While the world waits for the Denver Broncos to convince the Green Bay Packers to trade them Aaron Rodgers, there is a very real chance that Vic Fangio's team plans to head into the 2021 NFL season with Drew Lock still its starting quarterback.
General manager George Paton and company brought over Teddy Bridgewater from Carolina in a low-level trade, but Bridgewater played his way to a backup role last season with the Panthers and is more of a veteran presence in the quarterback room than a legitimate starting option going forward.
While Lock played badly enough last year (34th out of 42 quarterbacks in PFF grade) that we all assume the Broncos can’t expect much better from him, what are the chances that he's capable of a significant leap in performance?
We don’t need to go back very far in time to find a quarterback who was written off as never going to achieve great things (Josh Allen) based on his NFL play at the time. Allen simply had too far to go, and while there may always be a section of die-hard fans who will forever defend him, it looked like Allen was destined to never reach the level he did. So are we all missing similar signs with Lock? Could Denver be focusing on positive hints of play the rest of us are ignoring?
The first point to make is that Josh Allen’s leap forward in performance is virtually unprecedented. He went from being one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the game (64.7% adjusted completion rate ranked dead last as a rookie, and 71.7% ranked 30th out of 38 quarterbacks in 2019) to one of the most (79.1% last year ranked fifth).
Lock had an adjusted completion rate of 68.7% in 2020, which ranked 40th out of 42 quarterbacks, and though it was his second NFL season, his combined playing time thus far shakes out to around one total campaign. Lock is facing much of the same issue that Allen did after his rookie season, but there are obviously critical differences.
Though Lock’s arm is good, and one of his stronger traits, it isn’t Josh Allen-strong. A strong arm isn’t everything, but it does buy a player margin for error on throws. If you can launch the ball like it was shot from a rail gun, you can be later on the decision to put it in the air in the first place and hit a smaller window once you have. Allen already has a career highlight reel of such throws, but Lock isn’t in that same realm in terms of arm talent (few, if any, are).