You might want to read this, before reading on.
Drew Lock has now started 21 games in his three year NFL career with the Denver Broncos. As hard as it may be to believe, there are only 94 players since 2000 who have started 21 or more games at quarterback in the NFL. If you sort that list by passer rating (PR), you find that Drew Lock is actually 51st (PR of 80.5). That’s the good news. The bad news is that the majority of the guys who are below him made their first 21 starts a decade of more ago. Quarterback play in the NFL has been gradually improving every year so what was decent in 2000 is now worst in the league. The full list with stats for all 94 guys is below.
|14||Robert Griffin III||2012||2013||WAS||11||10||0||401||631||63.6||4946||28||11||2.55||95.2||41||7.84||7.94|
|15||Gardner Minshew II||2019||2021||TOT||8||13||0||465||739||62.9||5172||35||9||3.89||94.4||59||7.00||7.40|
If you sort by TD/INT ratio, you find that Lock is still 51st. If we sort by team wins, Lock comes in at 68th (four tied at #1 with 18 wins). If you sort by sacks, Lock is tied for 5th. Only Joey Harrington (13), Matt Ryan (19), and Derek Anderson (27) were sacked fewer times than the 28 times Lock has been sacked in his 21 starts. Note that Lock has been sacked 33 total times, but five of those were in games that he did not start.
Let’s go back to the PR ranking and look at some of the names below Lock who have “turned it around” after there first 21 starts. My definition of “turning it around” is making it as a long-term starting QB in the NFL. I did some work on this back in 2020 that you might also want to look at before reading on. Long-term starter, in my opinion, means making 48 or more starts at QB. For the in-depth discussion we are gong to focus on the recent examples, which means there will not be discussion of Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks, Jason Campbell, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning, Vince Young, Alex Smith or Joey Harrington. We can have those in the comments if you wish.
Derek Carr made his first 21 starts in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, so he is much more recent. He had a PR of 80.3 in his first 21, but that was after having a PR 76.6 as a rookie and 91.1 in his second season. As of right now Carr, who is poised to get a big pay-day, has a career PR of 92.4, but he was over 100 in 2019 and 2020. In his first 21, Carr’s completion percentage was similar to Lock’s, but his TD/INT was much better and his Y/A was much smaller. Carr has now started 127 NFL games.
Andrew Luck had surprisingly bad stats during his first 21 starts while still leading the Colts to a 15-6 record (the opposite of Carr who led the Raiders to 6-15 record). Most of these starts were in 2012 as a rookie. As a rookie Luck’s completion percentage was second worst in the league among starters and his 18 interceptions were tied for second most in the league. Despite those things, Luck would make the Pro-Bowl with a very pedestrian 23/18 TD/INT, mainly because he led the Colts on seven game-winning drives as a rookie. He also rushed for five touchdowns. More importantly, he led a Colts team that was 2-14 the year before to an 11-5 record. That nine games turnaround is still one of the largest in league history year-over-year. Luck’s PR as a rookie was 76.5. That improved to 87.0 in his second season and 96.5 in his third.
Similar to Luck, Matthew Stafford was the #1 overall pick and played fairly poorly in his rookie season (2009). Stafford started ten games as rookie and had a PR of 61.0. That was the near the bottom of the league (but not the worst - JaMarcus Russell - 50.0). Stafford was playing much better in his second season before and injury ended his year in the third game. When he came back in 2011, he was playing much better than his did as a rookie and had a PR of 97.2 for the full season. Stafford has now started 182 NFL regular season games (and now has a Super Bowl ring - in case you weren’t paying attention). His career PR is 91.1.
Ryan Tannehill was drafted eighth overall by the Dolphins and made his first 21 starts during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. His PR as a rookie was 76.1 (27th of 32 starting QBs in 2012) and that only marginally improved in his second year to 81.7. Tannehill made a big leap in his third season with a PR of 92.8 for the whole year. Tannehill started every game for the ‘Phins for the first four years of his career before injury cause him to miss five starts in 2018, his fifth season. He was traded by Miami to Tennessee, where his career has had a rebirth, at the expense of Marcus Mariotta’s career. Tannehill had a career PR of 87.0 with Miami and he has had a PR of 102.0 with Tennessee.
Josh Allen is the most recent example of a QB that turned it around after a bad start to his career. He also is the example that is most often cited when someone is trying to show that Drew Lock can possibly still become a good starting QB in the NFL. Allen’s first 21 were spread across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Allen started eleven games as a rookie and had a PR of 67.9. That actually was not the worst PR among starting QBs that season. Back in 2020 I looked at how often the worst starting QB in the league had a future in the league.
Allen was markedly better in his second season improving his PR to 85.3 which is close to average. He really made the leap in his third season when he improved his PR to 107.2. By passer rating among starters Allen went from 31st to 24th to 4th over three seasons. Outside of Drew Brees, that was unprecedented. So expecting Lock to duplicate that is setting yourself up for disappointment.
The other side of this is that Allen does so much with his legs and PR does not account for rushing stats, while QBR does. By QBR Allen went from 25th to 25th to 3rd. So his running made his “less bad” as a rookie than his passing alone made him look. Josh Allen is also built like a tank. He’s listed as 6-5, 237, but he seems to play bigger than that. Relative to Lock, the extra mass has helped Allen avoid injuries. He’s started every game for the Bills over the last three seasons.
Very few players ever get to start 21 NFL games at QB. Fewer still make that many starts playing poorly and improve dramatically after that, but hope is addictive and many in Broncos Country are hooked on the hope that Drew Lock can.
If Drew Lock is the Bronco starting QB in 2022, how much improvement over his play in 2020 do you expect?
This poll is closed
A great deal - he’ll be a top 10 starter
a decent amount - he’ll progress from bad to average
little or no improvement - he’s still going to be a bottom of the league starter
Improvement? - based on 2021, I expect him to regress to worst in the league (unless Sam Darnold is still starting).