Missouri quarterback Drew Lock had been weighing whether to go pro for weeks, and for days, he had leaned toward returning to school for his senior season.
But it wasn’t until Monday evening, after he and his father, Andy, had returned from his sister’s high school basketball game, that Lock was certain. The quarterback told his father coming back to Mizzou would be “the right decision,” and Andy Lock agreed. They bumped fists, and the next day, Lock let the rest of the world know his plans when he tweeted a highlight video announcing he was coming back to school instead of entering the NFL Draft.
“I’m very excited to be coming back for my senior year, and I’m really optimistic about what we can do as a team next season,” Lock said in a team-released statement.
The draft advisory board, which tends to offer conservative assessments, told Lock to return to school, which is what it tells prospects to do if it does not believe they will be first- or second-round picks.
This draft class of quarterbacks was already crowded with prospects who most experts viewed as being ahead of Lock, including UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Southern California’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Rosen, Darnold, Jackson and Allen are underclassmen who have already declared for the draft.
Lock said after Missouri’s Dec. 27 Texas Bowl loss that his decision was “how the (quarterback) class ends up.”
Andy Lock said the potential to be a first round pick in the 2019 NFL draft “certainly” played a role in his son’s decision to return. Lock could also become Missouri’s first ever Heisman Trophy winner.
“It’s a win-win if things play out the way that we feel that they can,” said Lock’s father, who took the lead on gathering opinions regarding what the quarterback should do. Andy Lock said about “80 percent” of the people he talked to told him his son would likely have been a second or third round pick if he decided to forgo his senior season.
After mediocre freshman and sophomore seasons, Lock didn’t seem like a real candidate to leave school early for the NFL. But he thrived in former offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s hybrid air raid-spread offense and led the nation with 44 touchdowns and in yards per completion. He was part of both the coaches’ and Associated Press’ all-SEC first teams.
Lock, from Lee’s Summit, said the draft advisory board wanted to see him make more intermediate throws. Heupel’s system didn’t offer many opportunities for those, and before making a decision, Lock wanted to see who the Tigers hired to replace Heupel, now the head coach at Central Florida.
“What could I necessarily squeeze out of him?” the quarterback previously said regarding how the offensive coordinator hire could affect his decision. “What could I learn from him, rather than jumping ahead, possibly missing the opportunity to learn from a great mind that may have been in the NFL, may have coached really good NFL quarterbacks?”
Mizzou’s new offensive coordinator, Derek Dooley, has run a pro-style system and has experience coaching in the NFL. He was most recently the wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys, and he was a tight ends coach for the Miami Dolphins.
Dooley has never been a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, but in his statement announcing his decision, Lock listed Dooley as one of the reasons he is returning school, along with finishing his sport management degree and having “a feeling of responsibility and loyalty” to his Mizzou coaches and teammates. Lock and Dooley have already spoken multiple times.
“The change in (offensive) system moving forward, in my opinion and Drew’s opinion as well, was a positive,” Andy Lock said.
Out of high school, Lock was the most heralded in-state quarterback to commit to the program since Blaine Gabbert. He had the arm, the charm, the hair and national accolades at the prep level. He became Missouri’s starting quarterback as a true freshman after incumbent starter Maty Mauk was suspended and later dismissed for disciplinary reasons.
Lock showed flashes of being an all-conference quarterback, but he struggled to be consistent. Though it has improved each year, he still struggles with his accuracy, posting a career-best .578 completion percentage this season.
He emerged as a star during Missouri’s six-game win streak to end the regular season and attracted scouts’ attention for his size and arm strength. Toward the end of the regular season, murmurs that Lock could sneak into the first round began to come from prominent NFL reporters such as ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Instead, Lock will return to a Missouri offense that loses just two key contributors from a season ago: wide receiver J’Mon Moore and running back Ish Witter, who led the team in receiving and rushing yards, respectively.
The Tigers’ starting offensive line, one of the best in the country for a second consecutive season, returns. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who led the nation in touchdowns for his position with 11, and wide receiver Emanuel Hall, Lock’s favorite deep threat, are coming back. So is running back Damarea Crockett, who ran for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman but missed the final seven games of his sophomore year because of a shoulder injury.
“Drew obviously has a great skill set that will continue to be developed at Mizzou,” Tigers coach Barry Odom said in a statement. “His leadership skills and being a great teammate are two qualities that I admire. I look forward to building our team this spring and am excited that Drew will be part of that. I know he will have an unbelievable approach in his preparation and practice habits to lead our program. He’s going to graduate from Mizzou and have a great senior season.”
With Lock under center next season, Missouri is a contender for the SEC Eastern Division title.
Missouri could still add a quarterback to its 2018 class. The Tigers have offered a scholarship to 5-foot-11 Lindsey Scott Jr., who won a national title this season at East Mississippi Community College. He was previously committed to LSU and is looked at by the staff as a potential replacement to Lock after the 2018 season.
Lock could help Missouri’s recruiting efforts in the month before National Signing Day, which is Feb. 5. The Tigers are expected to host a number of wide receiver targets on official visits in the coming weeks.
None of the wide receivers Missouri signed in its 2017 class played this past season. Da’Ron Davis, a Hogan Prep grad, failed to qualify academically, and O’Shae Clark transferred shortly into fall camp. Missouri’s depth at the position was thin and that showed in the Texas Bowl, after wideout Emanuel Hall re-injured his hamstring and couldn’t play.
Lock will enter the 2018 season needing 32 touchdowns and 4,090 yards to break Chase Daniel’s program records for career touchdowns and passing yards.
“Drew’s one of those kids that likes clarity and a vision and the next step,” Andy Lock said. “Plenty of time to prepare for it now.”