Looking at Lock: addressing the Missouri quarterback’s draft stock ahead of the Texas Bowl

Following a statistically dominant junior season, Lock has a tough decision ahead of him.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock walks onto the field for the Tigers game against Tennessee in Knoxville in 2016. Maneater File Photo

If the 2018 NFL draft buzz indicates anything, it’s that the quarterback class isn’t lacking in depth or talent.

There have been as many as six quarterbacks — including two Heisman Trophy winners — projected to go in the first round, and sites like walterfootball.com consider at least 22 quarterback prospects draftable. First-round names mentioned include Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, as well as a pair of Pac-12 quarterbacks in USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. Even Josh Allen of Wyoming’s raw potential and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State’s Big XII dominance have garnered some first round consideration.

However, there’s another quarterback who’s building some acclaim and has found himself on experts’ draft boards over the last few months: Missouri’s Drew Lock.

Coming off a sophomore season in which he settled in as Mizzou’s starting quarterback, Lock statistically dominated college football in 2017, leading the Southeastern Conference in total yards, passing yards and passer rating. He also finished top five in the nation in passer rating and passing yards per attempt and led the country in passing touchdowns.

Lock’s 2017 started with a seven-touchdown performance against Missouri State, but Missouri lost its next five games. However, thanks to multiple stellar performances from Lock beginning in October, the Tigers won their last six games to finish the regular season at 7-5.

Lock’s stellar end-of-season play garnered hype from the likes of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer and, according to sports personality Dan Patrick, NFL scouts as well.

However, it’s ultimately been a mixed bag for Lock in terms of pre-draft hype. For example, NFL draft analyst Matt Miller said he’d likely put a day three grade on Lock considering the film he’s watched to this point.

Junior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. has publicly stated he’s returning to Columbia for his senior season, but Lock, arguably Mizzou’s best 2018 draft prospect, has stated he won’t make his draft decision until after the Texas Bowl.

The buzz surrounding Lock has been the most for any offensive prospect from Missouri since quarterback Blaine Gabbert or receiver Jeremy Maclin. Even with all the hype, there’s still a lot of questions surrounding Lock and his status as a prospect. To say Lock is a polarizing talent is almost to hyperbolize both his strengths and weaknesses. He has both good and bad traits, but just how good or bad are they?

Looking at Lock

Lock’s arm is his biggest strength. In a Josh Heupel offense which consistently used quick screens and slant routes, Lock still found ways to show he can throw the deep ball.

This 58-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Emanuel Hall was the second of three 50+ yard touchdown passes Lock threw against Kentucky. Lock slings the ball over a little more than half the field here, showing raw strength, but his arm is much more than that.

On the play above, Lock hits tight end Jason Reese in stride about 15 yards out, which leads to a 61-yard touchdown. As impressive as his touchdown to Hall against Kentucky was, Lock’s ability to control and judge the velocity of his throws and float the ball is not only evident but something a scout would find worth noting, because it shows he’s capable of throwing accurately.

Beyond Lock’s size, mechanics and arm strength, it’s hard to pinpoint traits of his game which are consistently good. He’s halfway there when it comes to certain traits such as anticipation and pocket presence, showing flashes of brilliance on certain plays or looking downright bad and confused on others. For example, Lock’s dominate performance in week one didn’t come without its issues.

After the play action, Lock recognizes pressure to his right and escapes the pocket. It’s a textbook example of extending the play; however, Lock doesn’t capitalize on the extra time he gives himself.

The linebacker coming at Lock rushes not only his throw but also his decision-making, so instead of throwing the ball away or looking for the receiver closest to him (who starts the play at the top of the screen), Lock makes the decision to go to the endzone for Richaud Floyd, who’s double covered. One safety picks up Lock’s eyes and follows them for an easy interception.

The offense Lock ran with former offensive coordinator Heupel was incredibly fast paced and worked like a lot of shotgun-based, college-style offenses. In most college offenses, the quarterback doesn’t have much command over play calls or adjustments at the line, but in many instances this season, it looked like Lock had even less command over his offense than the average college quarterback.

A lot of times, Lock appeared to make only one read on passing plays and if the throw wasn’t there, he would throw it anyway, sometimes into triple or double coverage.

It’s hard to build an argument that Lock isn’t a draftable prospect. Even Matt Miller, who thinks Lock should return for his senior season, said Lock would currently receive a late-round grade from him.

Lock’s physical tools are ever present. He has great size and arm strength. His mechanics are consistent and he’s shown the ability to put touch on the ball, floating passes over the top or zipping balls into tight windows. He’s also shown flashes of greatness when it comes to anticipating routes and throwing to get receivers open. However, Locks still has his issues.

Lock finished the regular season with a career-high 58.2 completion percentage, however, comparing that number to other potential first-round draft picks like Josh Rosen (62.5 completion percentage), Sam Darnold (63.7 completion percentage) and Baker Mayfield (FBS-high 71.1 completion percentage) shows Lock’s accuracy clearly isn’t developed to the point of his counterparts in the 2018 draft class. Beyond that, what’s holding Lock back is all mental.

He’s shown an inability to read the field to this point, which has led to poor decision-making and bad mistakes on film. Also, the college-style offense he’s run with the Tigers the last two season poses some bigger questions. Because Lock hasn’t had any control over playcalling during his career, he’s missing a big prerequisite that a lot of first-round quarterbacks have to some extent.

If Lock declares, he could become an NFL quarterback; however, the questions posed by his accuracy and mental mistakes create some separation between him and a lot of the other quarterbacks in a really deep 2018 draft class. If Lock stays, he could work on his draft stock during his senior season and attempt to correct some of his mistakes from what was still a phenomenal junior year, potentially solidifying himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2019 draft.

The answer to Lock’s decision is uncertain. Whether he declares, no potential path to the draft is holistically the right one, as every year each is filled with twists and turns. The only certainty is Lock will have a lot of work to do regardless of his choice.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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