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NFL Hopes He's the Next Pat Mahomes, but Drew Lock Is Just Trying to Be Himself

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2019

North quarterback Drew Lock of Missouri (3) throws a pass during practice for Saturday's Senior Bowl college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

Drew Lock cracked a joke Monday when asked whether he embraces comparisons to Patrick Mahomes.

"Well, I think every quarterback here would like to throw 50 touchdowns," Lock quipped at his Senior Bowl press conference.

Lock also cracked wise when asked about his "underrated" running ability.

"It might just be my running style," he said. "When I take off, it looks like I'm moving pretty slow, but then it takes everyone a while to catch up. Long strides. It's a little gangly. Kind of like Gumby."

Lock then wiggled his arms over his head to illustrate his Gumby-like rushing style.

Welcome to NFL draft season, when a quarterback is the next MVP candidate one minute and a children's show character from the 1960s the next. Get ready for three months of hype, spin and loopy comparisons. For a top prospect like Lock, laughter may be the best coping strategy.

The Lock-Mahomes comparisons originated with NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, who saw some similarities between Lock and the young Chiefs superstar entering the 2018 season. ESPN's Todd McShay then called Lock a "poor man's Patrick Mahomes" in his Senior Bowl preview last week.

The comparisons are based on Lock's Mahomes-esque tendency to extend plays, throw from odd angles and do what Lock called "funky stuff" in the pocket. So, there are some superficial similarities. Still, the comparisons are premature, misleading and a little unfair.

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Lock, who threw for more than 3,000 yards in each of his final three seasons at Missouri, is not Mahomes, Gumby or a poor man's anything. He's one of the top prospects in what's considered a thin quarterback class, out to prove that he's worthy of a high first-round pick and the keys to an NFL franchise.

Drew Lock threw for 95 touchdowns in his last three years at Missouri.
Drew Lock threw for 95 touchdowns in his last three years at Missouri.Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

While Lock may chuckle at the predraft hype, it's one of the things he came to Mobile, Alabama, to generate. So far, he's done a pretty good job.

On the field, Lock's passing velocity and quick release were on display in Tuesday's practice. He and Duke's Daniel Jones were by far the best of the nine quarterbacks on the two Senior Bowl rosters.

Off the field, Lock's confidence and engaging sense of humor made him the rock star of the media interviews. He looks and sounds like a future "face of the franchise."

Of course, convincing the press pool is not Lock's primary task. He's here to impress scouts and coaches.

Jon Gruden, whose Raiders staff is coaching the North squad this week, called Lock a "talented, quick-armed customer" before the first practices Tuesday. But Gruden also outlined what Lock must demonstrate this week.

"I want to see him communicate," Gruden said. "A lot of these colleges use the silent count; they don't get in the huddle.

"Communication, the recognition of the defense and then the execution—that's what I'm after. And I want to see him do that at a very, very high level, because that's what the top picks have to do."

According to Lock, Gruden—who's well-known for his bristly personalitytested his communication skills right away.

"I went up and introduced myself to him this morning at breakfast," Lock said Monday. "And he said, 'Sit down a second.' Alright, I thought. Here we go."

Lock and Gruden talked for a bit. And then, "in mid-conversation, he goes, 'Hey Lock, talk about the pick you threw at Alabama. What were you doing there?'"

Lock outlined what he admitted was a "horrible" play for Gruden, explaining what went wrong, and then discussed other plays he ran at college.

Carter Donnick @CDonScouting

Drew Lock to Terry McLaurin. Absolute perfection. https://t.co/B5CsuTItrc

Prior to last year, Lock would not have been ready for an NFL coach catching him off-guard with a challenging question.

"I would have had no idea what he was talking about," he said. "It would have been really overwhelming. But now, I'm sitting there talking to Jon Gruden and I'm ready."

Lock started a handful of games for Missouri in 2015, the year the university came under fire for its handling of racism on campus. Several football players threatened to boycott games in protest. The university president resigned. Head coach Gary Pinkel resigned for health reasons. New head coach Barry Odom set about rebuilding the program around Lock in the wake of the tumult.

When former Dallas Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joined Odom's staff last year, he became Lock's third offensive coordinator in four seasons. Lock threw 44 touchdowns in 2017, prompting speculation that he would head to the NFL rather than learn a new system.

But Lock had a rep as a cannon-armed, erratic deep passer in an offense that took most decisions out of the quarterback's hands. Dooley promised to make him more NFL-ready. Lock opted to stay at Mizzou for his senior season.

Dooley gave Lock more on-field responsibilities. Lock's efficiency and understanding of the game improved.

"I have absolutely zero regrets about coming back last year," he said. "I needed to learn the things I did. I'm 10 times more prepared than I was the year before."

Lock may have passed his breakfast test with Gruden, but Gruden does not appear to be in the market for a quarterback right now. Plenty of other teams are, and as always, scouts and decision-makers from all 32 teams are in Mobile watching and interviewing the Senior Bowl attendees.

The "rumor" that the Broncos are interested in Lock is so prevalent in Mobile that it's more of a foregone conclusion than a possibility. The Broncos need a long-term answer at quarterback, and team president John Elway likes quarterbacks with Elway-like attributes: a rocket arm, a quick release and extreme confidence.

Broncos fans who still cope with Paxton Lynch flashbacks may shudder at the idea of Elway growing infatuated with another big-armed rookie. But Lock looks and sounds more NFL-ready than Lynch ever did.

Still, it's too early to start linking quarterbacks to teams just yet. The Giants and Jaguars need quarterbacks and will pick ahead of the Broncos. The Dolphins and Washington are within easy trade-up range of leaping over the Broncos in pursuit of a quarterback. There are other rookies in the poolOhio State's Dwayne Haskins tops most boards, Daniel Jones is on the rise, and Kyler Murray's sports future may be decided by measuring tapeplus veterans like Nick Foles and Joe Flacco offering premium-priced alternatives to the perils of developing a rookie.

Lock may not look like the most graceful of runners, but he had enough athleticism to avoid a sack all but 13 times as a senior at Missouri.
Lock may not look like the most graceful of runners, but he had enough athleticism to avoid a sack all but 13 times as a senior at Missouri.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press/Associated Press

Far from some high-risk Mahomes look-alike, Lock may be the surest thing on the market: a four-year SEC starter who took a big Dooley-assisted leap forward as a senior, a guy with prototypical size (6'4", 225 pounds) and arm strength and gangly-but-decent athleticism.

Lock's experience at Missouri may also give him the leadership chops usually associated with veterans.

"When you throw me in the locker room with guys, I'm gonna be able to adapt to any scenario you throw me in," Lock said, citing a college career which included everything from multiple coaching changes to campus discord that spilled into the locker room. "I'm going to be able to pull a team through adversity."

That's precisely what the men like Gruden and Elway who rule the NFL love to hear.

               

Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeTanier. 

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