As it turns out, Missouri junior quarterback Drew Lock’s decision to stay in school rather than bolting early for the promise of NFL riches was an easy one.
Of course, it was driven, at least in part, by the hope even more riches lay ahead, if Lock’s gamble that one more season with the Tigers turns him into a sure-fire first-round pick pays off.
Lock, a Lee’s Summit graduate who led the Football Bowl Subdivision with a Mizzou- and SEC-record 44 touchdown passes last season, announced Tuesday that he would return for his senior season via social media.
“I don’t think it was probably as difficult as a lot of people thought it might have been,” Lock’s father, Andy Lock, said. “He had a couple things that were important to him.”
For starters, Lock, a sport management major, is optimistic the team can build off a six-game win streak to close the regular season. He said in a statement from Mizzou that he feels a “responsibility and loyalty to my coaches and teammates” and also hopes to complete his degree.
But Drew’s decision also is a calculated business move.
“He really felt like he could improve his draft stock next year,” Andy said. “It was just that simple. He kind of came on the radar late this year and there was a lot of information that fell between late first round to early fifth round.”
The NFL’s Draft Advisory Board recommended that Drew return to school, signaling that he wasn’t likely to be a first- or second-round pick.
While those assessments generally tend to be conservative, the consensus among advisors to the Lock family was he’d likely wind up being a second- or third-round selection if he left school a year early.
Part of that calculation also includes the deep QB class for the 2018 draft, which already includes a quartet of highly touted early-entry declarations — UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, South California’s Sam Darnold and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
If Drew Lock were to shine at the NFL Combine and nail his team interviews during the coming months, perhaps he’d rocket up draft boards league-wide. But it’s a risk.
It’s less of a risk to return to school — potentially amid Heisman Trophy hype — and hope to dazzle again, possibly cementing himself as a 2019 first-round pick.
“There was so much uncertainty this year, but he felt like coming back could create some certainty next year, if he had a good year,” Andy said.
Drew also cited the chance to work with new Tigers offensive coordinator Derek Dooley among the reasons he chose to return to school.
He flourished under the tutelage of former MU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who bolted last month to become Central Florida’s new head coach.
Under Heupel’s system, Drew got to show off his Howitzer, leading the nation with 19 passing plays of more than 50 yards and finishing fourth overall in QB efficiency rating by completing 242 of 419 passes (57.8 percent) for 3,964 yards with 44 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
But Lock may get to show more NFL-readiness playing for Dooley, who spent the last five seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ wide receivers coach.
Assuming Dooley brings more of a pro-style offense, it could give Lock a chance to demonstrate his ability to make the intermediate throws (e.g. the medium-depth sideline out route) that make NFL executives salivate.
Dooley, who was Tennessee’s head coach from 2010-12, called Drew as soon as his hiring was made public and they’ve stayed in touch a handful of times during the last week, through phone calls and texts.
Based on those conversations, Andy expects an offense that incorporates “more pro-style concepts and a lot more under-center stuff” without sacrificing the big-play ability the offense cultivated under Heupel and for which Drew’s shown such aptitude.
“I think it will be a pretty diverse system,” Andy said. “… I think Coach Dooley will bring a lot of knowledge from his time in the NFL to that quarterback room and that offensive room. I’m excited about that.”
Drew will enter next season 31 touchdowns and 3,821 yards to break Chase Daniel’s career records for touchdowns passes (101) and passing yards (12,515) at Mizzou, easily attainable marks if he remains healthy and productive during his final season.