What is disappointment? Is it when a healthy Cowboys fail to finish above the injury-battered Eagles in 2019? Is it when the Falcons blow a 28-3 lead against the Patriots in Super Bowl 51? Is it when you draft Baker Mayfield as a top 5 QB & he ends up finishing the QB20? For me, it’s all of the above. My take on the phrase ‘to disappoint’ is to underperform / fail to meet expectations.
In this article, I’ll be analyzing one of the most polarizing players in the NFL - Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock. I’ll be looking at Lock from both a real-life & fantasy perspective, reviewing what he achieved in 2019 & my prediction on how 2020 will look for both him & the team. Will he be a ‘Lock’ to disappoint or will he surprise & meet expectations in reality & fantasy?
Will Lock disappoint or meet expectations?
Drew Lock was selected in Round 2, Pick 10 of the 2019 NFL Draft. To begin his rookie season, Lock was the 3rd string QB, behind former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco & career backup Brandon Allen. After week 7, star WR Emmanuel Sanders was traded to the 49ers & a week later starting QB Flacco suffered a neck injury which ended his season. Over the next 3 games, backup Allen was predictably bang average. Week 13, enter Lock, who despite the team trading it’s best receiving weapon a month before, ended up finishing the season with a very respectable 4-1 record as a starter. In this run, the only blotch on the record was a divisional defeat on the road to the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. Lock’s four wins came in his debut at home to divisional rival Los Angeles Chargers, on the road to playoff team Houston Texans, before finishing the season with home wins against the Detroit Lions & another divisional victory versus the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders. Although Lock’s four victories came against teams with a combined record of 25-38-1, it was pretty impressive considering the lack of offensive talent & relative draft pedigree. The Broncos ended up finishing the year with a 7-9 record, good for 2nd spot in the AFC West - behind the 12-4 Chiefs, tied with the 7-9 Raiders & above the 5-11 Chargers.
Flacco injury opened the door for Lock
Looking back at the fantasy results for 2019, the first game that stands out to me is the week 14 win on the road at the Houston Texans. Lock produced 23.86 fantasy points, which was by far Lock’s best performance from a fantasy perspective. When we dig deeper and provide further context, it’s worth noting that the Texans were the 2nd easiest team for opposition QBs to face in 2019, making this less impressive than the raw data. Let’s take a look at the remaining 2019 games, from a fantasy strength of opponent perspective:
vs Chargers: 12.86 fantasy points (25th easiest opponent for QB)
at Chiefs: 5.62 fantasy points (19th easiest opponent for QB)
vs Lions: 12.68 fantasy points (5th easiest opponent for QB)
vs Raiders: 10.98 fantasy points (7th easiest opponent for QB)
The overall feeling from the above data is one of disappointment from a fantasy perspective. The debut performance versus the Chargers & divisional road trip to the Chiefs were pretty much expected as they bring their own individual challenges: both divisional games, with one on debut & a visit to one of the toughest stadiums in the league - Arrowhead Stadium. The real disappointment is the final two games, both home games against bottom 8 defenses, providing an ideal opportunity to shine from a fantasy perspective. Instead, these performances yielded a QB21 & QB22 respectively for fantasy purposes - not what you’re wanting from your QB in any format.
Drew Lock’s 2019 Fantasy Stats
The opportunity for a QB drafted in the 2nd round to lead an NFL franchise is one that we don’t encounter too often. In terms of current NFL starters at the position with 2nd round draft capital - the only two other QBs that have been drafted in the last 10 years are Derek Carr & Jimmy Garoppolo. Both of these are steady, game-manager types: system QBs that deliver based on their surrounding talent & system. In 2020, Lock is in a position to succeed, with upgraded starters at RB (Melvin Gordon) and WR (Jerry Jeudy & K.J Hamler), on top of the other two young studs on this offense - WR Courtland Sutton & TE Noah Fant. The Broncos have also added experienced offensive co-ordinator Pat Shurmur - with 11 years NFL experience as co-ordinator & head coach. The season that stands out to me is the 2017 Vikings, led by game-manager Case Keenum, to a 13-3 record & NFC Championship Game under the guidance of OC Shurmur. I believe this is the type of offense & scheme he will look to re-create in Denver: a game-manager QB & top 10 rush offense with a balanced passing game. The Broncos are currently slated to win 7.5 games based on the current betting lines - I believe this could be within the range of outcomes based on their 7-9 record last season, however we need to consider the division as a whole & the current offseason situation within a global pandemic.
Lock to be used like Vikings’ Keenum?
We’ve seen plenty of sophomore success for fantasy QBs in the NFL, from the record-breaking season of Patrick Mahomes, to the masterclass of Lamar Jackson - fantasy players love the new shiny toy poised for a breakout after their rookie season. For every success story, there’s also a disappointing one - most recently Baker Mayfield in 2019. After a sizzling rookie season, Baker fell flat after a ton of hype, albeit not totally his own fault. It’s easy to get caught in the hysteria & I’m worried we could see the same again in 2020 with Drew Lock: hype over output. I’ve seen a ton of hype on social media regarding Lock, however this hasn’t fully translated to his ADP (average draft position) in both dynasty & redraft formats - with him being selected as the QB18 in dynasty startups & QB19 in redraft leagues - according to Sleeper.
I’ve taken place in 5 dynasty startups this offseason, with Lock being drafted as the QB16, QB11, QB10, QB17 & QB12, with these drafts taking place chronologically between March & June. In the leagues I play in I didn’t see him reach his ADP once, I must play in a ton of leagues with Lock truthers & Broncos fans… In terms of my broad fantasy projections which I complete for each player, here’s the results for Drew Lock: 4000 passing yards, 27 passing TDs, 12 INTs, 250 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs = my QB18 in redraft / dynasty year one. He’s also my QB18 in my dynasty rankings - which factors in scores on talent, situation, age, durability, contract & upside. When we consider the two 2nd round QBs that were discussed earlier (Derek Carr & Jimmy Garoppolo), it’s clear to see these are considered the lower end QB2, a steady asset over time, but not what you would consider a fantasy league-winner. These are both guys that have yet to have a top 10 fantasy season in their careers - a potentially accurate & fair projection for fellow 2nd rounder, Drew Lock.
Lock’s hype parallel to 2019 Baker Mayfield?
Credit: BrownsWire - USAToday
With the bar set at 7.5 wins for the Broncos 2020 season, based on their 7-9 record in 2020 with a sophomore QB and new weapons, the casual fan would bet the over on wins… not me. The Broncos have a ton of new faces, on & off the field, with little time to adjust in the middle of a global pandemic. A new OC in Shurmur, new QB coach in Mike Shula, new RB in Gordon, rookie WRs in Jeudy & Hamler, new TE in Albert Okwuegbunam, new linemen - a huge amount of turnover in personnel to combine with a sophomore QB totalling 5 career starts. Another factor to consider is the sleeping giant in the division, the Los Angeles Chargers. In 2020, the Chargers finished a miserable 5-11, despite fielding one of the best rosters in the NFL. There’s been a few key losses on offense, however this team should still have plenty to contend, under the guidance of underrated game-manager QB Tyrod Taylor. It’s worth noting that if the record in one score games from the 2019 season was flipped, the Chargers would have been a 12-4 team & division winner, with a 2020 rebound extremely likely.
In fantasy, the ADP of QB18 in dynasty & QB19 in redraft are very reasonable based on my projections. I don’t see the dynasty ADP reflected in the leagues I’ve been drafting in - the hype seems to be more common on social media & my draft rooms than in overall ADP - meaning in the wider community there are savvy fantasy players fading Lock, making his price reasonable overall. In redraft I have yet to participate in a draft this offseason, however QB18 falls in line with my projections & the huge benefit in 1QB leagues is the waiver wire, should Lock flame out & underperform, there will be viable alternatives to replace him with. The disappointment in fantasy will depend on the price you pay. In 3 out of the 5 drafts I’ve been involved in this offseason Lock’s being drafted as a QB1 - I think this is a massive overpay & selected by owners that have heavily bought into hype. The worry for these owners that overpaid is that if Lock does indeed out-produce his ADP but not to the level of his current cost, it will feel like a loss to them. These owners are taking him at his fantasy ceiling, which is sub-optimal in the long run.
Tyrod’s Chargers primed for a rebound?
The actions I would take regarding Lock in 2020:
Dynasty - don’t reach and take Lock above ADP, short-term fantasy success is slim & long-term upside is capped on the basis of 2nd round talent & historic production. I believe he is fine as a QB2 in Superflex, provided you have a high-end QB1 in place & you’re getting him at or below ADP in startups. If you roster him in dynasty I would see where other teams in your league value him. From the draft rooms I’ve been in, 60% have massively overpaid, if you can get a similar value to what I've seen you could help your overall dynasty roster with a something like a Bridgewater plus type deal. I would actively be looking to sell Lock at the right price.
Redraft - in reality, Lock should be on waiver wires in 1QB leagues, unless you play in leagues with super deep benches where owners keep multiple QBs. I think he can be a serviceable play in redraft as the risk is low, with likely numerous options to replace him on the waiver wire, in the event of poor performance. However, even though my fantasy projection is in line with ADP, there will be better options with a higher upside in 2020, going around or after Drew Lock, guys such as Gardner Minshew or Tyrod Taylor. Late round QB is all about upside, with questions regarding talent & short-term success I would personally avoid Lock in this format.
Overall, I believe that Lock has serious question marks in both fantasy & reality. The Broncos won’t finish at .500 (8-8) & he’s not the right blend of risk & upside to lead your fantasy teams to titles. Drew is a ‘Lock’ to disappoint...
Be sure to follow me on Twitter - Kev White @dynasty_goat - thank you for the read!