Is Drew Lock better than Daniel Jones?
Seaside Joe 1199: Would you want Daniel Jones starting for the Seahawks this year?
Going into the 2019 NFL Draft, Chris Simms caught heat for not ranking one of the quarterbacks as highly as the national media. While most people agreed that Kyler Murray was the only player worth considering with the Cardinals’ pick at one, Simms did not think that Daniel Jones was anywhere near contention for a top-10 pick.
Simms ranked Jones as the number six quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. He had Drew Lock ranked second.
"I was underwhelmed when I watched the film on Jones."
After starting for three seasons at Duke, but never playing all that well (during his best season, Jones averaged 6.8 Y/A, which ranked 79th in NCAA that year), Jones had all the resume attributes that I’ve been trying to caution people against when they project Malik Willis to be the next Lamar Jackson or Will Levis to be the next Josh Allen.
At the combine, Daniel Jones measured 6’5, 221 lbs, ran a 4.81, and flashed an inordinate amount of arm strength to complement the ability to scramble for first downs. So long as you only watched Daniel Jones highlights, and ignored a career completion rate below 60% with 29 interceptions in 36 games, then it was hard not to be mesmerized by potential over proof.
This is not to say that quarterback prospect evaluation is ever easy.
Josh Allen completed only 56% of his passes at Wyoming, averaged 6.7 Y/A during his junior season, and was putting up those stats against the likes of Texas State, New Mexico, and Central Michigan. Allen is now the top-ranked quarterback in the NFL, according to Simms.
But even though the New York Giants opted to draft Jones with the number six pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Simms was not alone in believing that Lock was the better prospect. In fact, it was the consensus.
PFF had Lock fourth, Jones fifth.
Walter had Lock third, Jones fourth.
SI had Lock third, Jones fourth.
And an assessment of league execs and scouts posted at NFL.com had Lock second, Dwayne Haskins third, and Jones fourth.
When I upset some people by writing that maybe Baker Mayfield is being overrated merely by the fact that the Cleveland Browns were the franchise to decide that Mayfield was the best prospect in the 2018 class—ahead of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson—and that if he was drafted correctly (like say as a second or third round pick) that nobody would be all that enamored with the idea of him, this same line of thinking applies to Daniel Jones.
As the 15th pick of the draft, Haskins only got 13 starts over two years before Washington and most of the NFL had decided that he was not a starter.
As the 42nd pick of the draft, Lock was given 21 starts over three years before the Broncos opted to trade him out for Russell Wilson. And until it became obvious to Seahawks fans that nobody else of note is entering the picture for now, the NFL had given up on the idea of Drew Lock as a starter too.
Only three years ago, the CONSENSUS was the Lock was a better prospect than Jones. Not one person’s opinion. Only Dave Gettleman’s opinion. THAT is who we are basing the quality of these quarterbacks on, the former GM of the Panthers and Giants who is roundly ridiculed as the “Bill Bavasi” aka worst general manager in the sport.
Because if Gettleman had simply gone with the consensus, and picked Lock instead of Jones, then there is a chance that if Washington was enamored with Haskins that Jones would have fallen to the second round. And then the stories we tell ourselves about Lock would start with “Well, he was a top-10 pick” and Jones would be more of an afterthought because not only has he played poorly, he would be playing poorly as a second rounder.
(An aside to get ahead of the comments: How much of Lock and Jones’ success/lack of success is attributed to environment, coaching, teammates, schedule? Not a human on Earth can really answer that but luckily this is not a “Eli or Rivers?” question because the quarterbacks in question have struggled immensely regardless.)
I want to repeat this because I think this is the draft narrative that nobody ever brings up when we talk about “busts” and “steals” and how we overrate players based on their draft status: The reason that Daniel Jones is a top-10 pick and Drew Lock is a second round pick is DAVE GETTLEMAN. Not the NFL.
The reason that Mayfield went number one is John Dorsey.
These are not “the NFL’s decisions,” these are the decisions of small groups of people in one organization, if not just one person.
Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, a lot of people did feel that Lock was worthy of a top-10 pick. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein did him a favor/did him no favors by comparing him to Matthew Stafford. Simms said he had a “special talent” for throwing the football and that he was hurt by playing on a bad team. Some execs even referenced Patrick Mahomes, but cautioned that Lock needed at least a year on a bench to to improve his footwork, decision making, and consistency.
"If you're going to hang out with one guy, you want to hang out with Drew Lock. And that does go a long ways with those guys in the locker room, if you want to spend your time around him," an NFC scouting director said. "He's not the most consistent passer. He's not placing it where guys are running through the ball." Said an AFC scout: "He'll stand in there and look like a pro-style quarterback and deliver and do some good things and read the right coverage and anticipate. He'll stay in, take hits. And then there's other times he looks like he's gun-shy, he's drifting, falling back, he's loosey-goosey a little bit with the fundamentals and his game. I think that's his personality."
Obviously we can say now that the NFL was not so enamored with Lock to actually believe that he was likely to reach those ceilings of Stafford or Mahomes, otherwise he would not have slipped out of the first round and the top-40 picks overall. Unlike 2005, when the Green Bay Packers said “fuck it” and picked Aaron Rodgers because they were befuddled by his late first round availability, every GM’s fuddles seemed in check when Lock dropped out of the top-20 picks and then day one altogether.
But if it were not for Gettleman’s decision to draft Jones, we can’t say for sure if he too would have fallen out of the first round. We know for a fact that teams often pick players much earlier than the league consensus.
So now that we are three years removed from the 2019 NFL Draft, how clear is it that either Jones or Lock is the better quarterback? Does it even matter? And how in the world has Daniel Jones managed to slip under the radar as the starting quarterback that nobody even seems to realize is still a starting quarterback?
The answer to that last question is both painfully obvious and in my opinion overrated: The Giants are hopeful that new head coach Brian Daboll can literally do the very thing that Gettleman’s staff (since fired) was striving for when they picked Jones by molding him into the next Josh Allen. After all, Daboll has gotten the most credit for Allen’s development after spending the last four years as the Bills offensive coordinator.
But Allen is one human being, Jones is a different human being, and I don’t believe that becoming a great NFL quarterback is as simple as “coach ‘em up, coach.”
That is also why I caution people against expecting the best from Drew Lock after three seasons of ranking near the bottom of NFL starting quarterbacks, right alongside Jones. It’s not as though Denver forgot that was also their mission for three years, or that coaches were unaware that he could save their jobs if he played better, but very few quarterbacks have ever recovered from opening that careers with such a poor track record.
Daniel Jones opened the season as Eli Manning’s backup, which gave him a chance to sit and learn from at worst a super experienced veteran with two Super Bowl rings, and at best a branch on the greatest quarterback tree in the league. But Jones took over as the tarter as soon as Week 3, beating the Buccaneers with a solid debut, if not for two lost fumbles, which has been an ongoing issue for him.
Jones pumped up his season-long stats by throwing 4 TD/0 INT vs the Lions, 4 TD/0 INT vs the Jets (both losses), and 5 TD/0 INT vs Washington. However, he had 19 fumbles and 12 interceptions in 13 games and Jones ranked 30th out of 33 quarterbacks in net yards per attempt, 31st in DYAR, 30th in DVOA.
Lock sprained his thumb in the preseason and was placed on IR to start the season. He would not be activated until Week 13, at which point he became Denver’s starter for the remaining five games. Lock won his first two starts, including a dominant performance against the Houston Texans.
But similar to Jones, Lock’s rookie season was kind of a mirage. Though the Broncos were 4-1 in his five starts and he some decent numbers, he was all around bad in the other four games. Had it not been for the Texans game, Lock’s net Y/A would have been as bad as Jones’s.
Now both quarterbacks get the opportunity to spend a whole offseason as their team’s starter. A whole offseason to train with the 1s, to master the playbook, to take the second year leap that so many of the NFL’s best quarterbacks take.
Over his first eight starts, Daniel Jones completed 61.7% of his passes and threw only seven touchdowns against nine interceptions, fumbled five times, did not score a rushing touchdown (Remember: “Dual threat”), and was sacked 23 times. His passer rating was 73.9, his adjusted Y/A was 5.15, and he didn’t have a single game with a Y/A above 6.8.
The Giants were 1-7.
Jones missed two starts in the second half and though the Giants played a little better, he really didn’t and only had four touchdowns in his final six starts, plus one rushing score.
At this point, a lot of teams would have quit on Daniel Jones. After all, this is when Washington and Denver quit on Haskins and Lock. Instead, New York may have convinced themselves that Jones merely needed another year with new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but that wasn’t going to last for long.
Lock faced no competition with the Broncos, as only Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien were on the roster. He went 22/33 for 216 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks, 2 fumbles in a Week 1 loss to the Titans, then injured his shoulder only five throws into a loss against the Steelers in Week 2.
Lock returned in Week 6, but he threw 13 interceptions over his next seven games (at least one interception in each contest) and it is that consistency for poor throws/decisions that led him to becoming a backup instead of a probable starter. If not for a 4 TD/0 INT game against the Panthers in Week 14, Lock’s 2020 season stats would look even worse than they already do.
Lock ranked 30th in adjusted net Y/A in 2020, Jones ranked 31st.
Jones ranked 20th in QBR, Lock ranked 29th.
Jones ranked 30th in passer rating, Lock ranked 32nd.
Lock ranked 30th in DYAR, Jones ranked 32nd.
By almost any measurement, Lock and Jones were two of the bottom five starting quarterbacks in the NFL in 2020. Regardless of how much time a fan might believe they need to prove themselves after playing that poorly in year two, the search for example of quarterbacks who have recovered from second seasons like these is short.
The best arguments of the 21st century (out of countless NFL washouts) are Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, and Ryan Tannehill. Some may argue Josh Allen too, but Allen led the NFL in game-winning drives during his second season, rushed for 9 touchdowns, cut his interception rate in half, and led the Bills to the playoffs.
That is NOT where Daniel Jones and Drew Lock were at in year two.
As for the other examples, none of which may be that enticing other than Brees and his extenuating circumstances, would be of much use to Jones and Lock supporters at this point. It would have helped with a strong third season but that did not happen for either.
Despite the Giants’ efforts to improve the supporting cast (Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Andrew Thomas) and another offseason with the same playbook, New York’s offense was even worse than 2020. They ranked 32nd in points per drive, 31st in yards per drive, 30th in touchdown passes, 31st in net Y/A. Jones was not as bad as backups Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm (what a competition) but he was bad, throwing 10 TD/7 INT in only 11 starts, ranking 26th in DYAR and DVOA.
Lock entered a QB competition against Teddy Bridgewater and lost. In four games with at least 20 pass attempts in 2021, Lock combined for 1 TD, 1 INT in those contests, as the Broncos averaged only 14.7 points per game when he was under center. Had he thrown enough passes to qualify, Lock’s rate stats would have nearly matched those of Jones.
Who is better?
The only answer I can come up with is that it probably doesn’t matter. It is like asking if Christian Ponder was better than Mark Sanchez. There are only two differences between the quarterbacks that stand out to me as they enter year four: 1) The Giants decided that Jones was the number six pick in the draft, nobody else, but that decision still seems to carry weight today. 2) The Giants are assumed to be starting Jones over free agent signee Tyrod Taylor, but maybe that won’t be the case when September hits.
There is a chance that Drew Lock will be an NFL starter in 2022 and Daniel Jones will be a backup. There is a chance that Geno Smith and Tyrod Taylor will both be Week 1 NFL starters. There is a chance that Lock and Jones will both be starting.
All of which leads me to there being a probability that both the Seahawks and Giants will be heavily involved in the process of evaluating quarterbacks in the 2023 draft, and hoping that they don’t make the same mistakes of Dave Gettleman.
Since we are anticipated to finish with similar records, these guys are likely to be our competition for drafting a prize QB. The Giants have their only their regular stock of picks early, with likely Comp Pics later on...they will be a little more under the gun the make those count.
Noting that they just drafted a Dynamic Edge defender in Kayvon Thibodeaux and a Primo Tackle in Evan Neal, they are unlikely to go with either of those again. Unless Daniel Jones lights it up due to having Josh Allen's former coach (please), they will indeed be in the QB market...
The Giants also have the 4th easiest strength of schedule VS the Hawks at the 22nd easiest. What does that mean? - Nothing. Play the games, which I cannot wait for.
The Seahawks' upcoming season looks to be rather interesting...isn't it nice to have so much to discuss?
Thanks for pointing this out!
It has always been too easy to ascribe potential purely based on where somebody was drafted. All that does is put entirely too much stock in the crap-shoot that is the NFL draft. We'd do well to remember that players themselves are never truly "busts" but instead simply represent missed evaluations -- and missing is more common than not when it comes to making the impossible decision on who will be successful in the NFL before they ever play a snap in the pros. I want to believe in Lock, I do, but his NFL snap pudding is pretty thick with proof already.