Many people believed the Broncos would take Drew Lock in the 2019 NFL draft. Nobody thought it would happen with Denver’s third pick. Broncos president of football operations John Elway stopped Lock’s slide on Friday by trading up to the no. 42 pick in the draft, and the Broncos’ quarterback drought may be over.
While Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones (!), and Dwayne Haskins all went in the top 15 on Thursday, Lock’s name was surprisingly not called. Denver was a popular destination for Lock because Elway has a type when it comes to quarterbacks—tall, athletic, rocket arm—and Lock fits it perfectly. The Broncos traded down with the Steelers to go from no. 10 to no. 20 and then grabbed Iowa tight end Noah Fant at that spot. Lock, who attended the draft and was watching from the green room, fell all the way out of the first round. A run on cornerbacks and offensive lineman pushed him from the 30s into the 40s, and when Denver came up on the clock at 41, it seemed too good to be true that Lock was still waiting. But the Broncos drafted Kansas State tackle Dalton Risner instead. Risner over Lock was a surprise, but it was also a sleight of hand. The Broncos promptly traded up with the Bengals for the no. 42 overall pick and grabbed Lock.
The Broncos’ search for a quarterback post-Peyton Manning has become a running joke which peaked with Elway saying earlier this year that the newly acquired Joe Flacco was “just getting into his prime.” But Elway has been consistent in insisting that the Broncos are retooling, never rebuilding, and he does not have the patience for a project quarterback (as the Paxton Lynch debacle showed). That won’t be an issue for Lock, who has embraced being the most experienced quarterback in the 2019 draft.
Lock was a four-year starter at Missouri, and in 2017 he was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. That year, which was his third as a starter, Lock led the country in touchdown passes (44), and finished fourth in yards per attempt (9.5) and in passer rating (165.7). But as a senior in 2018, all of those numbers dropped off. He threw 16 fewer passing touchdowns, lost 1.5 yards per attempt, and chipped nearly 20 points off his passer rating from his junior year into his senior year. That dip in production may be one of the reasons he fell to the second round. (That, and also that NFL coaches told him at the Senior Bowl to “cut his bieber hair,” and based on the photos of him at the draft, he did not.)
Drew Lock, who was projected to be the No. 1 overall pick by many at the start of the college football season, told @PATRIOTSdotCOM that he’d rather go No. 32 to a good team than No. 1 to a bad team. He wasn’t taken last night. pic.twitter.com/BB4eZzNXmA— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 26, 2019
Lock, who looks like the third Franco brother, has the biggest arm in the draft class. He’s been compared to Jay Cutler for trusting his ability to squeeze balls into tight (and sometimes nonexistent) windows, even when he is under pressure or scrambling. His arm is so strong that he can often make those tough plays happen, but it’s harder to rely solely on arm strength at the NFL level, when every defensive back is faster, and the schemes are more complicated. Lock has the physical ability to be a top-tier starter, but the footwork, accuracy, and decision-making Lock demonstrated in college are not consistent enough to be successful in the NFL. Yet there’s reason to believe he can improve on all three. In Lock’s time at Missouri, he went through two head coaches and three offensive coordinators, so it’s fair to attribute some of his unease to the constant shuffling on the coaching staff. It’s also catnip for an NFL team to hear a talented player was poorly coached and they can correct his mistakes, and it will fall on offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello to turn Lock into a top-tier passer.
With last year’s second-rounder Courtland Sutton, emerging receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick, running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Smith, plus tight end Jeff Heuerman, the Broncos have a talented young core of skill players for Lock to target, and Risner can slide in alongside free agent tackle Ja’Wuan James, who is perhaps the best tackle signed in free agency this year. Lock has the experience Elway is looking for in a poised quarterback, and he could either push Flacco for the Week 1 starting job, replace him midseason, or take over next year.
The last time Elway built the Broncos into a contender, he did it in free agency by getting Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, and Aqib Talib. When the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2016 and Manning retired, there was a wandering of the QB desert: Brock Osweiler, Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Osweiler again, Case Keenum, and most recently the trade for Flacco. Our apologies go out to Flacco, who preferred the Broncos take a win-now player in 2019. Be careful what you wish for.
It took Elway some time, but he may have finally found a quarterback that is part of Denver’s future, rather than one that addresses its immediate short-term needs. He has already surrounded that quarterback with a young, talented offense built through the draft, and that may be a sign his strategy was wiser than we thought. Denver may soon be one of the most dynamic offenses in football. All they need to do now is get Lock to cut his hair.