Quarterback Drew Lock could have played almost anywhere coming out of Lee's Summit High School in Missouri in 2015.
Ohio State and Michigan State offered him, as did Texas and West Virginia and a host of other Power 5 programs. Had Lock drawn out his recruitment beyond his junior year, other interested programs, such as Alabama or Auburn or Florida, may have extended scholarships to him as well.
Instead, the state's top recruit returned to his birth place of Columbia, Mo., and over the next four years he established himself as one of the best signal-callers in Missouri school history while evolving into a promising pro prospect. An impressive showing at the Senior Bowl followed, further improving his draft stock. This week he'll reportedly be meeting with the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, two franchises with top-15 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
By way of his size, arm strength and mobility, Lock carved his own path to the doorstep of the NFL. Now he's ready to showcase his homegrown skill set at the highest level.
“I’m not a quarterback from California. I’m not from Texas. I didn’t necessarily go to Alabama or some of the schools," Lock said during an NFL Combine press conference in Indianapolis at the beginning of March. "I went to Missouri and I’m proud of that, that I can put on for Missouri and for myself and for Kansas City, Missouri. Not typical of a Midwest kid to come out and be at the podium I’m standing at right now. That means a lot to me."
Lock gained a sense of the NFL Combine a year ago as a part of a symposium for highly regarded prospects. He was able to watch the workouts of former first-round picks and current NFL starters Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, at one point telling a Missouri assistant coach, "I’m better than these guys.” The trip also calmed his nerves about his eventual workout in front of professional executives.
"That just really helped me to kind of picture it," Lock said. "We’re throwing routes on air. I’m just going to be myself, go out there and be relaxed."
By that point, Lock was already a familiar name around NFL circles thanks to his gaudy statistics and accomplishments at Missouri, which began almost as soon as he stepped on campus. In October of 2015, he became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Tigers since 1995 -- a position he held for the rest of his career.
He's a signal-caller with a tremendous amount of college experience (46 starts) and a proven track record, as he threw for 12,193 yards and 99 touchdowns compared to 39 interceptions during his time in Columbia. Never was he better than in 2017, when he set the SEC and Missouri single-season record with a nation-best 44 touchdown passes, though his senior campaign was not too far behind. In his final collegiate audition, Lock completed a career-high 62.9 percent of his passes to go along with nearly 3,500 yards and 28 more touchdowns.
He also has the physique and natural ability of a prototypical NFL quarterback. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 225 pounds, he can stand tall in the pocket and use his arm strength and quick release to spray passes all over the field.
And if the pocket breaks down, he's perfectly fine making plays on the run. He believes he's more athletic than some give him credit for, and he showed as much during combine drills, ranking second among quarterbacks in the 20-yard shuttle (4.12 seconds) and third in the three-cone drill (7.03) while running a 4.69 40-yard dash.
"Flashed nice zip and strong arm velocity, as he fired off several lasers," NFL Draft Scout analyst Ric Serritella said of Lock's throwing session. "However, Lock is not your traditional over the top thrower and he’ll vary his arm angles. Would like to see him create some more depth with his footwork. Lock didn’t do anything to hurt his stock and performed well, as expected. The top half of the first round seems like a logical destination."
Lock admits that he "throws a lot off weird platforms," but in his mind that's a factor that makes him unique. He's attempted to model that part of his game after Green Bay Packers great Aaron Rodgers, who is known for completing passes from unorthodox positions and different arm angles. Lock understands these habits can be detrimental at times, but he also sees their situational benefits.
The biggest criticism of Lock throughout his career has been his passing accuracy, though he was prepared to address this perceived weakness during his press conference at the NFL Combine. While completing just 57 percent of his passes at Missouri, Lock points out that he improved those numbers each season en route to posting a 62.9 percent completion rate his senior year. He also believes his struggles were the product of play calling -- i.e. making deep throws compared to relying on screens or shorter passes -- and the rotation of offensive coordinators throughout his career, which forced him to play in three different offenses.
Even with these deficiencies, Locke has steadily climbed draft boards behind strong performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. He's now widely regarded as the third-best quarterback in this draft class, trailing only Kyler Murray from Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State. Meeting with the Redskins and Giants -- two teams with high draft picks and an interest in a potential "franchise" quarterback -- only validates Lock's projected draft position.
Lock, however, is not concerned with outside expectations of him. As he told reporters at the NFL Combine, he believes he's "No. 1."
"Not many people can spin it the way I spin it.''