2019 NFL Draft: Inside Missouri QB Drew Lock's huge test, opportunity against Georgia
The Missouri senior quarterback has a chance to move into the No. 1 overall pick conversation on Saturday
The Missouri quarterback was on Monday, after his captivating performance in a close win over Purdue coupled with Ryan Finley's cancelled game led to Lock jumping to the top spot in my signal-caller rankings.
Tuesday's article zeroed in on his rifle arm, and I felt compelled to include him in the inaugural class of the NFL but possibly make it trendy again., a five-member group of vertical-shot taking quarterbacks with huge arms who, together, can not only defend the integrity of the deep ball in the
And now, here I am, writing about Lock's gigantic contest against Georgia at noon on Saturday.
This game is the first side of a fascinating double-edged sword for the senior quarterback.
It provides him a tremendous opportunity to significantly boost his Heisman candidacy and reputation among general managers, scouts, and draft analysts. But, at the same time, facing the Bulldogs is such a difficult test, and a disaster of a game could have the same impact in a negative way on his chances to win college football's most coveted individual award, sink his draft stock, and give way to variations of "flopped against top competition" sentences in his scouting reports.
(That entire paragraph applies to Lock's road outing in Tuscaloosa against a ridiculously stingy Alabama defense on October 13.)
Heading into this game in Columbia, Kirby Smart's team has allowed just 4.73 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks, the ninth-lowest figure in the nation. The Bulldogs secondary has surrendered three passing touchdowns but also has three picks, one dropped interception, and defended 10 passes on 100 attempts faced, per Sports Info Solutions (SIS). Georgia defensive backs have been active.
Leading that group is corner Deandre Baker, who probably would've gone in the second round of the 2018 draft had he declared and is currently the one spot below Lock. Because no one's perfect, I've tried to locate a hole in Baker's game and have yet to find a glaring one. He's 5-foot-11, and 185 pounds -- ok, so he doesn't have great size -- and for being a corner offenses tend to avoid because of his impeccable mirroring skills, he already has two picks and two pass breakups to go along with a forced fumble and tackle for loss through three games.
The senior will be ready to fly downfield with Tigers speedster Emanuel Hall, easily Lock's favorite target who's accounted for a whopping 36.8 percent of Missouri's receiving yards and will strut a 23.9 yards-per-reception average into this clash.
Fortunately for Lock and the Tigers, Georgia's pass rush hasn't rebounded from losing Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Trenton Thompson, and John Atkins from last season's national title team.
Ready for this? The Bulldogs have one sack -- yes, one -- in three blowout victories to begin the 2018 season. Beyond that, per SIS, their 10 total quarterback pressures rank 157th out of 204 tracked teams. Strange for a club that's given up just 24 points all year to this point.
Though pocket presence was an aspect of Lock's game I thought needed to improve before he entered the NFL, he hasn't been sacked much while at Missouri, which is thanks to a combination of his athleticism, quick release, and Missouri's wide open offense.
Last year, under former Oklahoma quarterback and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, Lock thrived after September operating the spread attack and was sacked just 11 times on 474 drop backs, which equates to a paltry 2.3% sack rate. Through three games in 2018, Lock's been taken to the turf behind the line with the ball in his hands just once on 123 drop backs, or at a 0.8% clip. New offensive coordinator Derek Cooley has utilized a similar four- and-five-wide philosophy for Lock in 2018.
If he's not under siege all afternoon, it'll be fascinating to watch how much separation the Missouri receivers can create against loads of talent in Georgia's secondary, how effective Lock is firing passes through tight windows, and the amount of times he successful stretches the field with his cannon of a right arm.
At Georgia a season ago, Lock completed 15 of 25 passes for 253 yards with four scores and one pick in a 53-23 rout at the hands of the Bulldogs. It was the end of a brutal five-game losing streak for Missouri but may have been the catalyst for Lock's explosion down the stretch when he averaged 320 yards, nearly four touchdown passes and just under one pick per game during the final seven outings of the season.
Lock's superbly talented, which aids his gun-slinger mentality. He's been much more patient in the pocket this year than last and has mostly avoided bad decisions. With a strong performance against a fast Georgia defense that randomly has shown no semblance of a pass rush early in 2018, Lock will garner serious No. 1 overall pick consideration.
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