If I'm Drew Lock, my NFL decision is an easy one
My name is Connor O’Gara, not Drew Lock.
I have neither the ability to throw a pass to a streaking receiver, nor do I have any experience playing football beyond the freshman “B” team. I have no idea whether Lock’s financial situation dictates if he takes a first date to McDonald’s or if he’s more of a surf-and-turf guy. I know nothing about whether Lock enjoys school or if he counts down the days until he can be a real adult.
Lock, of course, has an adult decision to make. He can stay at Missouri one more year or he can go to the NFL. The Tigers quarterback will not be wrong in either choice that he makes. Either one can be justified.
Deciding to skip a year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft isn’t a no-brainer for everyone. For some, those miscellaneous factors come into play. Andrew Luck legitimately enjoyed going to Stanford, and after his redshirt sophomore season, he decided to wait on being the likely No. 1 overall draft pick. He bet on himself and it paid off.
It doesn’t always work out that way. Matt Barkley decided not to enter the NFL Draft and become a likely first-round pick. He then returned for his senior year at USC and he wound up being a 4th-round pick.
There are obviously no guarantees for quarterbacks or really any player. There’s no guarantee that Lock will make the decision that will allow him to maximize his potential as a quarterback at the next level.
But if we’re looking at this objectively, Lock has a whole lot more to gain from leaving Missouri for the NFL than he does if he chooses to return to school for another year.
For Missouri fans, that reality might be a gut punch. They just watched Lock set the SEC single-season record for passing touchdowns. The thought of him returning to Columbia is enough of a reason to be optimistic about a dazzling finish to 2018.
But here’s the thing — those are two of the big reasons the time for Lock to leave is now.
Statistically speaking, the odds of him improving or even repeating a season in which he threw for 43 touchdown passes and 3,695 yards seems unlikely. That was the case before Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel took the job at UCF. Yes, Lock said that won’t impact his decision. With a new offensive coordinator, it’s tough to picture a scenario in which Lock’s video game numbers improve.
And if you’re a senior quarterback, you better improve and stay healthy. The stigma against senior quarterbacks is real. The last FBS senior quarterback who was drafted in the first round was … E.J. Manuel in 2013. You know, the guy for whom the Buffalo Bills reached in a draft that had just one first-round quarterback.
Fair or not, there seems to be more doubt than ever about senior quarterbacks. As in, “why didn’t they come out last year?” Lock risks that possibility if he chooses to hold off until 2019.
Lock also risks losing all of this positive pre-draft hype he’s been generating. Former quarterbacks in the media like Trent Dilfer and Jordan Rodgers have been big-time Lock advocates:
— Tim McKernan (@tmckernan) December 6, 2017
Shouldn’t even matter. He has the skill set to play a long time. Can’t gain anything from another year in a new system. Whether it’s 2nd round or 7th round get into a system that you will be in for years, and get closer to that second contract. No brainer. https://t.co/Yu8MwhmCtI
— Jordan Rodgers (@JRodgers11) December 5, 2017
What Dan Patrick said last week probably carried the most weight of any of those comments. Patrick, who rarely floats out anything that could be construed as a hot take or gossip, offered up this on Lock:
Can something like that impact a decision? Absolutely. Pat Mahomes went from being a relatively unheralded prospect who played in an Air-Raid offense to being a top-10 pick. He, of course, also left after his junior season.
We don’t know yet if Lock’s stock can climb that high. A lot of that would depend on how he performs at the combine and what his pre-draft interviews are like. Those, as we know, are a big part of the equation when teams are considering their quarterback of the future.
They’ll also be mindful of any of the current skepticism about Lock. Some, like Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft scout Matt Miller, believe Lock should stay another year to develop his “shaky” pocket presence and decision-making. That’s certainly a fair critique. If Lock didn’t have any negatives, we’d be talking about him as the No. 1 overall pick.
My question is if those skills will improve significantly as a senior. With a new offensive coordinator — it would be his third in 4 years — what’s to say Lock is going to start going through his progressions quicker? His pocket presence looked fine in those last 9 games when he completed 61 percent of his passes and threw for 35 scores with just 7 interceptions in 291 attempts. Lock was only sacked 8 times in that stretch, too.
It’s true that projecting next-level success isn’t all about the college numbers. Some would argue those should be thrown out entirely. But if that was the case, seniors with a dip in production would never get penalized in the draft. That still happens.
That could happen to Lock if he chooses to go back to Missouri. He could ultimately decide that he doesn’t want to be the guy who gets picked behind Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and potentially others. If he’s going on surf-and-turf first dates and enjoying college, maybe Lock does stay in school.
All I know is that if I was forced to examine all of the factors working in my favor, my mind would’ve been made up yesterday. Opportunities are what you make of them, and to Lock’s credit, he made the most out of his opportunity at Mizzou.
It’s time for him to cash in.