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We’ll find out exactly what Drew Lock is capable of in 2018

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Drew Lock’s accuracy will need to improve this fall, both to impress pro scouts and to avoid third-and-longs.

Missouri v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

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...

...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.

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.