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The most underrated aspects of Drew Lock’s game

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 03: Drew Lock #3 of the Missouri Tigers smiles following a 38-17 victory over the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The Broncos were able to select Missouri quarterback Drew Lock in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He could develop into the team’s franchise quarterback if he plays up to his potential.

But “if” is the key word there. Because Lock is not without his flaws.

He’s got to clean up his footwork in order to be the best passer he can be in terms of pass placement and touch. Lock also has to have a more consistent release point when he gets rid of the ball. He can make sidearm throws on the run, but he needs to do that when it’s necessary and not just randomly as it appears at times on film.

That’s not to say that Lock has elite level skill in certain parts of his game. He certainly does.

His arm strength is the first thing that stands out when watching him throw. He can zip the ball 70 yards down the field effortlessly. The ball comes out of hand quick and Lock can throw off his back foot while still fitting passes into tight windows. Working out in practice now with the Broncos, Lock feels good about his arm.

“My arm is definitely in good shape,” Lock said. “When I take a break and come back and throw, my arm will hurt. But if I constantly throw, I’ll stay in good shape for a long time. That’s what I was doing when I was back home, throwing with my quarterback coach Justin Hoover and getting me ready to come out here. It feels pretty fresh right now.”

Arm strength is what most anyone wants to discuss when talking about Lock. However, there are parts of Lock’s game that are underrated and more people need to know about it. Let’s take a look at the things Lock does best – that nobody talks about – and how that can greatly help him as a pro.

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Cool Under Fire

Lock is going to make mistakes, but the good thing is that he’s not timid after a play doesn’t go his way. I saw this several times on film during his college days at Missouri, and that has already showed up at Broncos OTAs this week.

On Monday, Lock fired a pass to the middle of the field that was picked off by rookie linebacker Josh Watson. It was a play that Lock felt he could make. His arm strength gives him an advantage, as he can fit passes into the smallest windows and that must’ve been what he was thinking about that play.

Instead, the defender picked him off and the offense lost momentum.

The offense stayed out there because it was practice and a few plays later, Lock made almost the same exact throw to the same exact spot on the field. Instead of the linebacker getting his hands on the rock, Lock was able to fit the pass into a tight window and showed no hesitancy of going back to the well, so to speak.

This is a great talent to have. I’ve seen too many quarterback (**cough** Case Keenum **cough** Trevor Siemian **cough**) that make a mistake and then never want to make that type of throw again. Too often, a quarterback will throw an interception and then start checking the ball down to safe, short throws.

Lock isn’t like that. He’ll keep firing even after making a bad throw and that’s a good sign for his future. He’s not going to be perfect, but he’s going to keep going after a defense.

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Instant Aggression

It doesn’t take much for Lock to get into “attack” mode as a passer. Looking at his film in college, it was easy to see that Lock came out firing.

In 2018, Lock had 28 passing touchdowns, 17 of which came in the first half of his games. Of those touchdowns, 14 of them came on first down.

Lock is tremendously aggressive as a passer. He wants to come out and set a tone early with his arm. Lock doesn’t need another part of the offense to set him up; he wants to lead the way with the passing game.

This mindset is a double-edged sword.

Lock is going to be aggressive on the field, but he has the show some patience off of it. He’s currently behind Joe Flacco and is looked at as the potential future franchise quarterback of the Broncos. There is zero quarterback controversy for the Broncos this year as Flacco looks light years ahead of any other passer on the field during OTAs. Lock knows he has a lot to learn.

“It’ll definitely be a little transition, but I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: If I’m going through this transition, I’m glad I can be behind Joe and hear what he has to say and learn from him. I’m excited to get in the room with him and learn from a guy that’s won a Super Bowl,” Lock said.

Lock can be aggressive, but it will require time before he can show that in the regular season.

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Speed Kills

When Lock is in attack mode, he needs to be aware of experienced defenders who can decipher quickly where he wants to go with the ball. It’s an adjustment the young quarterback knows he needs to make.

“There is a lot more speed out here,” Lock said. “I think you talk about the SEC being really fast. There is not much of a speed adjustment. Just the people are a little bit smarter at this level and they know how to get you.”

I’ve always said that players are used to going against speed when they come into the pros. The bigger adjustment comes from the discipline that NFL players play with. That discipline is something Lock will need to prepare for, even though he played in the SEC against a bunch of future NFL players.

It’s a great thing that Lock faced NFL-caliber competition in the SEC. It would be even better had he had better success against those opponents.

Against the SEC, Lock holds an 11-20 record. Against ranked opponents (all conferences), Lock had a 1-9 mark in college. The talent around Lock wasn’t the best, and he’s never thrown his teammates under the bus, but it’s easy to see from the film how Lock carried that team. And in the NFL, he should have much better players around him on both sides of the ball.

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Pass Placement

One thing that stands out about Lock is his ability to place passes where his receivers can do the most with the ball after the catch. Accuracy is one thing, but today’s college football is all about short passes and simple concepts where an average player can have outstanding accuracy because he’s not making complex throws.

Lock stands out when it comes to having a lack of “off target” passes.

In 2018, Lock ranked 13th in the FBS with 10.8 percent of his throws being categorized as off target. Such a throw is considered overthrown or underthrown. An off target throw can be a completion, but it’s a difficult catch and not likely to be maximized by yards after the catch.

The FBS average last year was 14.6 percent of passes being off target. By comparison, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, was fifth in the FBS with an off target percentage of 9.9.

Lock was among the best of all college football quarterbacks when it comes to pass placement. With weapons around him like Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, Lock could continue to have great success in that department when he gets his shot to play.

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Summary

Like Flacco, Lock is cool under fire. The defense can be swirling around him and it doesn’t seem to bother him. He also is not bothered when he makes a mistake and will maintain his aggression as a passer.

That aggression comes through immediately for Lock on the field and that could take some defenders by surprise, as that’s kind of rare for a young quarterback just learning the ropes in the NFL.

Lock has played against plenty of fast players in college, but he needs to get used to the increased discipline at the pro level in order to play up to his potential.

His pass placement is extraordinary and that perhaps is the best under-the-radar aspect to his game that Lock brings to the field.

Lock is more than just a big arm. He’s got more nuance to his game than some people realize. Putting it all together could make Lock the franchise quarterback the Broncos have desperately been searching for.