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Can Drew Lock get Denver in the hunt in 2020?

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: May 9, 2020, 3:19 pm ET

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2020 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

Hall of Fame QB John Elway is responsible for winning the Broncos three total Super Bowls. Two came as a player in 1998-1999, and the final as general manager in 2015.

The latter accomplishment has been overshadowed in recent seasons due to the franchise's continued inability to find a reliable QB. The list of players to start a game under center for the Broncos since Elway became Director of Player Personnel in 2011 is as follows:

Are anyone else's eyes bleeding?

Obviously winning the Peyton-sweepstakes was great, but otherwise we're looking at a whole bunch of whiffs ... before the potential exception of Lock.

Elway confirmed high expectations for the rising second-year QB in 2020, noting, "We feel Lock is that guy, but by no means has he made it." Let's breakdown what's in store for the Broncos' (hopeful) franchise QB.

Lock had a good not great rookie campaign

The Broncos' 2019 second-round pick suffered a thumb injury in the preseason and was forced to start his rookie year on the injured reserve.

Lock would ultimately return and start the final five games of the season. While the 4-1 record was great, the competition, and his individual performance, left a lot to be desired:

  • Week 13 vs. Chargers: 18-28, 134 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
  • Week 14 at Texans: 22-27, 309 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
  • Week 15 at Chiefs: 18-40, 208 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
  • Week 16 vs. Lions: 25-33, 192 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
  • Week 17 vs. Raiders: 17-28, 177 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Credit to Lock for only taking five combined sacks along the way as well as for posting a respectable 18-72-0 rushing line. Still, three fumbles didn't help, and he failed to lead the offense to at least 24 points in 3-of-5 starts.

The good news is a deeper look at Lock's performance shows some reason for optimism. He demonstrated both the ability to carve up defenses when given ample time (12th-best QB Rating when kept clean) as well as the mindset and athleticism to create off-script goodness that produced the league's single-longest average time from snap to sack (PFF).

Lock was an infrequent and ineffective deep-ball passer, but that could also be chalked up to a lack of viable field-stretching talents to throw the ball to. It's safe to say this problem has been solved entering the 2020 season.

The Broncos have surrounded Lock with speedy play-makers

This offense suddenly possesses speedsters all over the field:

Sutton is enough of a beast at the catch point to get away with not having elite speed, but even he's hardly someone that corners can sit too hard on routes against. The rest of the Broncos' skill-position talents are full of field-stretching ability, giving Lock's howitzer for an arm some much needed ammunition.

While evaluating the 2019 QB class, The Athletics' Dane Brugler noted that Lock, "Showcases a live arm and the makeup required to be an NFL starter, but he needs to continue developing his accuracy, mechanics and decision-making to live up to his intriguing potential."

Lock didn't show much deep-ball ability as a rookie, but this was largely the strength of his game at Missouri (per PFF):

  • QB Rating: 126.6 (tied for No. 2 among 50 draft-eligible QBs, passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield)
  • Yards per attempt: 18.1 (No. 4)
  • Completion rate: 46.9% (No. 7)
  • Touchdowns: 14 (tied for No. 5)
  • Interceptions: 1 (tied for No. 5)
  • Pass yards: 1,160 (No. 7)

The Broncos' middling offensive line needs to replace C Connor McGovern and RG Ronald Leary, although they've seemingly done at least a decent job solving that issue with high-priced free agent G Graham Glasgow and third-round C Lloyd Cushenberry. Scooping up long-time Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak is arguably one of the more-underrated moves of the entire offseason.

Add in the potential for the Broncos to boast an elite defense in 2020 and the team clearly doesn't need Lock to be a world-beater in order to contend for a Wild Card berth.

Denver might just need Lock to be average in order to compete in 2020

Coach Vic Fangio is a defensive-genius that helped the Broncos allow the 10th-fewest points in the league last season despite their inefficiencies on offense. He'll get stud DE Bradley Chubb and talented slot CB Bryce Callahan back in 2020, meaning we could see the unit as a whole take a step forward.

Yes, Lock didn't light the world on fire as a rookie. Also yes, he did flash the sort of arm talent and play-maker mentality that could produce some seriously exciting results with improved consistency.

Lock might just be the Jeezy-rapping savior that the Broncos have been searching for. He was the fantasy QB23 just ahead of Kyler Murray during the final five weeks of the season, but the lack of a rushing floor here should limit expectations from a fantasy perspective entering 2020.

Obviously Lock won't be on the radar for re-draft leagues that only use one QB. Still, two-QB and superflex managers should take a long look at throwing a dart at the Broncos' starting QB once the double-digit rounds come along. We know Lock has the talent to play at a high level, and a year-two leap isn't out of the question considering his new chest of riches at the WR position.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.