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3 & Out with Derrik Klassen: A deep dive into Drew Lock

What should Broncos Country look for over the next month with Drew Lock at quarterback?

Denver Broncos vs Cleveland Browns
Can Drew Lock prove he’s the guy?
Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

If you’ve kept up with the 3 and Out series, you’ll know I spoke with Derrik Klassen back when Vic Fangio and the coaching staff was very new. Take a look back and you’ll see that even then John Elway’s infatuation with Drew Lock was well known:

As for Drew Lock, a transition to Rich Scangarello’s offense would be a shock for him. Lock is accustomed to 10/11 personnel offenses that spread the defense out; prioritize getting the ball out quickly and often behind the line of scrimmage; and target the deep portion of the field through three- or four-man vertical concepts instead of hard play-action. Lock is also not particularly accurate within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, which severely holds back how efficient an offense can be. However, Lock does possess the arm strength and athletic ability to win on intermediate and deep concepts, both through play-action and rollouts.

So with the rookie slated to start, I had to reach back out to one of the best QB evalutors around the NFL to gather his thoughts on the matter. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10

The Broncos have been under some heat for easing Drew Lock into the action. Do you think waiting until this weekend was the right decision?

Klassen: Drew Lock was never going to be a QB who was ready early in the season. With as long as it took him to develop in college and with how reckless his style of play can be, on top of some questionable footwork, the Lock experiment was always going to take time. While fans probably wanted to see him earlier knowing that Joe Flacco was not the answer, I actually think Denver did right by Lock to ease him in and put him under as little pressure as possible. Sure, the season is over now, but 16 games (or even any more than the five he is going to get) would not have changed that.

2nd and 8

Before the draft you mentioned that Lock had some pretty significant issues. How likely are these things to improve? Do you think his time behind Flacco and Allen will help him iron everything out?

Klassen: To me, Lock’s primary issues in college were over-aggression and questionable footwork leading to misfires in the 1-10 yard area. The latter is far more fixable than the former.

It’s not impossible for an aggressive quarterback to find the balance over time and cut down on interceptions while still stepping on the gas when necessary, but it’s not common. Quarterbacks who want to make plays or attack aggressive windows have often been able to do so for the entire lives, so training them out of it is both difficult and, honestly, harmful. Those quarterbacks, like Lock, got to where they are by being that kind of aggressive, for better or worse. Asking them to fundamentally change who they are is a fool’s errand. The goal for Lock shouldn’t be to cut out interceptions completely, but make sure he’s making enough positive plays elsewhere to outweigh the mistakes. Deshaun Watson (good) vs Jameis Winston (not good) is a simple example of the two extremes in that regard.

Fixing Lock’s footwork is attainable. Often times, quarterbacks with immense arm talent can get away with poor footwork, but in the NFL, margins of error become slimmer and clean mechanics become a necessity. Cleaning up Lock’s footwork does nothing to change his play style, though, which would be the issue in forcing him to cut back his aggression. Having allowed him three months to sit on the bench should have given him some time to iron things out a bit without being forced to play under poor conditions and fall back on bad habits.

3rd and 3

One thing you mentioned a few times is how Lock has a lot of innate confidence to go with his arm talent. In the preseason I remember you mentioning that his velocity seemed impacted by the size of the ball relative to his hand. Do you believe his affinity for the deep ball and arm could open up the Broncos offense?

Klassen: Lock’s hands measured in right around the threshold for what works/doesn’t work in the NFL. NFL footballs are slightly larger than college footballs, so quarterbacks with small hands either have a tough time adjusting early on or can’t make it work altogether. Lock seemed to have lost a smidgen of arm strength in the preseason for this reason, but I do think that also could have been linked to thinking slow (as all rookies do) making him play slow and the coaching staff forcing him into newer mechanics that he wasn’t yet familiar with.

If Lock can get back that strength, however, his deep game should open up the offense to some degree. Flacco has been an overrated deep passer since — *checks notes* — forever and Brandon Allen isn’t any good at it, either. Lock probably won’t be at his best immediately, but his raw arm talent is better than the other two quarterbacks’ and he can throw with phenomenal arc down the field to place passes right over defenders.

4th and inches

Five games is such a small sample size to evaluate a passer. Because of Denver’s record as well as Lock’s draft status, it’s no sure thing Elway won’t keep looking at passers.

What should readers look for as a sign that the Broncos won’t need to dive back into the quarterback pool this spring?

Klassen: Denver should be looking for a quarterback until they know they have one. Lock would have to play out of his mind to secure the spot for certain and that almost certainly won’t happen.

That being said, Lock can show a few things to dissuade Elway (or whoever) from picking another quarterback. Lock needs to prove he is up to snuff in managing NFL pockets, that he can be accurate enough in the 1-10 yard area to run a stable offense, and flash a fair amount of the play making ability that got him drafted in the first place. There will be interceptions, misfires, and mistakes, but if Lock can show some semblance of stability in the pocket and quick game while still having some of those flashy plays, he’ll have done everything that should be expected of a second-round rookie quarterback.