Bowl games — who needs ’em, right? It’s just another pointless exhibition match between two schools that barely know each other where the universities and athletic programs benefit a lot more than the players actually do. What’s the point, especially if you’re considered an NFL Draft prospect?
Well, sometimes these bowl games can actually help you as a prospect — I know, crazy opposite from what I’ve been writing on here over the last month or so.
In all seriousness, bowl games can serve a propose, even for the prospect players. Yes, in the long run, when it comes to your current college football team, you could make a case that they don’t mean much. You can also make a case that suiting up again when you’re five months away from the biggest pay day of your life is an unnecessary risk. But, on the other hand, this is one more game you get to play, and that means it’s one more chance to put good tape out there and impress some NFL folks.
That’s what Missouri quarterback Drew Lock did in the Liberty Bowl.
Though it did come in a five-point loss, Lock finished the game 23-for-38 with 373 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 30 yards on the ground on six carries.
Right off the bat Lock’s arm strength — his greatest attribute — was poppin’.
The play above came very early in the game, and as the 2018 season has come to pass, it has proved to be Lock’s bread and butter. Play action with a go route assigned to Emanuel Hall; Lock just throws it up there as far as he can and it usually lands on target.
When it comes to throwing the deep ball, few quarterbacks in this class can do it better than Lock. It is just so natural for him.
What makes Lock such a tough evaluation, though, is the rate of success he has doing unorthodox things.
Lock’s natural style is to fall away from passes. His arm is so strong that he knows he can zip passes to where they need to go without full stepping into throws. That leads to bad habits, but those bad habits don’t get him in as much trouble as you would think.
It’s hard to think this style of quarterback-ing is sustainable at the rate that Lock executes it at, but it is impressive, for the time being, nonetheless.
Lock’s ability to drop passes right into receivers in stride while falling backwards and in less-than-ideal passing situations come as both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, you like the fact that Lock can succeed outside of structure, whether that be on the run or just when avoiding pressure in the pocket. But the negative is that he has a tendency to do it when he doesn’t have to.
It’s an interesting situation to be in as a scout and evaluator, because you see the tools, and even more than that, you see how bad habits have actually made him more comfortable on the run and outside of the pocket. So you have to think that if you can teach Lock to just be more poised and fundamental when he is in the pocket, then you might have an all-around quarterback who has the arm strength plus a good comfort level to deal with pressure.
Make no mistake, though, Lock will have to be more consistent with stepping into throws and getting the most of his arm at the next level. Though those floating passes can reach their target now in college football, NFL defensive backs have much greater recovery speed, and those floating passes will be interceptions more than they are right now.
As the game was coming to a close, Lock had to give us one more beauty of a deep pass down the field, one that traveled 45 yards in the air and went 90 yards for the score.
This is why you draft Drew Lock.
I don’t think there will be a consensus on where you draft Drew Lock. I really don’t. I think some teams will just look at what he is capable of and see a first round arm — perhaps a team pulls the trigger there. But I’m sure other teams will look at all the changes you’re going to have to make to his fundamentals contrast to what is natural for him right now and see more of a project than a first-year starer.
Regardless of which side of the fence a team is on, Lock made good on his last game before taking off for the pros. In the Liberty Bowl, he put a few throws on tape that will be in his 2018 highlight film for teams to see and enjoy.
So, for Lock, the bowl game was worth it.