NFL Film Breakdown: A Look at Drew Lock, His Potential, and Some Concerning Trends

If you aren’t strapped in already, it’s time to buckle up for Drew Lock’s wild ride. The Broncos are 6-3 in games that Lock has played in their entirety as the starter but he has just as many games this year with multiple interceptions as he does games where he’s thrown a touchdown. It’s important to remember through this all, that Lock is still incredibly raw and has only played nine full games in his career but it’s worth looking at his upside and potential areas of concern because Lock has the talent to elevate the Broncos to wins but he also has some mechanical and decision-making issues that can lead to game-changing mistakes.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

DENVER, COLORADO – NOVEMBER 01: Quarterback Drew Lock #3 of the Denver Broncos looks to throw for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of the game at Empower Field At Mile High on November 01, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Drew Lock does not like pressure. Against blitzes, Lock has just a 47.7% completion percentage and has thrown three of his five interceptions on the year. When teams don’t bring extra men, Lock has completed 62.6% of his throws and has thrown four touchdowns to two interceptions. This disparity can also be seen with his time spent in the pocket. On throws that happen within 2.5 seconds, his completion percentage goes up by 23%, his QB rating is 28 points higher, and he’s attempting throws further downfield. All this is to say that Lock is at his best as a rhythm thrower. He has an unreal arm that allows him to hit receivers in stride and if he’s throwing on time as receivers get out of their break, he’s almost impossible to stop and the film and numbers both back it up.

When Lock can key off of one defender, he plays much more decisively. The Broncos are running a drive concept here against the Patriots which creates a high-low read for Lock. You have a shallow drag from the #1 receiver, and a dig behind it from the #3. The Patriots play a lot of man coverage and you can see at the snap of the ball that Lock locates the blitz from the linebacker and then immediately goes to check if anyone is under the dig being run by his #3 receiver. With man coverage, there’s nobody to get into the passing lane, and Lock is able to hit the top of his drop, drive off his back foot and deliver the ball in stride to his tight end.

Lock is still young and can have some trouble diagnosing things so if you simplify his reads and let him play fast, he’s going to play much more efficiently. The Broncos will use some motions or release the running back to help him read off of linebackers and throw off their movements. The Broncos here run a man in motion and pull the running back across the formation in pass protection which let’s Lock read the flowing linebackers and attack the vacated space in the middle. Again, he gets to the top of his drop and is able to hit his receiver in stride.

The Broncos are starting to figure this out too. After a rough first quarter against the Chargers, the Broncos started to dial up some simple reads for Lock and while they didn’t manifest into points on those drives, Lock slowly become more decisive and accurate as his confidence built into the 3rd quarter. What’s most encouraging is that Lock is growing and learning on the job.

In the first half, Denver called another high low concept with a quick hook at 6 yards and a dig wrapping in behind it. The read on this is to watch the linebacker with inside leverage. If he stays up on the hook at six yards, the quarterback should throw behind him as the dig is wrapping around him. If he drops underneath the dig, you throw the quick hook. Here, Lock misses the dig and instead checks it down late to the running back. If he throws with anticipation and waits a beat, the dig is open. Instead, he gets bouncy in the pocket, his base starts to deteriorate, and he throws an inaccurate check-down.

Fast forward to the 4th quarter now and the Broncos call the same concept to the top of the screen. This time, Lock is dialed in and has learned from his first rep earlier in the game. The linebacker steps up to the hook and Lock hits his back foot on rhythm and fires the ball to hit his receiver in stride for the score to pull the game to 27-24.

When he isn’t on rhythm though, he has a huge issue with pocket movement. He will drift in the pocket and into pressure, bail from clean pockets and get into trouble, and his drop will often take him too deep which allows pass rushers to take easier angles to impact his throws. To top that all off, his mechanics when he moves tend to get sloppier and he has trouble getting consistent footwork and hip rotation. As we talked about before, when Lock throws after 2.5 seconds he is way less accurate and is more prone to mistakes.

On a four-man pressure here, Lock drops his eyes and misses four separate receivers that are breaking open because of a stunt to his blindside. Lock is initially looking at the deep curl to the bottom of the screen and wants to take a deep shot over the top to the post which is coming across the field with the curl holding the corner from getting underneath it. The play works perfectly and if Lock stands strong in the pocket it’s an easy big gain to the post and he can even throw the curl if he wants. But the movement on the line scares him out of the pocket and he immediately comes off those reads to check it down. To take the next step he’s just got to be able to stand in and make throws and not be so skittish in the pocket. He’s leaving tons of plays on the field because he’s feeling pressure that isn’t there.

What makes it worse is Lock will often create some of this pressure himself by dropping too far back. Unless you’re working a play-action bootleg, normal shot gun drop backs should be at about 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Lock’s skip drop he takes after his initial punch step will often take him to 10-11 yards behind the line of scrimmage though. This makes the offensive tackles lives incredibly difficult because they can’t wash edge rushers behind the pocket anymore since Lock is so deep. It also creates pressure in Lock’s face and gets him out of rhythm on his throws which causes inconsistent footwork. He just flat out cannot handle pressure. On this play he misses a touchdown down the sideline because his drop is so deep he feels pressure and tries to check it down. If he climbs or drops to 8 yards, he can hitch and deliver a strike down the sideline for a touchdown. Instead he’s falling away from his throw with pressure in his face which causes the ball to go high for an incompletion on a check-down.

Lock takes a little longer to process things than you’d like and that’s why you get some of his wild variability. When he takes longer to process, his feet get sloppy, he throws late, and gets himself and the team into trouble. He can lock onto receivers which pulls deep defenders that way and causes turnover worthy plays as he waits for things to open up instead of throwing with anticipation or getting to his next read.

Things are slowing down for Lock though. He’s starting to build comfortability with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, understand concepts and defender keys, and has made progress in the underneath game. To really unleash his potential though, he has to translate that to seeing the entire field and to being able to stand strong in the pocket. Even with those things, he still makes some amazing throws and the talent is clearly there. Drew Lock has the potential to carry a team on his back but he also makes a few decisions a game that put them in a disadvantageous position. One thing’s for sure though, he makes the Broncos exciting and as he gets more and more experience, the Lock rollercoaster may have a lot more ups than downs and if things start to really click, we’ll all be along for the ride.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Drew Lock’s Wild Ride

            Drew Lock brought life to a 3-8 Broncos team that was struggling on offense and looked dead in the water. Lock went 4-1 as the starter, threw for 1,020 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions with a 64.1% completion percentage. While he does have a huge arm, Lock also struggled with accuracy with only 73% of his throws being on target. Despite the lack of consistent accuracy, Lock certainly showed signs of supreme talent and arm strength. He could consistently fit balls into tight windows, throw off platform, and could get away with bad mechanics because of his arm talent. The talent gives him a shot, but there is a ton of things he needs to clean up. Let’s take a look at how Drew Lock finished the season and his prospects at being an NFL starter for the Denver Broncos.

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 22: Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) runs the ball during the third quarter of the game on Sunday, December 22, 2019 at Empower Field at Mile High. The Denver Broncos hosted the Detroit Lions for the game. (Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post)

            When watching Lock, there’s a few big things that jump out. First, as mentioned above, is his arm talent. He can make absolutely any throw you ask of him and shows the ability to add touch and take heat off of the ball. However, everything else is a concern. He’s uncomfortable in the pocket, drifts into pressure, has inconsistent footwork and drop technique, tends to hold the ball, is slow on his reads, and has wildly inconsistent accuracy as a result.

            We’ll start with some of Lock’s most impressive throws. Arm strength and talent can really be seen when a quarterback is running or rolling out to their left. It forces them to get their hips back around, close their shoulder to the receiver, and throw the ball accurately while moving laterally. Here you can see just that even if some of these fundamentals aren’t there. He doesn’t close his shoulder to the throw but has good hip whip and great arm strength to put the ball on target.

            Here again is another great example of bad mechanics and fundamentals, but a great arm. Lock is backpedaling into his drop just like Aaron Rodgers tends to do and is also drifting right into pressure. He walks himself into the left tackle and makes the throw much harder for himself. He also stares down the receiver the entire time and doesn’t get his feet set. All that being said, he still is able to throw an absolutely perfect ball before the safety closes on it for a huge gain.

            Lock also has a penchant for making plays happen on scrambles. He has decent enough athleticism to escape the pocket and make teams pay on the ground but he can also throw at awkward angles, is able to throw with pressure in his face, and does a solid job of keeping his eyes up when scrambling.

            He’s even shown good anticipation on routes by throwing before receivers have even made their break. Though he’s wildly inconsistent, he has at least displayed that he is capable of quickly reading a defense, the leverage of the defender, and throwing a ball that is almost impossible to defend against.

            But for every throw he makes like the one above, he’ll look at that same exact concept and decide not to throw it.

            As mentioned before, he also has a tendency to stare down receivers or stay on them for way too long. Combined with his accuracy issues, this can cause sacks, passes to be broken up and intercepted, and lead to hospital balls where he’s putting his receivers in a spot to get hurt.

            You can see the most egregious case below where he’s looking to his right the entire way, double clutches, and then throws the ball anyways as the safety reads his eyes the entire way for the interception.

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            Everything is just a beat late with Lock. Even when he sees someone open, it can take him an extra tick to process and get the ball out. You can see in the plays below that he’s registering and staring down receivers that are open, but holding the ball for an extra hitch or patting the ball before throwing.

            He can also tend to show a lack of understanding of where defenders are or are going to be and got away with a number of lucky throws throughout the season that really should have been interceptions. Flat defenders routinely drop under deeper routes and give him issues.

            So now he’s got issues holding onto the ball, issues missing defenders dropping under his routes, will stare down receivers, and can be slow to process. In a vacuum, any of these things alone can be fixable, but the problems continue for Lock. His accuracy is a huge issue and crops up in every game he plays. While he has supreme arm talent, his pocket movement and foot mechanics ultimately make him a wildly inconsistent thrower of the ball which is not sustainable throughout the course of a season. Below you can see a perfectly clean pocket but Lock backpedals at the top of his throw which causes him to throw falling away and forces the ball to die on him, eliminating the potential for yards after the catch for a wide open receiver.

            Even when he’s throwing in rhythm, he can have trouble driving off his back foot and following through. A lot of the time he ends up falling away and relying on pure arm for ball placement. Here he puts the ball on the back hip of the receiver running a slant. If that’s out in front it’s likely a touchdown.

            His panic in the pocket also takes him off of reads that come open and forces him to check the ball down. He struggles to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball consistently. Once he’s moving around and outside the pocket, he has no trouble dealing with pressure but often feels ghosts around him when trying to stay inside the tackles. Below the Raiders are running Tampa 2 or a variation of Cover 4 and the Broncos have a great play dialed up for it. With the middle linebacker sinking deep under the post, this leaves a big hole for the dig underneath him. Lock, however, immediately tries to bail from the pocket and doesn’t stand in and deliver to the dig as it is breaking open underneath the middle linebacker.

            The last gif here shows it all. Lock is nervous in the pocket, stares down an open receiver, doesn’t throw it, escapes and then throws an inaccurate ball to the sideline.

            Does Drew Lock have the talent to succeed in the NFL? Absolutely. But he is extremely raw and inconsistent in his footwork, delivery of the ball, pocket presence, and ability to read defenses. While he’s only started five NFL games, I would not be at all surprised to see the Broncos go with a different quarterback at the start of the 2020 season and if he does start, I’d expect to see some super high variability from him week-to-week with interception numbers in the high teens. That doesn’t seem like the type of quarterback that would fit a team run by Vic Fangio who would hope to rely on good defense and consistent if not flashy offense that doesn’t lose them games. Lock is a guy who would benefit having a veteran backup like Flacco or even learning behind a stop-gap that can help him along while he develops.

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