Short answer, yes. Now before we get into the specifics, let’s talk about the pieces that are still unknown and the pieces that were always known.
We always knew that Lock possessed the athleticism to handle the boot game and escape the pocket. In his first two starts we have seen this play out. We have also seen Denver scheming a lot of “simple” into their game plan. Shanny does this for Jimmy G. as well so it’s not a huge alteration to protect the rookie. It’s that offense. You can say definitively that Lock is for real, but you have to realize he is still a kid. The Chargers are a very stagnant base zone team. His arm talent makes that a good match up. He got greedy once and Perryman got him but otherwise he had a good start and a mediocre finish. The Texans have sadly let Vrabel take the wheel with their defensive structure. With that, we’ve seen a lot of cushion on the boundaries and too many easy opens throughout. I’ve stated many times that Vrabel’s defense can easily be summed up as “guarding the bleachers.” It’s not Bettcher awful but it’s poor and it works versus very few schemes. Denver is not one of those schemes. Lock has faced two very friendly match ups that present a lot of easy opens and easy reads. His results haven’t proven much in those two games. In my pre-draft write ups on Lock, I wasn’t concerned about his anticipation or ability to read the field. We knew those aspects of his game were not plus and were not behind. I saw 2017 Lock becoming Matt Hasselbeck. He made sound decisions and good reads. He showed enough poise in the pocket to kill plays much like you’ve seen during Matt Ryan’s whole career. He had a good arm and could make the throws required on platform. We haven’t seen him challenged enough to make a new revelation about the mental side of Lock’s game. At this time, it looks similar to what it did in college. Solid. Being young, facing teams who play more man and throw more games at him will be the test he has to pass as he ages. There will be struggles, but for now, he’s succeeding when he should.
You may be wondering, if we can’t make a conclusive decision on that part of his game how can you say he is for real?
In 2017 Lock was a very solid QB. His base was basic. He didn’t stride into his throws, he either timing tapped his front foot or he rock stepped into his throws. “THIS IS NOT IDEAL!” A lot of QB’s do this and it works just fine. It’s not optimal because it wastes torque but it worked for him. He attacked vertically and threw a gorgeous deep ball. He showed a plus arm but it wasn’t elite. He had solid accuracy and touch. Then a new coach was brought in to improve Lock and make him “PRO-STYLE.” I would like someone to explain succinctly what pro-style means in today’s NFL. Simply hearing that prior to 2018 made me concerned for Lock.
That gut feeling was 100% correct.
In 2018 Lock was taking a large stride step into this throws. He was whipping his arm through throws and his velocity was WAY up. His touch and accuracy also tanked. The main culprit for this was the stride step. The timing on his stride step was off. Stepping into the throw should elevate torque, but in Lock’s case it threw his timing off and the torque didn’t transfer through his hips. His base torque actually decreased and he compensated by overusing his arm. That’s what killed his accuracy and touch. Accuracy does not come from a throwing motion that is off kilter. Touch isn’t possible in an overtaxed arm. Lock had both negatives going against him. Pro-style! Even worse, his coach put an emphasis on the back shoulder throw which Lock did more often then he should have done. The new mechanics threw off his timing and he was often late to the deep ball or was inaccurate on the back shoulder ball. It killed one of his best weapons. You know, pro-style! I had hoped that he would get some time on the NFL sidelines and put the genie back in the bottle. That he would throw away the new mechanics that made him a QB with fleeting moments of flash and a complete lack of substance. That he would revert back to his baseline self. At Lock’s Pro-day you could see that he had already started to scrap the big stride on his throwing motion. That made me a bit less concerned. However, when you put your QB through 3 sets of mechanics in 3 years the results may vary. Usually bad. I was hopeful he would just go back to 2017 and he would be a capable game manager and a low level starting QB.
That did not happen and frankly, that is a stunning development!
By now you’ve heard of the name Tom House. He is the dude. He is a QB consultant who has worked with the best of the best. He stresses wrist flick and hip rotation (Dak’s silly looking warm up drills) with the QBs he trains. There is a lot more to it, but those are the key traits that you see clearly on game day. He creates ball spinners. He unlocks adaptable mechanics. He is the dude. He apparently isn’t the only dude. Jordan Palmer is also a QB consultant and has a HUGE success story unfolding before our very eyes.
His name, you guessed it. Drew Lock.
(Now I want to add this caveat. I’m not certain that Jordan Palmer has been working with Lock to fix his mechanics or if that heavy lifting is being done by Scangarello and staff. I do not have knowledge of the actual role the parties involved play. I’m assuming it is Palmer. It’s typical of his role but it’s also possible that it’s the OC/QB coach)
What is different? A few “small” tweaks that are making a world of difference. First, Drew Lock was a miserable QB on the move. Not only in 2018. Always and Miserable. You still see the bugs being worked out of the system but a legitimate change has been made. First, throwing off his back foot. Drew had always been a QB who backpedaled into his back foot throw and it regularly put him off balance. This is why he was inaccurate. Thing is, a number of QBs do this and it works for them. It didn’t work for Lock. Lock is now throwing off a “post step.” (My wording, it may not be their terminology.) If you think about a typical throw, the foot that would step into the throw (plant foot) is instead planted in the ground and used to thrust the QB backwards. This generates torque. Lock now post steps, straightening his body up and uses the backwards torque generated to flip his hips. This generates all the lower body torque he needs and the rest of his throw is done with his arm whip and wrist flick. This change has made him balanced on back foot throws and his accuracy has jumped up dynamically. There are a number of QBs who use this technique. It works for some. In Drew Lock the change has been seismic. It is also being used on his throws on the move. Instead of throwing on the run, Lock is now settling his feet and using a skip step or post step to balance his body. He is much more controlled on the move. You can see his skip step on the Chargers highlights 6:29 in the 1Q 3rd and 2 and 0:21 in the 1Q 3rd and G. These plays made a huge impact on the game. They extended the drive and put 7 on the board. Failing on either removes points. These are the dynamic plays amidst chaos that have held back Lock in the past. You can see the post step (although it’s switch-foot) 7:29 4Q 2nd and 6. This one gets 5 yards out of dead play. As I said, there are bugs being worked out of the system. You can see the post foot wandering and the hip flip varying on a number of plays. When it’s done right, it is working. When it’s done to a lesser degree it’s still an adventure. The key though, is that it’s now a part of his game. This didn’t exist in him before. Adding that is not a regular happenstance. This makes Lock a much higher grade on the adaptable mechanics scale. This will allow Lock more space to function in a decaying pocket. This will allow him to function in the boot game. It will greatly increase his completion probability in chaos. This makes him a far better QB.
He’s also improved on platform. 2018’s big stride is all but gone. He is almost completely back to the rock step or timing step of 2017. It’s not perfect yet, he has overstepped at times (usually when stepping left) and each and every time he’s missed his mark. I expected him to go back to this base. What I did not expect is that he would keep his velocity up by adding torque in other areas. Drew is doing a much better job of generating torque from his hip flip and his shoulder drive. Especially his shoulder drive. On certain plays it almost looks forced. He’s REALLY exerting in his shoulder drive on the throws he wants to spice up. This is a fantastic development. It’s not flawless, or morphed to its completion but it’s a noticeable, fairly consistent, change. 2017 Lock didn’t have a bazooka for a right arm. 2018 Lock wowed with his arm when it hit the mark. 2019 Lock still has the 2018 velocity but he’s throwing the ball with his hips and shoulder to a much higher degree. This is freeing up his arm and allowing him to hold his velocity in the elite category without pissing away his accuracy or touch.
This is highly uncommon. Everyone points to Brady. Brady didn’t change much. His wrist flick was horrible in college and the ball would open up on him when he threw it down field. He elevated his wrist flick a large degree but the rest was there. People point to Dak this year. Yes the hip flip is a bit better and the wrist is a bit better but the loop is still pronounced and he hasn’t blossomed to the degree that he is given credit. The offense is blossoming and he’s more or less the same guy. QBs don’t improve their mechanics dramatically overnight. You see small incremental changes over years of work. Most don’t change much at all. They are what you drafted. There are far more failures on the path to mechanics alteration than success stories.
But Broncos fans, sit down. You’ll need to be seated when I say this. Elway, got one right!
In summation: I was right in saying that 2017 Drew Lock deserved an early 2nd round grade. I was right in saying that Drew Lock would be a capable starting QB if he reverted back to 2017 form. I was right in saying that 2018 Drew Lock had to scrap 2018.
I never saw this coming. Not at all. They took a guy who had a great base in 2017. Screwed him up royally in 2018. Took a hammer to him, shattered him into pieces, and put them back together perfectly in 2019. The concerns I had about him busting due to mechanical overhauls are gone. The fears that he wouldn’t return to 2017 form are gone. He’s everything he was in 2017 and then some.
Denver, you have a franchise starting QB. He’s now capable of being one of the top 16 QBs in the league. Turns out, you stole him in the draft and if I could rewrite the 2019 NFL Draft, this Drew Lock would grade higher than Daniel Jones and Josh Allen from 2017. They both went top 7 even though I had them in the early 20s. Send your X-mas cards, blessings and well wishes to Jordan Palmer because this outcome just doesn’t happen. Bronco’s fans should also hope that this transformation is due to Lock’s work with Palmer. If it is not, teams inside the NFL will know and you’ll be looking for a new OC in 2020. The consultant or coach who helped this transition take place has earned a big feather in their cap. Again, this outcome is rare and it doesn’t just happen.
Drew Lock is a unicorn and this unicorn is for real.