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The chances of Drew Lock OR Teddy Bridgewater making a huge leap in 2021

Both QBs COULD make big leaps in 2021, but what are the actual chances of EITHER doing so?

NFL: Denver Broncos OTA Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Lock has now started 18 NFL games in his career over the past two seasons. There are 44 quarterbacks who have started at least eight games over the past two seasons. By passer rating, Drew Lock ranks 42nd among them. Only Brandon Allen and Dwayne Haskins rank worse.

Drew Lock has a passer rating (PR) of 79.1 for his career (which has spanned 2019 and 2020) - tied with Sam Darnold. Full table below:

Rk Player Tm Rate G GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int TD% Int% Sk Sk% ANY/A Y/C W L T 4QC GWD
1 Drew Brees NOR 111.2 23 23 556 768 72.4 5921 51 10 6.6 1.3 25 3.20% 7.96 10.65 17 6 0 2 5
2 Ryan Tannehill OTI 110.6 28 26 516 767 67.28 6561 55 13 7.2 1.69 55 6.70% 8.14 12.72 18 8 0 7 9
3 Aaron Rodgers GNB 107.9 32 32 725 1095 66.21 8301 74 9 6.8 0.82 56 4.90% 7.74 11.45 26 6 0 3 5
4 Patrick Mahomes KAN 106.9 29 29 709 1072 66.14 8771 64 11 6 1.03 39 3.50% 8.35 12.37 25 4 0 4 4
5 Lamar Jackson RAV 106.6 30 30 507 777 65.25 5884 62 15 8 1.93 52 6.30% 7.46 11.61 24 6 0 2 3
6 Kirk Cousins MIN 106.1 31 31 656 960 68.33 7868 61 19 6.4 1.98 67 6.50% 7.57 11.99 17 14 0 2 4
7 Russell Wilson SEA 105.7 32 32 725 1074 67.5 8322 71 18 6.6 1.68 95 8.10% 7.11 11.48 23 9 0 7 8
8 Deshaun Watson HTX 105.5 31 31 715 1039 68.82 8675 59 19 5.7 1.83 93 8.20% 7.46 12.13 14 17 0 3 5
9 Derek Carr RAI 101.1 32 32 709 1030 68.83 8157 48 17 4.7 1.65 55 5.10% 7.39 11.5 15 17 0 5 8
10 Jimmy Garoppolo SFO 99.9 22 22 423 616 68.67 5074 34 18 5.5 2.92 47 7.10% 6.98 12 16 6 0 4 4
11 Matthew Stafford DET 99.8 24 24 526 819 64.22 6583 45 15 5.5 1.83 56 6.40% 7.33 12.52 8 15 1 5 5
12 Dak Prescott DAL 99.7 21 21 539 818 65.89 6758 39 15 4.8 1.83 33 3.90% 7.81 12.54 10 11 0 1 1
13 Justin Herbert SDG 98.3 15 15 396 595 66.55 4336 31 10 5.2 1.68 32 5.10% 6.84 10.95 6 9 0 1 3
14 Taysom Hill NOR 98 32 13 91 127 71.65 983 4 2 3.1 1.57 15 10.60% 6.18 10.8 3 1 0
15 Josh Allen BUF 97.4 32 32 667 1033 64.57 7633 57 19 5.5 1.84 64 5.80% 6.86 11.44 23 9 0 6 8
16 Tom Brady TOT 95.1 32 32 774 1223 63.29 8690 64 20 5.2 1.64 48 3.80% 6.88 11.23 23 9 0 4 4
17 Teddy Bridgewater TOT 94.1 24 20 473 688 68.75 5117 24 13 3.5 1.89 43 5.90% 6.45 10.82 9 11 0 1 2
18 Gardner Minshew II JAX 93.1 23 20 501 797 62.86 5530 37 11 4.6 1.38 60 7.00% 6.35 11.04 7 13 0 4 4
19 Matt Ryan ATL 92.7 31 31 815 1242 65.62 9047 52 25 4.2 2.01 89 6.70% 6.3 11.1 11 20 0 3 2
20 Philip Rivers TOT 92.6 32 32 759 1134 66.93 8784 47 31 4.1 2.73 53 4.50% 6.73 11.57 16 16 0 3 5
21 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 91.5 17 17 434 670 64.78 4154 33 11 4.9 1.64 15 2.20% 6.12 9.57 12 5 0 4 4
22 Kyler Murray CRD 90.9 32 32 724 1100 65.82 7693 46 24 4.2 2.18 75 6.40% 6 10.63 13 18 1 4 6
23 Case Keenum TOT 90.2 12 8 165 257 64.2 1753 11 5 4.3 1.95 15 5.50% 5.89 10.62 1 7 0
24 Joe Burrow CIN 89.8 10 10 264 404 65.35 2688 13 5 3.2 1.24 32 7.30% 5.72 10.18 2 7 1
25 Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA 89 24 20 494 769 64.24 5620 33 21 4.3 2.73 54 6.60% 6.15 11.38 9 11 0 4 5
26 Jared Goff RAM 88.1 31 31 764 1178 64.86 8590 42 29 3.6 2.46 45 3.70% 6.37 11.24 18 13 0 1 3
27 Jacoby Brissett CLT 87.1 26 15 274 455 60.22 2959 18 6 4 1.32 29 6.00% 5.94 10.8 7 8 0 2 2
28 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 87.1 10 9 186 290 64.14 1814 11 5 3.8 1.72 20 6.50% 5.4 9.75 6 3 0 2 2
29 Baker Mayfield CLE 86.9 32 32 622 1020 60.98 7390 48 29 4.7 2.84 66 6.10% 6.08 11.88 17 15 0 3 3
30 Mitchell Trubisky CHI 86.8 25 24 525 813 64.58 5193 33 18 4.1 2.21 56 6.40% 5.39 9.89 14 10 0 4 4
31 Carson Wentz PHI 84.6 28 28 639 1044 61.21 6659 43 22 4.1 2.11 87 7.70% 5.28 10.42 12 15 1 5 6
32 Jameis Winston TOT 84.3 20 16 387 637 60.75 5184 33 30 5.2 4.71 49 7.10% 6.12 13.4 7 9 0 2 2
33 Daniel Jones NYG 84.1 27 26 564 907 62.18 5970 35 22 3.9 2.43 83 8.40% 5.15 10.59 8 18 0 1 2
34 Nick Mullens SFO 84.1 11 8 211 326 64.72 2437 12 12 3.7 3.68 19 5.50% 5.79 11.55 2 6 0 1 1
35 Joe Flacco TOT 83.6 13 12 245 396 61.87 2686 12 8 3 2.02 33 7.70% 5.37 10.96 2 10 0
36 Kyle Allen TOT 82.9 17 16 363 576 63.02 3932 21 17 3.6 2.95 53 8.40% 5 10.83 6 10 0 0 1
37 Mason Rudolph PIT 82.7 15 9 201 326 61.66 2089 15 10 4.6 3.07 16 4.70% 5.28 10.39 5 4 0 1 1
38 Andy Dalton TOT 81.8 24 22 530 861 61.56 5664 30 22 3.5 2.56 61 6.60% 5.25 10.69 6 16 0 2 3
39 Nick Foles TOT 81.8 13 11 279 429 65.03 2588 13 10 3 2.33 26 5.70% 4.82 9.28 2 9 0 2 2
40 Cam Newton TOT 80.6 17 17 292 457 63.89 3229 8 11 1.8 2.41 37 7.50% 5.38 11.06 7 10 0 1 3
41 Sam Darnold NYJ 79.1 25 25 490 805 60.87 5232 28 24 3.5 2.98 68 7.80% 4.89 10.68 9 16 0 2 3
42 Drew Lock DEN 79.1 18 18 354 599 59.1 3953 23 18 3.8 3.01 24 3.90% 5.54 11.17 8 10 0 2 3
43 Brandon Allen TOT 76.9 8 8 129 226 57.08 1440 8 6 3.5 2.65 16 6.60% 5.04 11.16 2 6 0 1 1
44 Dwayne Haskins WAS 74.4 16 13 267 444 60.14 2804 12 14 2.7 3.15 49 9.90% 4.2 10.5 3 10 0 2 2

Can Drew Lock improve?

Of course he can. He has only started 18 games, and there are plenty of examples of NFL QBs making “quantum leaps” after X number of starts. I have read that X = 32 for most NFL QBs. But does it?

In my study of the 57 quarterbacks who have made 48 or more NFL starts this century* (with careers starting in 2000 or later), the bigger average jump came in the second block of 16 starts. That is when X = 16.

I focused on passer rating, completion percentage and TD/INT ratio and looked at how all 57 QBs did in their first block of 16 starts, their second block of 16 starts and then their third block. Here is the average percent change in those three stats from the first block to the second block and from the second block to the third.

Average Change in PR Average Change in COMP % Average Change in TD/INT
1st to 2nd block of 16 3.3% 2.7% -7.7%
2nd to 3rd block of 16 1.2% 0.7% -8.1%

So the biggest jump for these 57 QBs actually came in their second blocks when their passer rating went up on average by 3.3%, their completion percentage went up by 2.7% (relative), and their TD/INT ration actually went down by 7.7% (again, relative).

The good news there is that Lock is currently IN his second block of 16 starts. If he exhibits that average improvement, his passer rating should go up from 79.8 to 82.4 and his completion percentage from 59.7 to 61.3 percent. While both would be a slight improvement, he would only move up to 38th in passer rating among starters over the last two years and up to 37th in completion percentage. Yippee!

OK, so let’s take the most optimistic approach and look at the players who have made the biggest jumps in their second block of 16 starts - like Joe Rowles did in our pro/con debate that I linked above. Joe Rowles went into depth about what a big jump for Lock would mean in terms of his 2021 performance, but the takeaway is that a big jump for Lock would mean he moves from bottom of the league starting QB to an average starter. Again - Yippee!

There are some who think that all the Broncos will need to return to the playoffs in 2021 is an average QB given the talent on defense and surrounding the QB on offense. The Broncos currently have the second longest playoff drought in the league (sadly only the Jets have gone longer without making the playoffs).

Should we settle for average at QB?

I say no. I want the Broncos to get back to the point of having an above average offense and an elite defense (honestly we haven’t had that combination since 2012). In the modern NFL, you need at least an above average QB to have an above average offense. So what are the chances that either Lock or Bridgewater moving into the top tier of QBs in 2021? I’ll call top tier the top 10.

For Lock there is almost no precedent given that he was one of the worst starting QBs in the league in 2020. For him to move into the top 10 would be astounding. Top 10 in passer rating in 2020 meant that you had a passer rating of 101 or better. So let’s look at the recent starting QBs who have made a jump from the where Lock was in his first 16 starts (79.8) to where we in Broncos Country want him to be in his second 16 (101 or better). Of the 57 guys in the study here are the four who made similar big jumps in passer rating (first block to second block):

Marc Bulger - 79.3 to 101.4

Mark Sanchez - 81.0 to 105.2

Nick Foles - 81.8 to 100.1

Teddy Bridgewater - 79.1 to 96.3

Well that’s a heartening list there... ...if you are a Raiders fan. I should also point out that all four guys regressed in their third block of 16 starts. Here are their passer ratings moving from starts 17-32 to starts 33-48:

Bulger - 101.4 to 98.8

Sanchez - 105.2 to 102.0

Foles - 100.1 to 92.7

Bridgewater - 96.3 to 82.4

The four recent precedents of what we want Lock to do (jump from terribad in his first block to really good in his second block), all came back down either a little or a lot and all lost their jobs as starters pretty quickly with the exception of Bulger, who would retain his starting job until the end of his career in 2009. Bulger made the Pro Bowl twice.

I’d honestly put about a 5% chance on Lock making a quantum leap in 2021, but hope is what keeps Vegas in business. At 20:1 odds, there would still be plenty of suckers who would put money on Lock making that jump. Lock has the arm talent, but his footwork and his decision-making have been leading to poor results so far in his NFL career.

I should note that since Josh Allen has only made 44 regular season starts at this point, he is the MOST recent example of a QB making huge jump in his second block of 16 starts. He had a PR of 70.8 in his first sixteen and a PR of 99.4 in his second 16. That level of change in the second block was unprecedented - before Josh Allen.

Teddy Bridgewater making the “late bloomer” jump

Bridgewater was, for all intents and purposes, an average or below average NFL starting QB in 2020. His rankings among the 35 starting QBs were as follows:

PR - 22nd

QBR - 17th

Completion percentage - 5th

Adjusted Net Yards Passing per Attempt (ANYA) - 20th

TD/INT - 26th

OnTarget% - 4th

BadThrow% - 1st (best)

There are some very good numbers and some very bad numbers, but the takeaway is that Bridgewater was average IMO in 2020. Remember, Lock was not. I should also note that Bridgewater led zero fourth-quarter comebacks and zero game-winning drives in 2020 - although part of that could be blamed on the Panthers kicker who missed twice in game-tying or game-winning 4th-quarter kicks. Lock led one fourth quarter comeback and one game-winning drive in 2020.

So what about the odds of Bridgewater making a “late bloomer” jump? Bridgewater has now been in the NFL since the 2014 season, but he has only made 49 career starts. He will turn 29 during the 2021 season. So let’s look at the “recent” instances of QBs making quantum leaps late in their careers. There are four that I count, although this author adds some other QBs. I count Alex Smith, Kerry Collins, Rich Gannon and Ryan Tannehill. He also counts Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Schaub, David Garrard and Tommy Maddox. They break into two groups though: guys who began their careers as starting QBs (Smith, Collins and Tannehill) and guys who didn’t (the rest).

Alex Smith was the first pick in the draft, but that didn’t keep him from being absolutely atrocious in his first three NFL seasons and then only marginally better in his next two. He really didn’t make the “jump” until his sixth season as a starting QB. In his sixth season Smith jumped from a PR of 82.1 to a PR of 90.7 (that season was 2011). His PR would stay above 90 every season from 2012 to 2017 with two great years where it topped 104 (2012 and 2017). Smith was 27 years old when he finally reached the upper tier (if you think he did) of QBs in the league.

Kerry Collins began his career in 1995 with the Panthers after being taken fifth overall in the draft. He would play relatively poorly for the Panthers as their starting QB for the first three-plus seasons of his career before he was traded to the Saints in 1998 (where he also played poorly in half of a season). He then found his way to the Giants in 1999 where he would be restart his career and play much better. He had a PR of 66.0 with the Panthers and a PR of 78.4 with the Giants. His four years as the primary starter for the Giants (2000-2003) would be the zenith of his long career. Collins was 28 in the 2000 season. Collins would be replaced by Kurt Warner and Eli Manning as the Giants two QBs in the 2004 season. Warner is in the Hall of Fame and Eli could be one day which would make Collins the only starting QB to have been replaced by two starters year over year who both ended up in the Hall of Fame. In 2004 and 2005 Collins was the starting QB for the Raiders.

Speaking of the Raiders (earlier), Rich Gannon was another classic late bloomer. Gannon entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Delaware in 1987 (go Blue Hens!). He won the starting job for the Vikings in 1990, where he lasted three seasons as the main starting QB and played relatively poorly. He would move from the Vikings to Washington and then on to Kansas City where he was the backup QB. From 1993 to 1998 he would only spend one season as the main starting QB for his team (1998 in KC). He started 10 games that season and had a PR of 80.1. He would get the starting job for the Raiders in 1999 at the age of 34 and make the Pro Bowl with a passer rating of 86.5 (who would be near the bottom of the league in 2020). He would go on to make the Pro Bowl every year from 1999 to 2002 twice being named first team AllPro (2000 and 2002). His PR would improve every season from 1997 to 2002.

1997 - 79.8

1998 - 80.1

1999 - 86.5

2000 - 92.4

2001 - 95.5

2002 - 97.3

In 2003 at the age of 38, Father Time would finally catch up to him and his skills would degrade to the point where he would only start ten more games in his NFL career (seven in 2003 and three in 2004). We should note that Gannon’s passer rating of 97.3 in 2002 was second best in the league among starting QBs behind Chad Pennington. In 2020 it would have been 13th behind rookie Justin Herbert (98.3) and ahead of veteran Philip Rivers (97.0).

Ryan Tannehill is the most recent example. He was the eighth-overall pick in the 2012 draft and was the full-time starter for the Dolphins every season from 2012 until 2018 inclusive. Tannehill would start 16 games in his first four NFL seasons and his PR would gradually improve from a low of 76.1 as a rookie to a value in the low 90s for most of his years in Miami. He would make a huge jump at the age of 31 in his first season with the Titans (2019). 2019 so far is his career year. He had a PR of 117.5 in 2019 which was best in the league among starting QBs. He led the league in many rate stats after only starting 10 games in 2019 (and leading the Titans to the AFC title game which they would lose to the Chiefs). Tannehill started every game for the Titans in 2020 and was one of the better QBs in the league in terms of rate stats. The run-oriented Titan offense fits his strengths much better than the offenses that he led during his time in Miami.

Jimmy Garoppolo was only a late bloomer, because he did not get a chance to start until his sixth season in the NFL. Prior to that he had started a grand total of ten games in five seasons due to the QB in front of him, or injury. He has only started more than six games once in his NFL career (2019 when he started all 16) and it would appear that the 49ers are almost ready to move on from him with their selection of Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 draft. You could argue that Garoppolo still has not “bloomed” since he has only one season as the team’s starting QB, but in that one season he had a passer rating of 102.0 which was a marginal improvement over what he has done in the two years prior with the 49ers when he had a PR of 94.1 in his eight total starts.

David Garrard would enter the league as a day two draftee (108th pick in 2002) for the Jaguars for whom he would start eight total games during his first four seasons, before becoming the primary starting QB for them in 2006. He would remain their primary starter until the end of the 2010 season during which he would start 14 games. Garrard would be mostly in the PR range of low 80s with the exception of two seasons 2007 when he would have a PR of 102.2 (his career year) and 2010 when he would have a PR of 90.8. That being said, Garrard did make a big jump from his PR of 80.5 in 2006 to his PR of 102.2 in 2007. That is the type and magnitude of jump that we want/need Lock to make in 2021.

Tommy Maddox was drafted 25th overall by the Broncos in 1992 and would start exactly four games for the Broncos (all in ‘92). He would not start another NFL game until the 2002 season for the Steelers. It’s hard to say he bloomed during his two-year run as the starting QB for the Steelers (he would lose that job to Ben Roethlisberger). Maddox never really had a chance to improve because his career as a starter lasted two seasons.

Matt Schaub (90th pick in 2004) was drafted in the same range as David Garrard and he would spend most of his time during his first three NFL seasons carrying a clipboard for the Falcons. He was acquired by the Texans in 2007 and won the starting job in Houston starting 11 games that year. His PR would improve from 87.2 in 2007 to 92.7 in 2008 and then peak at 98.6 in 2009 when he would make the Pro Bowl and lead the league in completions, passing attempts and passing yards. Schaub would remain the starting QB for the Texans for three more seasons after 2009 eventually losing his job because of injury to Case Keenum in 2013. Schaub would start eight games in 2013, but he has started a total of three since then. He was still in the league in 2020 (back on the Falcons where he started his career).

Focusing on Smith, Collins, Gannon, and Tannehill - all four veterans made their jumps in performance because they landed in situations where they had plenty of weapons to use on offense and where their offensive coordinators put them in situations to hide their flaws and maximize their talents. Could Bridgewater’s situation with the Broncos in 2021 be similar?

I should note that the 2019 Saints may have given a glimpse into what Bridgewater can do with an ideal situation (stable offense, strong OL, elite weapons). Bridgewater started five games for the Saints that season, leading them to a 5-0 record while throwing 9 TDs and only two picks. He had a PR of 99.1 that season, which is his career-high so far for a season.

The 2021 Broncos definitely have some weapons for either Lock or Bridgewater to use. The winner of the QB competition might be the guy who best uses those weapons.

Poll

Which QB has a better chance of making a "quantum leap" in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Drew Lock
    (617 votes)
  • 27%
    Teddy Bridgewater
    (232 votes)
849 votes total Vote Now