Since the offseason began, I've shared my belief that Drew Lock is in prime position to be that next second-year quarterback who takes the league by storm, seemingly from out of nowhere. Listeners of the Huddle Up Podcast can attest to my bullish outlook on Lock heading into 2020, although I try to temper expectations and keep it within the realm of the plausible.
After leading the Denver Broncos to a 4-1 finish to end his rookie year, Lock earned the faith and belief of the organization. GM John Elway made the 2020 offseason all about building the nest around Lock, shoring up the Broncos' interior offensive line and adding multiple explosive weapons at the skill positions.
On paper, Lock is loaded for bear on this hunt and it hasn't escaped the attention of The Herd's enigmatic radio host Colin Cowherd. On his Thursday show, Cowherd went through all six of the NFL's second-year QB candidates and landed on Lock as the most likely among them to be that stud who takes the league by storm in year two. Here's what Cowherd said:
"If I had to bet today, who would I bet pops this year and either wins MVP or is in the running for it? Let me concentrate on Drew Lock. Most of you didn't watch him because Denver was bad early. He started five games, he won four. He had over a 2-to-1 touchdown ratio—that with a bad left tackle. He completed 64 percent of his throws. And here's what I like. He's got a young tight end—that's a position in the NFL that struggles in year one—named Noah Fant. I think Noah Fant is going to be a star. Iowa does that with NFL guys. Noah Fant, star tight end. [It] really matters for young quarterbacks. He also has a great, young receiver that you don't know much about from SMU named Courtland Sutton. He had a great first year. 1,100 yards."
So far, Cowherd has done a good job of sketching the foundation of what the Broncos had going with Lock before entering the 2020 offseason. But a lot has transpired since and it has only built on the impressive array of talent around Lock from his rookie year.
"They drafted two wide receivers to support him, one of them my favorite in the draft—Jerry Jeudy. They also, by adding Melvin Gordon, have two borderline Pro Bowl-level running backs. They went out during the offseason, made their defense better and I don't even worry about that with Vic Fangio. Bradley Chubb comes back off an injury, Jurrell Casey, and A.J. Bouye."
The Broncos selected wide receivers in back-to-back rounds to open the draft — Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Penn State's KJ Hamler. Cowherd omits the addition of starting-caliber center Lloyd Cushenberry in the third round and a tight end in Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth that runs faster than Noah Fant.
But what about the state of the AFC West? Widely considered to be one of the toughest Divisions in football, surely Lock's path to NFL domination is fraught with peril? Maybe. Maybe not, depending on how some of the AFC West dominoes fall this year.
"And although the Division has the Kansas City Chiefs, what do we really know about Tyrod Taylor, Anthony Lynn, and the Chargers going forward? They may make a quarterback change if Justin Herbert blows them away midseason. And Oakland/Vegas? You don't win eight, nine, 10 games when you change cities. It just doesn't work that way and they still can't stop anybody."
The Kansas City Chiefs will remain a thorn in the Broncos' side but even splitting with the defending World Champions this year could give Lock and company the possibility of winning the AFC West, if the young talent in Denver handles their business especially at home.
Cowherd sums up his outlook on Lock this way:
"My guess is Drew Lock is going to explode for Denver this year. A young star tight end, a young star receiver, two receivers in the draft, I don't love their left tackle situation, Bradley Chubb back, a Division in which they can win double digits, they can beat Kansas City at home, and a kid who got very, very little attention last year because, like a [Patrick] Mahomes, he just didn't play much but won four out of five. I'm going to bet on Drew Lock. That is my bet."
It's enough to get the heart racing and the blood pumping for any fan who bleeds Orange and Blue and none of it even mentioned the coaching additions of OC Pat Shurmur and QBs Coach Mike Shula, both of whom could have a galvanizing effect on Lock's play in year two.
It is refreshing to hear at least one national pundit speak optimistically about the Broncos in 2020. The national perspective has been mostly suspicious and skeptical of the Broncos' prospects this offseason.
Cowherd sees it differently and stripping away the hype somewhat, it fits much more accurately over the actual reality on the ground locally. Yes, the Broncos could surprise a lot of people in 2020 and if Lock takes that leap forward that Cowherd envisions, like MHH, it will almost certainly result in a return to form post-Super Bowl 50 for this franchise.
But everything almost always looks better on paper. The onus is on Lock and company to translate that teeming potential in theory into production on the field.
We're all looking forward to seeing how it unfolds in 2020.