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Entering the 2018 college football season, Missouri’s Drew Lock was a popular choice as the top pro prospect at the most important position in sports. A prototypical build and big time arm aided Lock’s case, even as he prepped for yet another season in a wide open spread offense.

At the end of the day, making the throws asked of you is all one can do. How has Lock’s operation of the 2018 Missouri spread gone thus far? The stat sheet is promising, but only tells part of the story.

Lock’s line through three games against Tennessee-Martin, Wyoming and Purdue: 

78/113 passing (69.0%), 1062 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns and 1 interception. 

Now. With games against #2 Georgia, South Carolina and #1 Alabama on deck, is anyone going to *really* care about how well Lock played against Tennessee-Martin? It’s doubtful. These upcoming three games will be the biggest single referenced stretch of his pro evaluation.

Is he ready? We’ve charted Drew Lock’s two early out of conference FBS opponents (Wyoming and Purdue) to see how well he’s seeing the field and placing the ball.

The Early Returns?

He’s throwing the ball well down the field. On 12 pass attempts more than 20 yards downfield, Lock completed seven of them and had another two dropped by WR Emanuel Hall. (Both would have been touchdowns.)

Whoops! Speaking of touchdowns, three of Lock’s seven scoring passes in those games have come on tosses more than 20 yards downfield.

That highly touted big arm is coming in handy for Lock. Lock is able to push bucket throws down the field with effectiveness, as seen below. Not only is he dropping dimes, he’s hammering in throws through the gaps in zone coverage.

This throw from Lock against Purdue might be the prettiest toss he’s let rip so far in 2018. Traveling 21 yards down the field, he perfectly places the ball.

How about the velocity? Uh, yes! This was a laser beam from Lock, who did well to patiently allow his receiver’s post route to uncover behind the cornerback’s backpedal.

Appeasing Spread Concerns

Any time you get a spread quarterback, it’s difficult to judge their prospects. Derek Carr, Patrick Mahomes, Marcus Mariota and Baker Mayfield in recent years have all flourished at the college level from various spread concepts. Where does Lock fall on that spectrum?

The book has yet to be written. But the early returns in 2018 suggest Lock is more of a downfield passer than lazy perception of spread passing attacks could suggest. Lock has attempted 36 passes 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, which equates to 41% of his throws through the Wyoming and Purdue contests.

60 of Locks 88 total attempts (68%) were logged as “accurate” passes. It’s a number that can be improved upon, although those improvements will need to come in Lock’s weakest areas as a quarterback.

Work Yet To Be Done

I’ve seen little through these first few games that eases my mind regarding Lock’s outstanding issues. Too frequently rattled by pressure, Lock has some poor habits throwing around rushers. Ideally Lock uses his arm (and only arm) less as the season progresses.

Note how Hall has to ease up and square himself back to the football here? How about how Lock throws open his front hip and steps open instead of getting on top of his front leg to drive this throw? Lock has three and a half yards of space at the point of release which is too much to be fading away and not stepping to target.

This was a consistent theme for Drew Lock against pressure. It’s also going to be amplified as the SEC Conference schedule heats up.

Poor mechanics and accuracy is one thing. But poor decision making is something else all together. Lock was charted as making good decisions/targets on 75% of his pass attempts against Purdue and Wyoming.

And when dialing in on the minus decisions, some trends were present. Lock’s 22 poor targets yielded only one interception, but several put the ball in harm’s way. Going forward, Lock will need to be more confidence from the pocket.

An X-Factor Who Can Help

With a very skilled Tight End in Albert Okwuegbunam (see below), Lock would be well off using the middle of the field more.

At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Okwuegbunam can be a valuable target. His size can help Lock settle into the middle of the field. Just 13 of Lock’s 88 attempts have come between the hashes in his last two games. The team speed of SEC defenses will threaten those boundary throws more frequently. Lock can use the middle of the field and stress the safeties and linebackers with his best pass catcher.
Can Lock find the touch needed to make them pay? It’s another box yet to be checked. Game on, Drew Lock.