Drew Lock's Supporting Cast Receives Surprising NFL Ranking
We are halfway through the month of June as the NFL season inches closer and closer. Approaching the 2020 regular season, optimism surrounds the Denver Broncos at a level not felt since the team won Super Bowl 50 in 2015.
This iteration of the Broncos may not be Super Bowl contenders quite yet, but there is reason for hope in the Mile High City after a three-year losing spell the likes of which the team had not endured since the 1960s.
Much of the hope surrounds the Broncos' second-year quarterback Drew Lock. Outside of the obvious arm talent and play-making ability off-schedule, Lock has shown he perhaps is even more impressive outside the lines. With how Lock handles a press conference to how teammates heap praise on his work ethic and character, he has the make up to be a fixture for the Broncos for a long time.
That said, Lock’s level of play on the field is still somewhat to be determined. He showed signs of greatness in his small five-game sample size in 2019, and at the very least, showed he can be a competent and cost-controlled option for the Broncos at quarterback.
Can Lock become a decade-long quarterback and challenge for one of the best in the league? That remains to be seen.
According to a recent study by Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks typically take a monumental leap from their rookie to second season. Given this trend, after the conclusion of the 2020 season, the Broncos should have a pretty good idea just what kind of quarterback Lock will become in his career.
He can continue to grow and improve, but assuming Lock is like most other quarterbacks, the level of play he shows in 2020 should be indicative of who he is and will be as a quarterback.There is nothing more important to the Broncos’ long-term success than finding out just who Lock can become at quarterback because if he grows and shows to be a franchise level player, the team can become a real challenger against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
This will hold especially true in 2021 and 2022 — which will be the last two years of Lock's rookie contract — after the Chiefs will have been forced to pay Mahomes what is sure to be the most eye-popping contract in NFL history. If Lock doesn’t rise to the challenge in 2020, though, that could send GM John Elway and the Broncos back to the drawing board.
In order to get a clean evaluation of Lock, Elway and the Broncos repeatedly attacked the offensive side of the ball in the offseason, both in free agency (OL Graham Glasgow and RB Melvin Gordon) and the NFL Draft (WRs Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler). The Broncos’ offense is not without warts, however, as the offensive tackle situation is concerning at best but the pieces surrounding the quarterback are as good as they've ever been since Peyton Manning’s record-setting 2013 season.
Bleacher Report’s Christopher Knox recently ranked each starting quarterback's supporting cast for all 32 teams in the NFL. While the Broncos didn’t walk away with the best supporting cast in the NFL, they did manage to crack the top-10. After being ranked the 27th best supporting cast in 2019, the Broncos made a tremendous leap in the right direction earning Knox's No. 10 ranking. Here's Knox's logic:
The Denver Broncos are betting big on second-year quarterback Drew Lock, which is why they used their first two draft selections on wideouts Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in April. Along with budding star Courtland Sutton, the two rookies have the potential to give Denver one of the better receiver trios in the AFC.
At tight end, the Broncos have second-year man Noah Fant, who racked up 562 yards and three touchdowns on 40 catches last season. He is an explosive pass-catcher with the physical tools needed to have a Travis Kelce or George Kittle-type impact on Denver's offense.
Between Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, the Broncos were already fairly solid at running back. Their addition of Melvin Gordon pushes this supporting cast into the top 10.
Lock could be in store for a significant sophomore-year jump if Hamler and Jeudy can approach their rookie ceilings. The latter may quickly develop into Lock's most reliable option in the passing game.
‘In 20 years of doing this, he's the best college route-runner I've ever seen,’ ESPN's Todd McShay said of Jeudy.
The Broncos have put Lock in position to succeed in 2020.
With how incredibly important the QB position is in today’s NFL, the Broncos cannot afford to waste any time in evaluating Lock. In order to do so properly, the Broncos did their best to eliminate any and all excuses that could surround his play in 2020 by strengthening every single aspect of the offense, doubling and tripling down on the offensive weaponry.
As shown by Knox’s rankings, the Broncos do not have the best QB supporting cast in the NFL. Again, Denver's offensive tackle play has plagued the offense for a number of years. From Garett Bolles’ erratic play and tendency to hold to Ja’Wuan James’ incessant injuries, tackle could once again be a limiting reagent to the Broncos’ overall offensive output.
Furthermore, while Courtland Sutton should already be considered an emerged superstar at wide receiver, he is still young and only beginning to earn respect from around the league. Noah Fant is entering his second year where tight ends typically really begin to take off.
There is earned excitement surrounding the rookie WR duo of Juedy and Hamler but neither have taken an NFL snap yet. It looks really exciting on paper, but how will it all add up when the pads are on?
Elway and the Broncos liked what they say in Lock’s brief stint to close out the 2019 season. While Denver did not play a consecutive five-game gauntlet of great opponents in Locks’ 4-1 stretch, although they did face two Division champs in Houston (win) and Kansas City (loss), the energy and direction of the entire franchise seemed to shift the moment Lock took the field.
Can Lock become the team’s long-lasting franchise quarterback? In order to find out the Broncos needed to empower their young signal-caller, and they did just that in the 2020 offseason.
After years of struggles on the offensive side of the ball and a style that was not aesthetically pleasing, the Broncos found a promising young, toolsy QB and surrounded him continually all offseason long with difference-makers. The ball is in Lock’s court now as Broncos Country waits for the 2020 season to commence with bated breath.