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The first 21 starts at quarterback in the modern NFL

If the Broncos do end up with Drew Lock starting in 2022, is there any hope that he improves?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Rk Player From To Tm W L T Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int TD/INT Rate Sk Y/A AY/A
1 Patrick Mahomes 2017 2019 KAN 17 4 0 511 771 66.3 6891 60 13 4.62 113.5 31 8.94 9.74
2 Deshaun Watson 2017 2018 HTX 13 8 0 434 651 66.7 5528 44 16 2.75 105.3 71 8.49 8.74
3 Lamar Jackson 2018 2019 RAV 18 3 0 337 528 63.8 4003 38 9 4.22 103.7 38 7.58 8.25
4 Dak Prescott 2016 2017 DAL 15 6 0 423 638 66.3 4859 34 8 4.25 101.6 32 7.62 8.12
5 Tony Romo 2006 2007 DAL 16 5 0 437 662 66.0 5684 45 23 1.96 101.1 35 8.59 8.38
6 Ben Roethlisberger 2004 2005 PIT 18 3 0 309 472 65.5 4147 30 16 1.88 100.3 44 8.79 8.53
7 Jimmy Garoppolo 2016 2019 TOT 18 3 0 445 661 67.3 5487 35 18 1.94 99.1 45 8.30 8.13
8 Chad Pennington 2002 2003 NYJ 12 9 0 424 625 67.8 4753 35 15 2.33 99.0 41 7.60 7.64
9 Justin Herbert 2020 2021 SDG 10 11 0 557 841 66.2 6107 45 14 3.21 98.4 43 7.26 7.58
10 Russell Wilson 2012 2013 SEA 15 6 0 326 520 62.7 4115 34 14 2.43 97.9 48 7.91 8.01
11 Aaron Rodgers 2008 2009 GNB 9 12 0 447 700 63.9 5494 36 15 2.40 96.2 59 7.85 7.91
12 Nick Foles 2012 2014 PHI 13 8 0 443 723 61.3 5505 37 11 3.36 95.6 51 7.61 7.95
13 Joe Burrow 2020 2021 CIN 9 11 1 499 743 67.2 5523 35 17 2.06 95.2 62 7.43 7.35
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
16 Daunte Culpepper 2000 2001 MIN 13 8 0 416 653 63.7 5304 39 23 1.70 94.2 51 8.12 7.73
17 Tyrod Taylor 2015 2016 BUF 11 10 0 363 591 61.4 4320 28 8 3.50 93.9 54 7.31 7.65
18 Marcus Mariota 2015 2016 OTI 7 14 0 414 661 62.6 5005 36 18 2.00 92.6 50 7.57 7.44
19 Colin Kaepernick 2012 2013 SFO 15 6 0 329 553 59.5 4298 28 11 2.55 92.6 45 7.77 7.89
20 Philip Rivers 2006 2007 SDG 16 5 0 386 617 62.6 4544 29 15 1.93 90.4 36 7.36 7.21
21 Matt Ryan 2008 2009 ATL 15 6 0 366 590 62.0 4602 25 15 1.67 89.8 19 7.80 7.50
22 Mitchell Trubisky 2017 2018 CHI 10 11 0 386 620 62.3 4497 26 14 1.86 88.8 49 7.25 7.08
23 Tua Tagovailoa 2020 2021 MIA 13 8 0 439 663 66.2 4300 27 15 1.80 88.4 39 6.49 6.28
24 Kyler Murray 2019 2020 CRD 8 12 1 475 723 65.7 5021 28 18 1.56 88.3 56 6.94 6.60
25 Jay Cutler 2006 2007 DEN 9 12 0 378 604 62.6 4498 29 19 1.53 88.2 40 7.45 6.99
26 Marc Bulger 2002 2003 RAM 18 3 0 456 715 63.8 5501 35 27 1.30 87.9 45 7.69 6.97
27 Jared Goff 2016 2017 RAM 10 11 0 386 644 59.9 4592 29 14 2.07 87.7 50 7.13 7.05
28 Matt Schaub 2004 2008 TOT 8 13 0 409 633 64.6 4903 24 20 1.20 87.7 39 7.75 7.08
29 Carson Palmer 2004 2005 CIN 12 9 0 449 699 64.2 4934 34 23 1.48 87.5 37 7.06 6.55
30 Tom Brady 2001 2002 NWE 14 7 0 444 692 64.2 4676 33 21 1.57 87.0 57 6.76 6.35
31 Matt Moore 2007 2011 TOT 11 10 0 336 556 60.4 3978 25 15 1.67 86.0 48 7.15 6.84
32 Kirk Cousins 2012 2015 WAS 7 14 0 489 761 64.3 5542 31 25 1.24 85.9 32 7.28 6.62
33 Jacoby Brissett 2016 2019 TOT 7 14 0 392 650 60.3 4266 23 9 2.56 85.7 62 6.56 6.65
34 Baker Mayfield 2018 2019 CLE 8 13 0 452 734 61.6 5487 34 26 1.31 85.2 47 7.48 6.81
35 Teddy Bridgewater 2014 2015 MIN 13 8 0 410 636 64.5 4579 21 18 1.17 85.0 61 7.20 6.59
36 Shaun Hill 2007 2010 TOT 11 10 0 403 661 61.0 4357 30 17 1.76 84.8 50 6.59 6.34
37 Matt Cassel 2008 2009 TOT 11 10 0 416 684 60.8 4535 28 16 1.75 84.3 69 6.63 6.40
38 Cam Newton 2011 2012 CAR 7 14 0 390 653 59.7 5205 25 22 1.14 83.8 48 7.97 7.22
39 David Garrard 2002 2007 JAX 12 9 0 324 547 59.2 3829 19 11 1.73 83.8 46 7.00 6.79
40 Andy Dalton 2011 2012 CIN 12 9 0 411 685 60.0 4743 29 19 1.53 83.5 39 6.92 6.52
41 Carson Wentz 2016 2017 PHI 11 10 0 489 784 62.4 5144 26 17 1.53 83.4 46 6.56 6.25
42 Joe Flacco 2008 2009 RAV 14 7 0 374 610 61.3 4260 23 17 1.35 83.2 39 6.98 6.48
43 Daniel Jones 2019 2020 NYG 5 16 0 472 761 62.0 4888 32 21 1.52 83.1 66 6.42 6.02
44 Seneca Wallace 2006 2011 TOT 6 15 0 380 644 59.0 4060 27 13 2.08 83.1 45 6.30 6.23
45 Mike Glennon 2013 2017 TOT 6 15 0 419 702 59.7 4519 31 18 1.72 82.7 61 6.44 6.17
46 Kevin Kolb 2009 2012 TOT 9 12 0 397 667 59.5 4772 26 20 1.30 82.0 72 7.15 6.58
47 Trevor Siemian 2016 2017 DEN 11 10 0 441 733 60.2 5070 27 20 1.35 81.9 56 6.92 6.43
48 Jameis Winston 2015 2016 TAM 8 13 0 433 742 58.4 5369 31 23 1.35 81.9 39 7.24 6.68
49 Case Keenum 2013 2016 TOT 8 13 0 373 639 58.4 4440 22 15 1.47 81.4 39 6.95 6.58
50 Sam Darnold 2018 2019 NYJ 8 13 0 407 677 60.1 4780 30 25 1.20 81.0 53 7.06 6.29
51 Drew Lock 2019 2021 DEN 8 13 0 399 670 59.6 4513 24 18 1.33 80.5 28 6.74 6.24
52 Brian Hoyer 2012 2015 TOT 12 9 0 399 709 56.3 5069 26 18 1.44 80.4 41 7.15 6.74
53 Matt Hasselbeck 2001 2002 SEA 9 12 0 393 663 59.3 4495 20 15 1.33 80.4 60 6.78 6.37
54 Derek Carr 2014 2015 RAI 5 16 0 451 761 59.3 4441 29 15 1.93 80.3 31 5.84 5.71
55 Andrew Luck 2012 2013 CLT 15 6 0 436 783 55.7 5518 30 20 1.50 80.0 53 7.05 6.66
56 Trent Edwards 2007 2008 BUF 11 10 0 355 573 62.0 3911 17 17 1.00 79.7 31 6.83 6.08
57 Matthew Stafford 2009 2011 DET 9 12 0 441 772 57.1 4981 38 25 1.52 79.5 44 6.45 5.98
58 Ryan Tannehill 2012 2013 MIA 10 11 0 396 666 59.5 4677 18 18 1.00 78.6 59 7.02 6.35
59 Josh McCown 2003 2005 CRD 10 11 0 403 687 58.7 4497 22 17 1.29 78.6 65 6.55 6.07
60 Aaron Brooks 2000 2001 NOR 10 11 0 411 730 56.3 5159 33 27 1.22 78.1 62 7.07 6.31
61 Jason Campbell 2006 2008 WAS 8 13 0 375 651 57.6 4130 23 17 1.35 77.4 29 6.34 5.88
62 Jake Locker 2012 2014 OTI 9 12 0 345 598 57.7 4117 21 19 1.11 77.3 49 6.88 6.16
63 Chad Henne 2009 2010 MIA 11 10 0 440 709 62.1 4686 20 23 0.87 77.2 37 6.61 5.71
64 Josh Allen 2018 2019 BUF 12 9 0 354 622 56.9 4175 23 19 1.21 77.1 47 6.71 6.08
65 Brock Osweiler 2015 2016 TOT 13 8 0 436 721 60.5 4525 23 21 1.10 77.1 44 6.28 5.60
66 Michael Vick 2001 2003 ATL 12 8 1 289 552 52.4 3669 21 12 1.75 77.0 48 6.65 6.43
67 Christian Ponder 2011 2012 MIN 8 13 0 377 633 59.6 3940 26 22 1.18 76.9 57 6.22 5.48
68 Byron Leftwich 2003 2004 JAX 10 11 0 405 678 59.7 4586 21 23 0.91 76.2 36 6.76 5.86
69 Patrick Ramsey 2002 2004 WAS 8 13 0 370 663 55.8 4172 25 18 1.39 76.1 57 6.29 5.83
70 Drew Brees 2002 2003 SDG 8 13 0 431 717 60.1 4421 24 23 1.04 75.7 32 6.17 5.39
71 Rex Grossman 2003 2006 CHI 16 5 0 336 611 55.0 4173 26 22 1.18 75.5 28 6.83 6.06
72 Sam Bradford 2010 2011 RAM 7 14 0 458 786 58.3 4689 21 17 1.24 75.4 55 5.97 5.53
73 J.P. Losman 2005 2006 BUF 7 14 0 320 554 57.8 3551 20 18 1.11 75.4 63 6.41 5.67
74 Blake Bortles 2014 2015 JAX 5 16 0 441 762 57.9 4878 26 25 1.04 74.7 79 6.40 5.61
75 Josh Freeman 2009 2010 TAM 10 11 0 369 651 56.7 4281 26 24 1.08 74.7 37 6.58 5.72
76 Colt McCoy 2010 2011 CLE 6 15 0 400 685 58.4 4309 20 20 1.00 74.5 55 6.29 5.56
77 Derek Anderson 2006 2008 CLE 10 11 0 382 688 55.5 4630 33 30 1.10 74.2 27 6.73 5.73
78 Tarvaris Jackson 2006 2011 TOT 10 11 0 316 553 57.1 3432 20 19 1.05 73.3 46 6.21 5.38
79 Quincy Carter 2001 2003 DAL 11 10 0 318 573 55.5 3904 19 20 0.95 73.2 43 6.81 5.91
80 Kellen Clemens 2007 2013 TOT 8 13 0 320 580 55.2 3738 15 16 0.94 72.0 55 6.44 5.72
81 Charlie Frye 2005 2009 TOT 7 14 0 369 595 62.0 3583 16 24 0.67 71.0 74 6.02 4.74
82 JaMarcus Russell 2007 2009 RAI 6 15 0 272 520 52.3 3253 15 13 1.15 70.9 50 6.26 5.71
83 Brandon Weeden 2012 2014 TOT 5 16 0 429 761 56.4 4895 22 27 0.81 70.7 48 6.43 5.41
84 Mark Sanchez 2009 2010 NYJ 13 8 0 294 541 54.3 3544 21 22 0.95 70.7 35 6.55 5.50
85 Eli Manning 2004 2005 NYG 11 10 0 351 680 51.6 4291 28 25 1.12 69.8 37 6.31 5.48
86 Blaine Gabbert 2011 2012 JAX 5 16 0 320 614 52.1 3371 19 14 1.36 69.2 56 5.49 5.08
87 Geno Smith 2013 2014 NYJ 9 12 0 333 591 56.4 3995 16 27 0.59 67.2 51 6.76 5.25
88 Kyle Boller 2003 2004 RAV 12 9 0 304 554 54.9 3061 14 17 0.82 66.5 46 5.53 4.65
89 Vince Young 2006 2007 OTI 13 8 0 291 525 55.4 3178 15 22 0.68 65.6 39 6.05 4.74
90 Alex Smith 2005 2006 SFO 8 13 0 300 535 56.1 3347 16 25 0.64 65.4 54 6.26 4.75
91 Kyle Orton 2005 2008 CHI 13 8 0 287 535 53.6 2914 14 17 0.82 65.0 38 5.45 4.54
92 David Carr 2002 2003 HTX 6 15 0 332 616 53.9 3843 14 23 0.61 65.0 84 6.24 5.01
93 Ryan Fitzpatrick 2005 2009 TOT 7 13 1 360 622 57.9 3339 13 23 0.57 64.2 59 5.37 4.12
94 Joey Harrington 2002 2003 DET 6 15 0 374 718 52.1 3827 21 28 0.75 61.2 13 5.33 4.16

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

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.

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Andrew Luck

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.

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Matthew Stafford

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.

Syndication: USA TODAY George Walker IV / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ryan Tannehill

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.

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE / USA TODAY NETWORK

Josh Allen

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.

Conclusion

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.

Poll

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

  • 16%
    A great deal - he’ll be a top 10 starter
    (189 votes)
  • 54%
    a decent amount - he’ll progress from bad to average
    (616 votes)
  • 22%
    little or no improvement - he’s still going to be a bottom of the league starter
    (254 votes)
  • 5%
    Improvement? - based on 2021, I expect him to regress to worst in the league (unless Sam Darnold is still starting).
    (66 votes)
1125 votes total Vote Now