Since the end of the 2020 season, pressure has ramped up at the quarterback position for the Broncos.
Denver may have bucked expectations by not drafting a QB with their first-round pick, but the team still added competition for Drew Lock by bringing in veteran and former Pro Bowler Teddy Bridgewater. With a reloaded defense and the return of several key players who were injured in 2020, the Broncos seem to be in prime position to challenge for a playoff spot this year.
But it's well understood that to do so they'll need better quarterback play than what they've had recently.
Lock's 2020 season hit considerable speed bumps because of struggles with turnovers and injuries, and the once-rabid Lock fever has returned to a low simmer.
That said, there is a case to be made for Lock's chances to still be the quarterback the Broncos need, as Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson writes.
"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," Monson wrote. "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?"
Though he notes that the leaps Allen made since entering the league have been largely unprecedented, Monson uses the comparison to show how Lock could still make strides. After all, Lock's total experience thus far amounts to little over a single season of football.
"What Lock does have working in his favor, though, is a high big-time throw rate of 6.4% last season," Monson wrote. "That figure ranked seventh in the league, behind five-star quarterbacks and Derek Carr. It's a higher figure than Allen managed (5.8%) and shows that for all his inaccuracy, Lock has real upside. Big-time throws are PFF's highest-graded passes. Generally, they are deeper down the field, into extremely tight windows or a combination of both. And they aren't just a nice thing to see in a quarterback; they materially matter to an offense."
Lock finished his first year as Denver's primary starter on a strong kick, throwing for 1,015 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions over the final quarter of the season. That's exactly the kind of play the Broncos will need out of him if he is to prove he can be a long-term answer at quarterback, but Lock will have to show that consistently to make a jump in his development.
"There is certainly an optimistic way of reading Lock's situation and drawing inspiration from Josh Allen's growth to envisage a breakout year in 2021 given the wealth of talent around him and where he is now in his NFL career in terms of experience," Monson wrote. "Things don't click immediately for every NFL quarterback, and Lock has at least continued to flash big-time playmaking, just as he did at the college level. What remains unknown is whether he can make the kind of third-year leap that propelled Allen to unprecedented heights."
Below the Fold
Revisiting the 2011 NFL Draft, Kyle Brandt and NFL.com recently recapped one of the most loaded draft classes in recent memory. Even before the Super Bowl 50 duel between No. 1 pick Cam Newton and No. 2 pick Von Miller, the two occupied rare status. "Cam and Von are one of four pairs of top picks to win Offensive and Defensive Rookie in the Year," Brandt said. "They were also the second straight combo to accomplish the feat after Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh did it the year before. But these two are special. They're the only duo on the list who would eventually meet in the Super Bowl.