There are many aspects that go into good quarterback play in the NFL. From the overall assemblage of tools in arm talent and athleticism, to the intelligence to understand an offense, reading a defense, and making correct reads, quarterbacking is considered one of the most demanding and nuanced positions in all of sports.
Some quarterbacks have the athletic tools but lack a bit in the mental side of the game, such as Paxton Lynch. Others have a solid level of intelligence on the field, but just lack the arm talent or mobility to ‘stick’ as a starter, such as Denver Broncos' ex-starter Trevor Siemian. When a team finds a combination of both, that’s when magic happens on the field.
While athletic tools and intelligence are both more tangible and easy to identify in the NFL game, perhaps one of the most underrated aspects for any quarterback to have is leadership. The ‘It’ factor, as many call it.
Of course, there are different types of leadership that work for different quarterbacks. Some quarterbacks are demanding and personable like Peyton Manning, some are much more reserved and lead by consistent example and work ethic such as his brother, Eli Manning.
Leadership, however, is probably one of the most underrated aspects when it comes to evaluating quarterback play. Possessing ample arm talent and athleticism from within the pocket with flashes of strong mental processing and a large sample size of high end play in the SEC, Broncos' second-year QB Drew Lock seems like he could be the team's most promising option in nearly 15 years.
The tools and upside are obvious, but what may set Lock apart is the moxie. After just one season in the league, it seems like teammates are already beginning to take notice of Lock, his work ethic, and his magnetism as a leader.
Broncos’ legend and Hall-of-Famer Terrell Davis joined the Jim Rome Show earlier this week to discuss Denver’s exciting, young offense helmed by Lock. According to Rome, many of the current Broncos’ players are “fired up” about Lock and believe he could be ‘the guy’.
When pressed about how important it is to have a quarterback a locker room can get behind, Davis simply couldn’t hold back on his thoughts on Lock.
When you talk about a special player and they say he has that ‘it’ factor, it’s not just on the field it’s how that person affects other people around him. And it’s contagious," Davis said. "When you have a player that just has that—call it ‘swag’—call it whatever you want to call it. It’s that person that people are going to follow. They gravitate towards Drew Lock. He’s found a way in that locker room that everyone speaks like ‘he is the dude’. They love his confidence. They love his competitiveness. They like that he’s involved and that he’s engaged with the teammates. And his on-the-field play is there.
You can do all you want, you can be a good teammate, but if your play is not on the field then some guys won’t respect you. It looks like everybody is respecting Lock for not only what he’s doing off the field but what he’s doing on the field. I’m excited about it. What I saw from him last year, we all are excited to see how he picks up in 2020. Now you throw some weapons out there; Jerry Jeudy, they got KJ Hamler, they went and got a tight end in Big Albert O [Okwuegbunam].
The Broncos have to keep up with Kansas City and they recognize that, so you better bring some firepower. Also, don’t forget Melvin Gordon they signed as a free agent, too. So it will be interesting to see how this offense clicks this year.
Balancing the Excitement with Reasonable Expectations
Despite the Broncos going 4-1 over the final five games under Lock, it is yet to be seen whether Lock has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback. It was undoubtedly a good start, but it just the beginning.
It does seem like Lock is well-liked and respected by his teammates, but optics are everything. Just like with Baker Mayfield and his impressive rookie season, turning around a winless Browns team, the ample attitude and commercials began to grow tiresome his second season as the former No. 1 overall draft pick regressed and the Browns struggled. Rapping Jeezy on the sideline and having fun is only endearing for as long as Lock is playing well on the field.
Broncos' GM John Elway may have (somewhat) lucked his way into a franchise quarterback in the 2019 draft. After trading down from the 10th spot to 20th overall, drafting TE Noah Fant and OG Dalton Risner at pick 41, the Broncos finally made a trade with Cincinnati to move up for their quarterback, landing Lock at pick 42.
However, even in a very limited sample size, Lock showed just as much promise as any quarterback drafted in front of him, perhaps excluding Arizona's Kyler Murray who was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Lock has impressive arm talent, point guard-like play-making from within the pocket when plays begin to breakdown, and as Terrell Davis put it, ‘swag’. All of these traits, combined with his intelligence and work ethic, mean the Broncos have a serious chance to close the gap on the Kansas City Chiefs led by the best quarterback in football in Patrick Mahomes.
If Lock has the likes of a Broncos legend like Davis excited about the offense’s future and potential, the NFL had better take notice. Denver may have found its franchise quarterback, and his intangible ‘It’ factor is a big reason why.