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The Jeff Falconio Blog

Laurinaitis Disease Strikes The Pacific Northwest

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When it comes to the NFL Draft it's easy to over-analyze.  Most call it paralysis by analysis but on WSW we've given it a medical term: Laurinaitis Disease, as in, Jake Locker has a bad case of Laurinaitis.


At the end of the 2007 season then-Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis was believed to be the best player in college football.  Experts said if Laurinaitis declared his eligibility for the '08 NFL Draft he'd be the number one pick.  But Laurinaitis elected to stay in school and he was at the top of everyone's board when the 2008 season began.


Of course, when you're number one, everyone is gunning for you.  All summer scouts and personnel guys studied every aspect of the linebacker's game and suddenly flaws began to emerge.  Usually in the process of scouting a player a team will finds a guy they really like.  Then they'll look for all the reasons not to draft him.  It didn't help that Ohio State was on national television almost every week.  Laurinaitis was over-analyzed and overexposed.


As it turns out Laurinaitis had a solid year but because everyone was only looking at the negatives (and through not fault of his own) the linebacker's stock in the draft dropped like a stone.  When the draft finally rolled around Laurinaitis dropped from number one overall to completely out of the first round.  Laurinaitis was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the third pick of the second round.


Of course, Laurinaitis ended up being a steal as he started every game in 2009 and was named to The Sporting News All-Rookie team.  This year Laurinaitis continued to be an every week starter for an up-and-coming team that is one win away from improbably making the playoffs.


Thus, Laurinaitis Disease was born.  The inability to overcome unrealistically high NFL Draft expectations.  In 2009 USC's Taylor Mays suffered the same fate.  Mays went from being a solid top 10 prospect at the end of 2008 to mid-second rounder in 2010.  Mays hasn't quite been as productive as Laurinaitis was his rookie year but has shown flashes of having the ability to start every week.


And that brings us back to Locker.  Everyone considered the Washington quarterback to be the top pick of April's draft but Locker decided to stay in school.  Washington won only five games in 2009 bu thanks to a high-profile schedule that included Nebraska, Stanford and Oregon Locker got plenty of camera time. 


Too much in fact.  Now Locker isn't even thought to be the best at his position.  That doesn't mean he won't thrive at the next level.  Locker is again facing Nebraska, this time in the Holiday Bowl, and his numbers are not eye-popping but the quarterback is showing the necessary intangibles to be successful in the NFL.  Don't be surprised if Locker suffers the same drop Aaron Rodgers faced in 2005.  It's all part of having the burden of Laurinaitis Disease.

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