When Drew Lock first signed with Missouri, you got the feeling that, with his size, arm strength and field sense, with his high-profile pedigree, maybe, just maybe, if everything went right, his stay in Columbia may only last three years before he fled for the NFL Draft.
An extremely strong set of preseason scrimmages furthered that sense. And, when Coach Gary Pinkel and Co. made the decision not to redshirt Lock, it was basically 2018 NFL Draft, here we come!
Then two losing seasons and a traumatic trip through his first year as a starter happened and, even though Lock broke out in a meaningful way as a sophomore, it seems like a bit of a longshot that he’ll split out after his junior season and enter the 2018 Draft.
But what if – just what if – Lock were to position himself as an early entry quarterback? What sort of season would he have to put together in 2017?
To try and answer that question, we looked back at the 34 early entry quarterbacks that came from FBS schools over the past 10 draft classes (2008 though 2017) to see what sort of seasons they put together before they split town.
Check them all out below – all together and split up by year – and we’ll reconvene after for some discussion about how Lock fits into the field.
Lock certainly fits in when it comes to Rivals rating coming out of high school.
The average early entrant over the past decade had a star rating of 3.91 and an average Rivals Rating of 5.8. Or, you know, Drew Lock (4-star, 5.8).
He’s got the experience factor down as well. Only two of the 34 were redshirt sophomores when they left. The other 32 were juniors like Lock.
Less than half -- 16 of the 34 (Brad Kaaya, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Christian Hackenberg, Paxton Lynch, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Smith, Tyler Bray, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Jimmy Clausen, Nate Davis, Josh Freeman, Matthew Stafford) -- had three years’ of starting experience like Lock will (should?) have by the end of the 2017 season.
So scouts will have more than enough college tape on which to go.
He’s also about as prolific passing as the 34 early entrants from the past 10 drafts, with his 283.3 pass yards per game last year outpacing the average earl entrant’s 270.6, even if his 23 passing touchdowns were a little under the average 27.
Here’s where we start getting into “needs improvement” territory, though.
That 54.6 completion percentage is 15 percent less than the average of 64.5. Only three of the previous 34 (Hackenberg, Jevan Snead and Xavier Lee) completed a lower percentage in his final college year.
That rating as well, 133.28, is 13 percent worse than the average early entrant rating of 153.94. Only Hackenberg, Snead, Lee, Barrett Trotter (a note: I was covering Auburn when he left early. He didn’t really think he was an NFL player, just had graduated already and wanted to get his football coaching career started early) and BLAINE GABBERT had worse ratings than Lock in the years before they declared.
So, if Lock is to jump into the class of the early entries, he’s going to have to complete more of his passes for a higher average per attempt. Throwing touchdowns at a higher rate wouldn’t hurt, either.
Oh, and one more thing. Missouri needs to start winning again.
The average early entrant’s team went 9-4 over the past 10 draft classes. Only six of them (DeShone Kizer, Mahomes, Smith, Bray, Brock Osweiler and Freeman) came from losing teams. And Osweiler’s, at least, made a bowl in his last season.
Another thing to consider: the 2018 quarterback draft class is pretty stout, especially when it comes to possible early entries.
You’ve got (possibly) USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, Boise State’s Brett Rypien and so on and so on and so on.
Each draft class in the past 10 had between one and six early entry quarterbacks. Taking passer rating alone from last year, there were 15 sophomores and two redshirt freshmen (all of whom will be draft-eligible in 2018) who had a higher rating than Lock.
Oh, one more thing. Lock needs to start performing better against better competition.
We took the top six defenses Missouri faced last year based on final national defense ranking (No. 5 Florida, No. 10 LSU, No. 16 Georgia, No. 64 Vanderbilt, No. 66 South Carolina and No. 73 West Virginia) and compared his numbers against them to the bottom six defenses Missouri faced (No. 75 Arkansas, No. 83 Eastern Michigan, No. 85 Kentucky, No. 95 Tennessee, No. 96 Middle Tennessee and No. 1 Billion Delaware State).
The performance gulf was, shall we say, significant.
You put two of those “6 Worst” halves — his numbers against the bottom six defenses Missouri faced -- together to make a whole season, and you’ve got a very compelling early entry candidate: 250-of-426, 3882 yards, 32 TD, 4 INT, 158.14 rating.
You put two of those “6 Best” halves — his numbers against the top six defenses — together to make a whole season, and you’ve got a very compelling entry of a guy who is fighting for his job: 224-of-442, 2916 yards, 14 TD, 16 INT, 109.31 rating.
As the competition steps up, so must Lock’s game.
Based on recent history, Lock has the pedigree and the bulk numbers to make the jump early. But, if he’s going to position himself to be a first-rounder (and, if you’re not going to, why would you leave early?), he’s going to need better efficiency numbers, better performances against top defenses and a more successful team around him.