There has been a lot of media hype surrounding Drew Lock this off-season. With the Broncos drafting wide receiver Jerry Jeudy 15th overall and acquiring running back Melvin Gordon, Lock has weapons to work with. Adding on the fast development of Noah Fant, and the Broncos adding to their offensive line, Lock should be in a position to succeed. Is the hype legit?
Drew Lock’s History
Taking a look at Lock himself first, his stats from 2019 were not very impressive. He started in five games, going 4-1, which is where the 2020 hype stems from. But, during this stretch, he played two winning teams, going 1-1 against them. To be fair, he had a great game against Houston, leading to a 38-24 trouncing. Lock posted 309 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, on an insane 11.4 yards per attempt. Outside of this isolated contest, Lock struggled greatly. His yards per attempt in his other four starts were 4.8, 5.2, 5.8 and 6.3. League average is 7.2.
Another concern for Lock is his tendency to fumble. When considering the Broncos’ abysmal offensive line in 2019, ranked 27th in pass block win rate, Lock can be absolved of some blame. Still, three fumbles in five games is a warning sign.
When looking at Lock’s college numbers, they don’t jump off of the page. After a horrible freshman year, Lock secured the starting role at Missouri for his final three seasons. His yards per attempt in these three years were 7.8, 9.5 and 8.0, respectively. While his yards per attempt was strong in each of these years, the decline from his junior to senior year is a bit of a red flag. His touchdowns also dropped by 16, from 44 to 28, despite having slightly more attempts in his senior years.
Supporting Cast Changes
The Broncos’ additions to their offensive line were briefly mentioned earlier. However, “additions” is slightly misleading. While the Broncos did acquire right guard Graham Glasnow, who is very talented, they lost their center, Connor McGovern, to the New York Jets. Both players are about equal, but center is more important than right guard. Denver drafted Lloyd Cushenberry III to fill in at center. Cushenberry was fantastic in 2018, earning the 11th highest PFF grade among centers. But, like Lock, he declined in his senior year. He fell all the way to 108th in 2019. However, the Broncos gambled on a declining player yet again. All told, the Broncos offensive line downgraded slightly, but it’s hard to imagine they would struggle worse than they did last season.
In terms of skill positions, it is impossible to argue that the Broncos did not upgrade significantly. Drafting Jeudy will add a nice secondary threat behind 2019-breakout Courtland Sutton. Jeudy’s ability to play both in the slot and out wide makes him a versatile threat that opens up Denver’s playbook for Lock. Additionally, Noah Fant’s 4.50 speed is crazy for a tight end. His playmaking ability due to the lethal combination of size and speed also enables him to line up in various spots. Fant posted an incredible 8.5 yards per target in 2019, which may only increase in 2020 as he improves. Sutton somehow had an even higher yards per target, at 9.0. If Jeudy can come close to these players in terms of efficiency, Lock will be in for a big year.
Don’t forget Melvin Gordon, either. Gordon is much more of a receiving threat than Lindsay or Freeman, giving Lock a safe option for check-downs if the Broncos’ offensive line crumbles as often as it did in 2019. Gordon is also a better rusher than the other Broncos backs. This will make it easier for Lock to tear apart defenses, as they will always have a rushing attempt in the back of their minds.
It is difficult to predict how Lock will do in 2020. On the one hand, Lock individually doesn’t provide much to be optimistic about. But, the weapons he has on offense this season are so far elevated compared to last season that he is sure to improve. The real question is, how much? The key to that lies in looking at where his weapons stand when compared to the rest of the NFL. Sutton is a top 15 receiver, Fant is a top 15 tight end and Gordon is a borderline top 10 running back. While this is all good and well, past this, the offense is somewhat of a question mark. Jeudy should be solid, but it’s hard to imagine that he will go far beyond a top 50 wide receiver and after Jeudy, there isn’t anyone worth mentioning. Combining this with the Broncos’ questionable offensive line, Lock is not in as good of a place as much of this off-season’s hype has portrayed.
Lock will likely be an average quarterback this season. He will probably fall between the quarterback 20 and the quarterback 15. If the Broncos can add one more piece, whether to the offensive line or their wide receiver corps, Lock would be firmly in the top 15, but for now, that is pretty unlikely.
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