So much of Missouri’s hopes this year are pinned on two things: Drew Lock’s right arm and brain. How well will he adapt to the “pro-style” tweaks (i.e. more reads, more routes, more throws) that new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has installed or is installing? If he does well with it, Mizzou will have a lovely year, and Lock will quite possibly be the highest QB taken in next year’s NFL draft.
I like Lock’s mechanics, he has a tight delivery and for the most part he shows a quick delivery. He needs to improve with his decision making as he will throw into tight coverage at times. The Mizzou offense had a lot of half-field reads under former offensive coordinator Josh Huepel, but we can’t fault Lock for that; he has no say in the offense he plays in. [...]
It also will be interesting to see how the offense evolves and how Lock adjusts to the system that’s being run this season by new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley, who spent the past few seasons as a wide receivers coach with the Dallas Cowboys, after Heupel left to take the UCF head-coaching job.
That piece, from Pro Football Weekly’s Greg Gabriel, talks about Lock needing to raise his completion rate to 62-63 percent and whatnot, but honestly, I don’t feel that’s particularly important. Completion rate was officially broken as an evaluation tool when Josh Allen was picked in the top 10 this past April.
We know Lock’s got the arm talent...
The nation’s elite college quarterbacks are showing off their skills right now at the Manning Passing Academy, sponsored by @thibodauxreg. Which one is most impressive? Draft analyst @MikeDetillier says Drew Lock from Missouri. Here’s why: pic.twitter.com/zLC9K0GdHT— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) June 23, 2018
...but we do need to see further improvement from Lock in terms of efficiency and accuracy, and for a couple of reasons. It will help his NFL stock, sure, but it will also help Mizzou account for a likely drop-off in third-and-long production.
Lock was a little too good on third-and-long last year.
Missouri's Drew Lock converted a 1st down or TD on 35.7% of his third-and-long pass attempts, the top rate in the SEC in 2017 pic.twitter.com/cB89JmlGCu— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) June 22, 2018
Lock converted on third-and-long 36 percent of the time, tops in the SEC. Having a laser arm, a good tight end, and a couple of good deep threats will obviously help in that regard. But really, he was probably a little too successful, and it probably won’t continue.
Using CFB Stats, I looked at the best year-to-year passer ratings on third-and-long. (Well, since their stats are categorized pretty tightly, I looked at third-and-7 to 9. The sample size on third-and-10+ is pretty small.) For my sample, I looked at the five best QBs who a) played on a power conference team and b) returned the next season (or a season after that, if they transferred).
Best QBs on third-and-long
|Year||Player (Team)||Rating||Rating (Y+1)|
|Year||Player (Team)||Rating||Rating (Y+1)|
|2013||Kevin Hogan (Stanford)||217.93||142.65|
|2013||Marcus Mariota (Oregon)||208.62||200.52|
|2013||Nick Marshall (Auburn)||201.83||129.50|
|2013||Sam Richardson (Iowa St.)||182.90||121.13|
|2013||Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech)||175.81||188.23|
|2014||J.T. Barrett (Ohio State)||281.25||99.25|
|2014||Deshaun Watson (Clemson)||274.15||155.47|
|2014||Cody Kessler (USC)||229.84||160.61|
|2014||Dak Prescott (MSU)||217.38||152.74|
|2014||Justin Thomas (GT)||216.00||65.70|
|2015||DeShone Kizer (ND)||223.91||204.37|
|2015||Patrick Mahomes II (TT)||200.72||164.68|
|2015||Kyle Allen (A&M)||199.71||97.46|
|2015||Baker Mayfield (OU)||188.23||137.44|
|2015||Luke Falk (Wazzu)||161.27||168.05|
|2016||Josh Rosen (UCLA)||183.64||121.43|
|2016||Brandon Dawkins (Arizona)||172.58||66.99|
|2016||Luke Falk (Wazzu)||168.05||99.13|
|2016||Jake Bentley (SC)||162.13||102.73|
|2016||Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin)||158.91||152.67|
|2017||Drew Lock (Mizzou)||232.66||?|
|2017||Brandon Wimbush (ND)||209.66||?|
|2017||Trace McSorley (PSU)||208.03||?|
|2017||Jake Fromm (UGA)||173.82||?|
|2017||K.J. Costello (Stanford)||161.60||?|
Lock’s passer rating on third-and-7-9 was 232.66, the third-highest of any player in this sample, behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in 2014. Of the 10 players who posted a passer rating of 200 or more one year, only two duplicated the feat the next (Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in 2014 and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in 2016). About six to seven maintained a solid rating on third-and-long, and only a couple bottomed out (Barrett and Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas).
All in all, the correlation between the players’ big years and their following seasons is a bout 0.09. In other words, there is no correlation, and Lock probably isn’t going to be as dynamite in these situations, even if he remains solid. So if Mizzou isn’t going to convert as many third-and-longs, the Tigers will have to rely on not creating so many in the first place. And along with a sturdy run game, the onus for that will indeed fall back onto Lock’s accuracy and awareness.
I’ve said it all offseason, but the one thing I know for sure about 2018 is that we’ll find out exactly how much Lock can process and execute. If we’re happy about that answer, we’ll probably be pretty happy about 2018, too.