Drew Lock has really started to look like the collegiate reincarnation of Matthew Stafford.
The Detroit Lions signal-caller was my comparison for the Missouri quarterback before the season began, but I knew Lock needed some refinement with his decision-making and footwork.
After a strong start to the year, Lock hit some road bumps against top-level defenses. Of late, he's gotten into a rhythm at all levels of the field, and his significant arm strength is always on display. After another impressive outing on Saturday, Lock has started to distance himself from the other quarterback prospects in this class.
Here's how Lock and other NFL Draft prospects are stacking up in the latest edition of QB Stock Watch.
Lock missed a pair of downfield sideline throws to his favorite target, Emanuel Hall, in the early going against Tennessee but was hitting on slant after slant on high-velocity throws made from different arm angles. He had two long-ball touchdowns dropped -- one uncharacteristically by Hall -- and deployed a laser over the shoulder of a cornerback that was a trophy case toss for his draft resume. Lock threw accurately on the run too. While the dropped downfield strikes were outstanding, I thought his best throw game on a jerk-route touchdown that you rarely see. From the left hash, Lock uncorked a rocket to the far right outside receiver, who started his route like it was going to be a shallow cross, then stuck his foot in the ground and accelerated toward the sideline. It was a super-long throw for the Missouri quarterback and had a tiny margin for error. The ball was on time, with enough juice and hit the wideout in stride for what was an easy score.
There was a throw in the dirt over the middle but beyond that, Lock was on point all game against Tennessee. Given the level of competition, it was his finest throwing performance of the season, and he managed the pocket well, too, although he wasn't pressured much.
2. Ryan Finley, NC State: Stock Up, Slightly
Finley got off to a great start, throwing in rhythm and with anticipation on out-breaking routes and on short slants, even with pressure in his face. NC State didn't need to, but it ran two flea-flickers against Louisville, and while Finley connected on both, neither had ideal ball-placement. Finley was off on a dig route too, and nearly tossed a pick on a rollout in the end zone early but got back into a rhythm on two long anticipation throws to his talented tight end Emeka Emezie. He tossed a dime on a deep cross later.
Before he was taken out of the game because of its blowout status, Finley made his best throw of the game on a relatively deep pass to Kelvin Harmon right over the head of the cornerback. Good rebound game for the veteran quarterback.
3. Justin Herbert, Oregon: Stock Steady
Herbert put perfect touch on a deep-shot touchdown to Dillon Mitchell late in the second quarter from the far hash, which came after a throw just inside the numbers with impressive velocity to an open receiver.
He missed Mitchell on essentially the same play earlier, and threw a pick on a well-under-thrown ball that came when he was hit as threw. Herbert's second pick came when he did slide up and away from pressure but forced the football into coverage and led to a tip-drill interception for Arizona State. For the most part, I liked Herbert's pocket management and accuracy on in-breaking routes, but can't label this a "stock up" performance due to the turnovers and plethora of screens that inflated his statistics.
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4. Daniel Jones, Duke: Stock Up, Slightly
Although his numbers don't indicate this, Duke's veteran quarterback managed the game against Clemson extremely well in the first quarter by getting the ball out quickly and accurately to underneath targets before finding a wide-open receiver to his right after starting the play looking to his left. A play later, with Clelin Ferrell bearing down on him outside the pocket, Jones launched an on-target deep ball ... that was dropped. There was some tight coverage, but the throw as there. Early in the second, Jones made a gorgeous throw through a tight window on a deep slant that was dropped.
For as good as the first half was -- Duke led 7-6 with under two minutes to go in the half -- the second half was that much of a disaster the Blue Devils, although I thought Jones still held it together with a few accurate passes under pressure. He just took too many sacks and had a handful of throws batted at the line. Despite the big loss, Jones fared well in the most hostile of environments against an avalanche of NFL talent. It was probably the best 3.67 yards-per-attempt game a quarterback can have.
Unrelated ... kind of. The Clemson purple uniforms with the orange-outlined numbers are awesome. The Tigers need to wear those threads more often. (cc: Dabo)
5. Will Grier, West Virginia: Stock Up, Slightly
Shaky start on the opening drive for Grier with bad ball-placement, which looked like an aberration when watching the next two drives, as he threw with impressive accuracy to all levels of the field, especially the over-the-shoulder touchdown to David Sills.
After a plethora of screens and easy, high-percentage throws, Grier made a nice anticipation throw on a deep out but the ball took forever to get to its target. In the third, Grier threw a wobbler deep that was nearly intercepted by the middle-of-the-field safety. He missed Sills on a jump ball in the end zone late in the game but the talented receiver made an amazing adjustment on the ball on a slightly under-thrown back-shoulder toss in the fourth.
Grier made his best throw of the season -- yes, season -- on the final drive of the game against Oklahoma State with under 20 seconds left when he looked down the middle, then snapped his head to the right and threw a rope over the cornerback and in front of the safety down the sideline. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, he was then flushed out of the pocket and didn't put enough air on the ball into the end zone to Sills to end the game. Overall, a good but not great performance from the senior.
Honorable Mention: Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
In his homecoming against Maryland, Haskins went 28 of 38 for 405 yards with three touchdowns and an interception ... and 15 carries for 59 yards and three scores. He's very inexperienced for an NFL prospect but does play well beyond his years in terms of full-field reads, decisiveness, and overall accuracy.
It'll be interesting to see if Haskins declares for the 2019 NFL Draft because he's undoubtedly talented. Another year at Ohio State, and we could be talking about No. 1 overall pick consideration for the Buckeyes signal-caller.