2020 has been perhaps one of the wildest humans have faced in modern history. From a pandemic, to civil unrest, to the ramping up of what could be a rather toxic election cycle in the United States, it seems that the same 'World of Suck' that Emmanuel Sanders described as the Denver Broncos’ organization over the past few seasons has engulfed the entire planet.
Despite the surrounding chaos, things really do seem to be trending in the right direction for Denver. With optimism surrounding GM John Elway’s last few draft classes, a plethora of exciting offensive play-makers, and the backbone of the team in the Vic Fangio defense, the Broncos really may finally be emerging from the doldrums.
While there are many reasons for the positivity surrounding the Broncos entering this coming season, none come close to the hype surrounding second-year quarterback Drew Lock.
After taking over a 3-8 team in Week 13 of last season, Lock came in and helped lead the Broncos to a 4-1 finish down the stretch, flashing the arm talent, play-making mobility, and moxie that was continually on display during his college career at Missouri.
With a 7-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio, throwing for 1,020 yards with a completion percentage of 64.1% and quarterback rating of 89.7, Lock’s play not only has Denver abuzz about his potential but the NFL world, too.
While there will always be ‘haters’ such as Nick Wright and most of Pro Football Focus (Gardner Minshew as the better QB of the two? Really?), there are many fighting for passage aboard the Lock Hype Train. Colin Cowherd has already elbowed himself onto that train by claiming Lock could be this year’s second-year ‘pop’ quarterback and an MVP candidate.
In an ever polarized world full of ‘hot takes’, is there room for some middle ground in regards to Lock? Can someone be both cautiously optimistic but also wait-and-see?
NFL Network’s Good Morning Football discussed the Lock Hype this past week and whether the expectations have begun to exceed how well he and the team performed last season. There is plenty to like about Lock, but has the pendulum of expectation swung too far in one direction? Kyle Brandt and Mike Garafolo weighed i
Brandt: This Drew Lock hype is in the stratosphere right now and it’s fun, and it’s positive but my gosh, this guy has played one year. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to play quarterback for the Broncos’ this year because he might be president this fall. People are HYPING Drew Lock. I think it’s a lot to do with their draft. The draft was very exciting and more than that it was flashy. It was a lot of people that you knew and that Daniel Jeremiah talked about leading up to the draft so it felt like it made sense. He’s got to do a lot better.
"The fact is I saw him against the Chiefs at the end of last year and they didn’t belong on the same field. I know we give Drew Lock and the Broncos’ a lot of credit for winning a lot of those games at the end but they were slapping around the Lions and the Raiders… a win is a win, but when you compare them to the Chiefs it’s really really tough.
"I know they got better and I know they got faster and Drew Lock seems to have something intangible with him. There seems to be a confidence and a looseness. All of us love that, I love that, but getting the Broncos’ back on the right track and dethroning the MVP from two years ago and the Super Bowl winner is another story. He’s going to have to make a big big jump. We like Daniel Jones next year too but to hear people talk about Drew Lock it’s like he should be on MVP watch and I just need to see more, I need to see a lot more.”
Not only does Brandt desire to see more before crowning Lock anything beyond a potential franchise quarterback, dubbing him ‘the man’ because of his 4-1 record without context of the defenses he went up against is simply not intellectually honest. As Kyle said, a win is a win, but not every win is the same just like not every opponent is the same.
Garafolo expanded upon this point.
Garafolo: “The Raiders 27th ranked pass defense, Houston 29th, Detroit 32nd. He was not going up against the cream of the crop. This is turning into a Drew Lock hater segment right now and that’s not what we are going for… I can pick him up just show the video of him rapping on the sideline, everybody can get behind that one and that is probably the best case that you can make for him. Right now, how high can your confidence be when it’s a small sample, not the greatest pass defenses he was going up against.
"Another thing too is once you start to get some tape on these younger quarterbacks now defenses can concoct things to make it a little different and a little bit more difficult on them. We will see. Everybody wants Drew Lock to succeed but we need to see more.”
The Broncos looked completely lost for much of the 2019 regular season. Starting another dud low-energy quarterback in Joe Flacco to the obviously ‘not it’ quarterback in Brandon Allen, Denver looked to be continuing down the path of continual quarterback purgatory.
That narrative changed the moment Lock took the field. The arm talent, athleticism, and energy he brings have the entire city of Denver excited and those around the league are taking notice. That will lead to bold takes in both directions as tends to be the case with anything as unknown yet as Lock.
The expectations for Lock and the Broncos’ offense in 2020 are high, but reigning in those expectations a bit might prove to be prudent. The Broncos’ offense is exceptionally young and, in a weird offseason, learning a new playbook with so many new faces could lead to erratic results throughout much of next season.
Quarterbacks do tend to take their biggest jump from Year 1 to 2, but has the hype surrounding Lock become too big? Well, that depends on who you ask.
The sky's the limit for Lock in 2020, but the floor is lower than many are willing to accept. Unfortunately, the only way to know if Lock can match the growing hype is seeing him show it on the field.
All the speculation and talking points are nice and fill the airwaves from now until the season finally kicks off, but until it’s shown on the field over a longer sample size, it’s impossible to know just how good Lock and this Broncos’ offense can be in 2020 and beyond.