant is just getting ready for its big moment in the NFL. This season, they take over the NFL apparel contract from rival Reebok, meaning that all NFL uniforms and merchandise will carry the swoosh. Missing a year of that contract will hurt.

6) Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith: These dudes had all last season and then the off-season to get a deal done. No NFL next season would be a remarkable failure for both men.

7) Showtime: What the heck are they going to do with Inside the NFL? Sure, Warren Sapp just giggling and Chris Collinsworth and Phil Simms play-fighting can fill the space of a show or two. But what about the rest of the season?

8) The NFL Network: With no games, would they just go ESPN Classic on us? Or just be a source of never-ending labor news? Neither would make for compelling viewing over the long term.

9) Bookies: With only a few exceptions, Las Vegas bookies hit it big every weekend during the NFL season. Filling the void of the most bet-on sport in the U.S. will be impossible.

2011 NFL Draft: Predicting All Seven Rounds for the Pittsburgh Steelerss
The Pittsburgh Steelers have recently drafted some solid talent to add to their perennial playoff teams.
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The Black and Gold came one drive shy of winning a seventh Super Bowl for the franchise in 2011, but how do they improve from such a great season?

The corners in the defensive secondary are starting to wear down, Hines Ward will be retiring soon, and the offensive line was frequently injured last year.
If the Steelers want to continue to be great, they'll rejuvenate the offensive line with some depth at the guard position, and maybe add a coverage cornerback. There are no major concerns for the team besides a consistent kicker, but let's take a look at how Pittsburgh can bolster the team through the draft.

Phoenix Suns trading Goran Dragic for Aaron Brooks from Houston Rockets
 The Suns made the move at the trade deadline believing Brooks will be an upgrade for the playoff run with his scoring ability and how his speed can infuse energy into a second unit that has struggled this season.

Phoenix sends Dragic, who has struggled this season, and their June draft pick unless the Suns miss the playoffs. If that becomes a lottery pick, Houston will get the Orlando first-round pick that the Suns received in the December six-player trade.
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"We are excited to add Aaron Brooks to our team," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "We are confident that he will upgrade our backcourt now and in the future. He should add scoring to our second unit, which is important to our success."

Brooks, 26, is a 6-foot, 161-pound guard in his fourth year from Oregon, where the Suns liked him and nearly drafted him but had concerns about his size. Brooks has taken a step back from last season, when he started 82 games and average 19.6 points and 5.3 assists. He had an early-season ankle sprain that sidelined him for 21 consecutive games and he has come off the bench mostly since his return, averaging 11.6 points and 3.8 assists. He is shooting only 34.6 percent from the field and 28.4 percent on 3-pointers.
Brooks is on an expiring contract and would be a restricted free agent this summer unless a new collective bargaining agreement changes that.

Dragic, 24, was posting similar averages this season (7.4 points and 3.1 assists) to last season (7.9 and 3.0) but was shooting only 42.1 percent with 27.7 percent 3-point shooting. His plus-minus rating was more than twice as bad as any other Suns rotation player with the Suns losing a point of ground for every four minutes he played.

Dragic will be fondly remembered for that 23-point fourth quarter in Game 3 at San Antonio but he no longer was considered the Steve Nash heir apparent by the new front office. Dragic has a 2011-12 team option remaining on his contract. The Suns take on a very slight prorated remaining salary increase from Dragic's $1.97 million salary to Brooks' $2.08 million salary this season.

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