If you espouse optimism in Drew Lock and assert any sort of confidence that the Denver Broncos have finally found their franchise quarterback, you’re bound to get push-back. The national perspective likes to point to Lock’s five-game sample size as a reason to warrant caution.
Some of those same pundits want to pump the brakes on the excitement around Lock only to then profess a preference for the first-round quarterbacks taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, none of whom have played a single snap yet in the pros and thus, have no sample size.
The truth is, we have a vast sample size with which to analyze Lock. He was a four-year starter in the SEC after all.
Some act as if we learned absolutely nothing from Lock’s five-game debut last season. Like he didn’t move the needle at all from the day he was drafted in the second round by the Broncos.
What emerges more often than not is a bias people try to protect and hide. There were a lot of NFL media who panned Lock as a 2019 draft prospect and didn’t view him as a first-round caliber quarterback.
Those same people, in light of Lock out-performing so many of his quarterback brethren from the 2019 class, would rather double-down on their skepticism of his talents rather than eat a little crow and admit they were wrong. It isn’t difficult to pick out those types.
Even now, a large swath of you reading this article are clinging to the ‘but it was only five games!’ refrain. Let me tell you why your misgivings are unfounded and give you five reasons to fully embrace the excitement you feel for Lock, all of which will help if you encounter a Lock skeptics in the wild. They're out there.
1. He's a Winner
There is such a thing as quality over quantity. In five starts, Lock went 4-1. For contrast, Kyler Murray started all 16 games as a rookie. He flashed at times and showed growth. But the best he could muster was a winning percentage of .313. Atrocious.
Daniel Jones in New York started 12 games but his winning percentage was even worse than Murray's at a god-awful .250. What about Minshew mania? Gardner Minshew at least at the tenacity to produce a .500 winning percentage in 12 starts for Jacksonville. Dwayne Haskins produced a paltry .285 winning percentage and struggled mightily to elevate a Redskins' roster facing a dearth of talent.
Meanwhile, Lock's winning percentage was the best among all rookie QBs last year — .800. It's absolutely crucial to point out that unlike any of his fellow 2019 rookie signal-callers, Lock's impact translated to the win column.
Don’t give me the ‘level of competition’ argument. If you want to argue that Lock benefited from having to face the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders to close out the season, then you also have to deduct points from the Offensive Rookie of the Year, who was given a last-place schedule and opened the 2019 season with a middle-of-the-road strength of schedule.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. NFL quarterbacks can only play the schedule they’re given. Lock beat two feisty Division rivals, the eventual AFC South-champion Houston Texans, and a really bad Lions squad, while losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in one of the worst ‘conditions’ games the Broncos have played in the last decade.
In each of Lock’s four victories, he found different ways to win. That distinction is one of the reasons fans should be so excited about him.
Lock finished with 1,020 passing yards, a completion percentage of 64.1 and a TD-to-INT ratio of 7-to-3. Extrapolate those numbers over the course of an entire season and Lock was on pace to produce 3,264 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and about 10 picks.
Transcendent numbers? No. More than solid for a rookie? You bet your hindquarters, especially in light of Lock playing for a first-time coordinator who was fired following the season, as well as a first-time quarterbacks coach.
With Pat Shurmur stepping in as offensive coordinator and Mike Shula as his new position coach, imagine what Lock could accomplish in Year 2, especially in the spread system, which, let's just say, is very comfortable for him.
One of the most pleasantly surprising aspects of Lock’s rookie debut was how quickly he commanded the respect of his teammates. For veterans, most rookies, even quarterbacks, are best seen not heard. Lock played that role while he was Joe Flacco’s backup and on injured reserve.
But when the time came for Lock to step into the starter’s role, he dispensed with that meek posture and let his swagger and intensity hang out. It helped that he got results. The Broncos had only won three games all season when Lock stepped in with five games left to go. The team would finish 7-9.
Just last week, Justin Simmons said this about the ‘It’ factor Lock possesses and why the veteran safety is so excited about 2020.
"That's probably the thing I'm most excited about for this season," Simmons told Bleacher Report. "I know everyone says it, but he has—even in the locker room, behind the cameras and closed doors—he has this sense of, like, confidence but it's not cocky. It's just like 'watch and follow me' type of swag. That's just something that I've felt like the previous couple of years we've been there we just might not have had. Not even getting into the systems and all that stuff. But I haven't really felt that, I guess. I'm excited for Drew because he closed off the year on the right foot and I'm excited for him to start out the year, especially with the weapons that he has. I'm just excited."
No matter who you ask in the Broncos locker room, bring up Lock’s name and you’ll get a smile. Lock has united a locker room that had spent the better part of the last four years literally in the doldrums. Not only has Lock given fans hope, his own teammates can’t help but feel confident and optimistic about what the future holds. Lock’s leadership style is effective, his swagger contagious.
4. Football Intelligence Quotient
Perhaps because he played in a different scheme each year at Missouri, not many draftniks talked about his football IQ heading into the 2019 draft. However, despite utilizing the very wristband that garnered him the ‘Buzz Lightyear’ moniker from his teammates, everything about Lock’s rookie campaign spoke to his football intelligence.
Think back to Game 3 of the preseason. That version of Lock that looked a tad overwhelmed and pressing, compared to even the Week 13 version where he showed such poise, couldn’t have been more different. That was one of the disguised blessings he got from spending 11 weeks on IR.
It allowed him to learn and assimilate not just the playbook but life as a pro without the immediate demands of performing on gameday. During his 11-week exile, Lock went through each Broncos practice twice per day using the team’s virtual reality program and watched each session from the sideline.
As a result, he was able to hit the ground running when his number finally got called in Week 13. Are we talking about the second coming of Peyton Manning here? No. But if 2019 proved anything, it’s that Lock’s football intelligence quotient it considerable. Listen to Coach Shurmur who spoke about this very issue just last month.
"I think he's got good football sense," Shurmur said. "He understands concepts, so when you talk about it—even though you're not watching him do it—you can watch the film and 'What would you do here based on this look? What is this look? Is it corner-cushion? Safety rotation? Linebacker location?' All the things that you need to see and talk about, he can talk about with great comfort. So that's the starting point."
For a coach who’s yet to get hands on his starting quarterback thanks to a pandemic, that’s got to be comforting. It’s also worth mentioning that, unlike the last highly-drafted Broncos quarterback, football is Lock’s top priority. Nothing takes precedent over the game and his career, which is square one for every prospective franchise-caliber quarterback.
5. The Eye Test
I could go on and present more statistics or turn to advanced analytics to support my take here but at the end of the day, you already know the truth, even if you have some lingering doubts. As a Broncos fan and as a fan of the game, you know when you see a good quarterback.
The eye test is just as important as the other factors I’ve listed here today. You don’t need a degree from MIT and you don’t need to be a graduate of the Scouting Academy in order to recognize a good player when you see one.
I could go through a pros and cons list from Lock’s Mile High Huddle scouting report on Lock but like you, I know what I saw; a very talented, surprisingly competent, strong-armed quarterback with intangible traits on the same level as his physical gifts.
If you’re still harboring misgivings, just let ‘em go. Jump in with both feet and hop on the Lock train. I won’t call it a ‘hype’ train because hype implies that it’s overblown or exaggerated.
If you need a little encouragement, just look at what the Broncos front office is saying about Lock by virtue of almost every offseason move it made this year.
General managers don’t invest untold millions and coveted premium-round draft picks to build the nest around a young quarterback unless they’re sure they’ve got the right guy. The Broncos did not flinch when it came to building the nest around Lock, so whatever skepticism is left in your mind about Lock, if any, allow that fact to bridge the gap.
Lock is the truth. Embrace it. Get fully behind your guy. This time, you won’t be disappointed.