Futures: Drew Lock

Futures: Drew Lock
Futures: Drew Lock
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Derrik Klassen

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock benefitted from Patrick Mahomes' MVP season last year. No, he is not the caliber of prospect Mahomes was, but he is similar in style. Lock was bound to be a top-100 draft pick given that he is a strong-armed four-year starter from the SEC, but the way Mahomes took the league by storm with a backyard style of play probably helped the perception of Lock, even if subconsciously.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, either. Quarterbacks who make plays outside the pocket are becoming a necessity, and it has always been true that elite arm strength is commodified in the NFL. Lock's level of skill and consistency can be debated, but it is no question that he checks the boxes of having arm talent and the ability to play out of traditional structure.

Arm talent is Lock's defining trait. The catch-all term "arm talent" is often a substitute for saying a player can throw the ball far and fast, but it is more than that with Lock. He does throw the ball far and with great velocity, but it is quick and malleable throwing motion that makes his arm so impressive. Lock can maintain velocity and control from any platform, and he can adjust his arm slot when necessary.

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Generating elite velocity is not supposed to look this easy. Lock does not have a lumbering load-up or a long motion. He pulls the ball up tight to his chest as soon as he intends to throw and slings it out smooth as butter. This is the same ease of motion that helps Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers be as successful as they have been. Of course, they are more complete quarterbacks overall, but it is not far-fetched to put Lock in their realm strictly in terms of quick, smooth throwing motions that produce excellent velocity.

Lock also shows the ability to throw off sudden platforms. In the NFL, where pass-rushers are faster and will force hurried throws, quarterbacks must be able to get a clean throw out from unnatural throwing positions. Doing so not only requires flexibility, but the intuition and comfort to know just how one's body has to contort to make the throw work. Lock has a knack for it.

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With this short rollout from shotgun, Lock is looking to throw the shallow crosser to Kendall Blanton (11), the tight end attached to the left of the formation. These plays are typically designed as extensions of the run to quickly get the ball in the hands of a moving receiver. In this instance, however, the defense swarms the middle of the field and cuts off the shallow crosser. Lock is then stuck in a predicament when he finishes his rollout. His feet and shoulders are already directed to the middle of the field, and he does not have time to flip his entire body to the outside because a defender is in his face. Knowing he must throw to the deeper crosser moving toward the sideline (Emanuel Hall, 84), Lock does his best to adjust his shoulders and rip the throw out from an offset base. He is able to maintain a smooth throwing motion and control of the ball despite the unnatural position, enabling him to hit his receiver in stride.

There are not many quarterbacks in the league with Lock's arm strength and flexibility. In turn, his arm talent lets him get away with throws that others would not dare attempt -- and he knows it.

Nobody encapsulated that aggressive mentality better than Brett Favre. Three years ago, Favre joined Jon Gruden's QB Camp series for a special episode and explained this air of confidence as Favrian as he could.

Favre hit a game-winning pass on a deep route into the "honey hole" of Cover-2 coverage between the deep-half safety and the sideline. It is a risky play that most quarterbacks should not be expected to make, but Favre drilled it like it was just another ordinary throw. When backup quarterback Ty Detmer pressed Favre on why even attempted the throw, Favre answered, "'Cause I can."

"'Cause I can" is an oversimplification of the talent and bravado necessary to make those kinds of throws, but it is not misleading. A quarterback with elite arm talent should take advantage of the full potential of what he can get away with compared to less talented passers.

via Gfycat

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Here is Lock making the same throw Favre mentioned. As he is about to receive the snap, Lock recognizes the safety to the right side of the field is trailing back into what looks like half-field coverage. The safety is already tight to the sideline because the ball is snapped from the right hash, but that does not deter Lock. He fires the throw toward the sideline, leaving the ball high and away so as to not give the safety a chance at it. The receiver also does a fantastic job to go up for the catch and shield the ball from the defender with his body. It may not be the prettiest play, but tight-window throws similar to this one are an inevitability in the NFL.

Like most quarterbacks of Lock's ilk, confidence can bleed into recklessness. Players who believe they can make every throw often trick themselves into thinking they should make every throw. The quarterbacks who learn to properly walk that line -- such as Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Baker Mayfield -- are the ones who take over the league. For now, though, Lock is closer to a young Matthew Stafford or Jay Cutler in terms of how well he filters when he should and should not take chances.

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Halfway through the fourth quarter, Missouri holds a three-point lead and is in short field goal range. A quarterback should know here that if there is not a reasonable throw to make, he should take the safest way out of the play and set up the easy field goal. The offense never wants to give up points in a situation like this. Instead of making the smart play, Lock bails from an uncontested pocket and tries to make a hero throw to convert the first down. Lock's unnecessary efforts result in an interception thrown right into the chest of a waiting defender.

Purdue tied the game with a field goal on the ensuing drive. Thankfully, Missouri answered with a field goal on their final drive and won the game, but Lock put his team in a more stressful situation than they needed to be in.

Where Lock makes up for these mistakes, in part, is by having a short memory. Throwing a foolish interception on one drive does shake his mental state for the following drive. Lock is not one to let one mistake snowball into many, or to shrivel up into a frightened quarterback. He understands that the only play that matters is the next one.

Lock got to prove that resilience early in Missouri's game against Alabama.

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These were Lock's first two throws of the game. In the first clip, he trusts his guy to win the one-on-one battle past the sticks, as he often does, and it bites him in the behind. Alabama's cornerback was able to wrestle for inside positioning and intercept the pass.

Some quarterbacks may need a few drives to recalibrate after a blunder like that, but Lock came out firing again right away on his next pass attempt. He did not hesitate at all throwing into a tight window on third-and-12 in his own territory despite throwing an interception on his first play. Alabama's defense was ultimately too smothering for Missouri on the day, but Lock's fearlessness is admirable.

Innate confidence and supreme arm talent can only carry Lock so far, though. The peak of his skill set may be incredible, and even seems reasonably attainable, but he needs to shore up the basics of playing quarterback. More specifically, Lock needs to be more reliable in the quick game. If Lock can not be a consistent thrower within 10 yards, it will be difficult for him to ever provide a high enough floor to warrant betting on his ceiling.

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Lock regularly puts short throws in the dirt. Sometimes his footwork during his dropback fails him, other times it is as if his gauge of how to throw to moving targets is off by a yard or 2. Throughout his career at Mizzou, Lock killed far too many drives by missing out on easy yards on early downs.

Per Sports Info Solutions, Lock was on-target on 75.8% of passes from 1 to 10 yards deep. That mark puts him below other notable quarterbacks in this class including Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Will Grier, Ryan Finley, Daniel Jones, and Tyree Jackson. For a player projected to be the second or third quarterback off the board, it is concerning that the list of quarterbacks who are more accurate in the quick game is that long.

The divide on Lock comes down to how much a coaching staff believes can be coached out of him. Lock needs to develop better habits and accuracy in the quick game, as well as learn to balance his aggression with safety in the right scenarios. Poor accuracy and hyper aggression are typically not traits that go away, though, and they lend to Lock being a volatile prospect.

In a league plagued with conservative play calling that prioritizes ball security, Lock could be reduced to what Jay Cutler or Matthew Stafford were under Adam Gase or Jim Bob Cooter. Both are naturally aggressive passers whose play styles were neutered by conservative passing attacks centered around yards after the catch. Hopefully that is not the case and Lock ends up with an offensive coordinator willing to live with his imperfections.

Lock would be drafted in the Derek Carr or Andy Dalton range at the top of the second round in a just world, but that is not the world we live in. He will be a first-round pick, potentially as high as the top ten. For the price, the risk is too high, but it is understandable that a team could talk themselves into Lock, especially in a weak quarterback class.


5 comments, Last at 24 Apr 2019, 6:33pm

#1 by Noahrk // Apr 10, 2019 - 7:01pm

What you say matches my opinion of Lock almost to the letter. Not that I've see that much film of him. But I figure he can be a top 20-25 QB... which is not nothing, but certainly not worth a high first-round pick.

Points: 0

#2 by justanothersteve // Apr 10, 2019 - 9:20pm

Heard on a podcast today that while Lock makes all the right throws, it takes more plays than you want to get them on tape. He was then compared to Bortles, Gabbert (another Mizzou product), and another similar QB. Not a grouping you want to be included with. I don't know how accurate this all is, but he looks like someone you want some other team to take a chance on and live with missing out on him on the off-chance he succeeds.

Points: 0

#3 by mehllageman56 // Apr 11, 2019 - 12:58am

It''s about as accurate as he is. Lock has more talent than Bortles or Gabbert in terms of arm strength and ability to make the hard throw, it seems he needs some discipline in terms of footwork on the short passes. Usually, accuracy is a trait that cannot be improved once a player goes to the pros, but Lock may be an exception. You still want someone else to take a chance on him, but I would think he has a better chance of making it than Gabbert or Josh Allen. Maybe the Patriots take him, if they don't get lucky and steal Rosen from Arizona.

Points: 0

#4 by Floyd // Apr 11, 2019 - 11:40am

"Poor accuracy and hyper aggression are typically not traits that go away..."

Kyle Boller agrees.

Points: 0

#5 by Mountain Time … // Apr 24, 2019 - 6:33pm

He's going to the Broncos at 10, I fear. He's exactly the kind of prospect Elway goes for

Points: 0

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