Drew Lock's Early Success Will Rise or Fall with his Deep Ball
While Drew Lock certainly put some nice plays on tape in his five appearances as a rookie, one area where he struggled was throwing downfield. He went three of eleven on passes that travelled twenty or more yards down the field, with one touchdown and one interception. Here's how that stacks up against the rest of the league, per NFL Next Gen stats.
Drew Lock Passer Rating Compared to League Average, 2019-20 Season
As those bright red boxes make glaringly apparent, Lock was well below average in two of the three deep sectors. This is especially concerning because ten of his eleven deep passes went to those portions of the field, so the poor results speak to essentially his full downfield passing resume.
Because of this poor rookie performance, I was especially interested to see how Lock would fare when he went down the field this season. Unfortunately, the results from week one are not encouraging.
Drew Lock Passes vs Tennessee Titans, Week 1, 2020-21 Season
Zero for five. (Make sure not to miss that 46 yarder down the left sideline that likely would've won the game if it hadn't been overthrown). That brings his twenty-plus yard totals to three for sixteen, with one TD and one INT.*
Part of what makes Lock so alluring as a passer is the way he can send the ball rocketing downfield with an effortless flick of the wrist. His arm has so much juice, but to succeed in this league Lock will need to start putting those passes on target.
To be fair, Lock has not been playing with receivers that threaten the long ball very well as a group. Courtland Sutton is an excellent target, but he was Lock's best—and really, his only option last year. And Sutton didn't suit up this week against Tennessee, leaving rookie Jerry Jeudy as the sole viable downfield threat. Hopefully playing with Sutton, Jeudy, and explosive speedster K.J. Hamler will lead to improvement on future deep shots.
Uncorking a deep pass always puts me on the edge of my seat, but I'll be paying extra close attention to Lock's downfield shots over the next few games. The young gunslinger's career may be riding on their outcome.
*As a note for anyone concerned that the twenty yard cutoff is an arbitrary marker that unfairly skews things, the results only get worse when you expand the pool and also consider passes that travelled just shy of twenty yards. He went one for seven on such throws, making his adjusted total a miserable four for twenty three.