Coming out of a spectacular NFL season that saw the Kansas City Chiefs win their first Super Bowl in fifty years, the annual question has returned to the top of fans’ minds: who will be the next MVP?
While people would tend to argue for a proven player such as Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, or Lamar Jackson, I offer up my dark horse pick for 2020 NFL MVP: second-year Broncos quarterback Drew Lock. Here is my reasoning:
We first have to look at the most basic category to analyze Drew Lock’s potential as MVP: stats. After coming off of Injured Reserve from a thumb injury he suffered in the preseason, Lock would debut in the orange and navy in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Lock led the Broncos to a 23-20 win with a 64.3% completion rate, and throwing for 134 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception (he also added fifteen yards on the ground) for a rating of 84.5. He would go on to have his best game of the season in the following week in Houston against the Texans, where the Broncos upset Houston by a score of 38-24.
In the victory, Lock threw 22 completions in 27 attempts for 309 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception putting up his best rating of the year: 136.
Lock’s Broncos would stumble the next game against the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs losing 23-3 in a game where Lock tossed no touchdowns and two interceptions. However, Lock and the Broncos finished strong by winning their last two games against the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders respectively.
Drew Lock finished his season with 1,020 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions with a rating of 89.7. This is a very solid statline for any rookie quarterback especially in Lock’s circumstances, but one must look at the most important category of success: Lock’s ability to win games.
Before Lock’s activation off of IR, the Joe Flacco-led Broncos had a 2-6 record. Once Lock was on the field, the Broncos were a completely different team going 4-1 in their last five games. Lock’s ability to win games is evident, and it puts him in some incredible company amongst the Broncos organization.
The only other Broncos quarterback to achieve these numbers? That would be the legendary John Elway. However, it took Elway ten games to win four; it only took Lock five to match Elway’s wins!
Another thing to analyze here is changes amongst the Broncos’ offense. The 2019 Broncos were dismal around the board with their offense ranking 28th amongst all 32 teams in the league. However, their offseason moves have been incredibly solid and should boost Lock’s ability to shine.
Let’s start with their management: the Broncos fired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and replaced him with former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. While Shurmur’s Giants went 9-23 under his leadership, his offensive play schemes allowed players such as Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones to put up impressive numbers with the former earning NFL Rookie of the Year in 2018.
However, the aspect that really makes Pat Shurmur the perfect offensive coordinator for Drew Lock’s development and success is Shurmur’s past in developing young quarterbacks: Shurmur has helped quarterbacks such as Nick Foles blossom into proven players early in their careers, and Lock should be no different.
The Broncos also boosted their offensive line by signing former Detroit Lion Graham Glasgow in free agency. With the addition of Glasgow and a healthy Ja’Wuan James, the Broncos offensive line should be ranked amongst the top ten lines in the NFL and should be able to protect Lock.
The addition of Melvin Gordon is also another positive for Lock, and adds an explosive playmaker to the Broncos backfield with strong pass-catching abilities.
However, the most important aspect of the Broncos offense that was upgraded for Lock is the new additions at wide receiver. The Broncos drafted Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round, and he is widely considered to be the best wide receiver prospect in the entire draft.
Jeudy is the total package: as an elite route-runner with great hands, Jeudy has been compared to Odell Beckham Jr., who has enjoyed his own success with both the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns. Jeudy’s stellar college production should continue in the NFL, and he should pair very well with the oft-underlooked Courtland Sutton.
The Broncos also drafted speedy Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler in the second round. Hamler’s speed and ability to break away has been compared to DeSean Jackson, and Hamler’s speed should compliment Jeudy’s route-running for a one-two punch of rookie weapons for Lock to target.
In a lot of ways, the Broncos offense resembles the 2017 Minnesota Vikings, which was another Shurmur-led team. The combination of Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy can be compared to that of 2017 Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and emerging tight end Noah Fant should be able to take a massive step in his second year to slightly resemble Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph.
The most important thing to note here? Case Keenum put up the best season of his career in 2017 by finishing with 3,547 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a passer rating of 98.3. Drew Lock has the potential and the weapons to flourish under Shurmur’s coaching, and could be primed for an MVP-level year.
One final category to examine is trends. One might argue that correlation does not imply causation, but in the case of the last two MVP winners (Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, respectively), there are some striking similarities that they share with each other as well as Lock.
All three quarterbacks sat on the bench for the majority of their rookie year: Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith in Kansas City until his debut in Week 17, Jackson sat behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore until Week 7, and Lock sat behind Joe Flacco as well (albeit in Denver this time) until Week 13.
Another interesting comparison can be made between Jackson and Lock: they both lost only one game in the regular season their rookie years: Jackson went 6-1 whilst Lock went 4-1.
If recent trends mean anything, it’s that quarterbacks are likely to explode their production in their second year, and with all of his new weapons, similarities to past MVPs, and pure ability to lead his team to wins, Drew Lock could very well become the next big thing in the NFL and be the 2020 NFL MVP.
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