Matter on Mizzou: Fins, Skins or elsewhere for Drew Lock?
COLUMBIA, MO. • It’s officially April, which means March Madness is about to expire and the NFL will soon come back into our lives and take over the sports world’s consciousness with the draft in three weeks.
DREW LOCK WATCH
Which brings us to Drew Lock, the former Missouri quarterback who’s spent the last three months establishing his first-round credentials.
Last spring we looked at every NFL team’s quarterback situation and categorized the most likely and least likely Lock destinations. He figures to be in contention with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins as the first quarterback selected.
Now that the first round order is set and draft buzz is in full percolation mode, we can add some context to those lists and revisit all the possible scenarios.
Nothing to see here
Eight teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round in 2017 or 18. We can (still) safely scratch Lock off seven of these teams’ shopping lists. Cleveland, doesn’t have a first-round pick but has Baker Mayfield. Nor does Chicago, but the Bears are set with Mitchell Trubisky. The New York Jets (pick No. 3) have Sam Darnold, Buffalo (No. 9) has Josh Allen), Baltimore (No. 22) has Lamar Jackson, Kansas City (No. 29) is set with MVP Patrick Mahomes and Houston (No. 23) is good with Deshaun Watson.
The eighth team is Arizona. The Cardinals snagged Josh Rosen last year but have the No. 1 pick this year and are reportedly interested in Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. That means the Fightin’ Bidwills are still in the QB market but probably not looking at Lock.
Franchise starters in place
Last May we listed another dozen teams with established starters in place, quarterbacks either in their prime or not far from it. Most of those 12 teams still fit into this category. A few stand out as obvious possibilities for Lock.
These 10 aren’t likely in the market for a first-round QB: Carolina (No. 16) is set with Cam Newton. Seattle (No. 21) returns Russell Wilson. Philadelphia (No. 25) has cast its lot with Carson Wentz. The Los Angeles Rams (No. 31) just went to the Super Bowl with Jared Goff. Minnesota (No. 18) is only one year into Kirk Cousins experiment. Detroit (No. 8) has other pressing needs with Matthew Stafford still just 31 years old. Tennessee (No. 19) will stick with Marcus Mariota. San Francisco (No. 2) is invested in Jimmy Garoppolo. Same for Atlanta (No. 14) with Matt Ryan.
Here’s where things get interesting.
No team has more first-round capital than Oakland (No. 4, 24, 27). The Raiders have their own pick plus first-rounders from Chicago and Dallas. Yes, Oakland has a solid veteran quarterback in Derek Carr, who just turned 28 and is coming off a career-best year for completion percentage (68.9) and threw for 4,000 yards in his first season playing for Jon Gruden. But the Raiders were 4-12, Carr threw a career-low 19 touchdowns and was sacked a whopping 51 times, which speaks more to a decrepit O-line. Remember, Gruden was Lock’s head coach in the Senior Bowl and raved about him during the week in Mobile, Ala. The fourth pick seems high to select the Mizzou quarterback, but with two more first-rounders, plus the third choice in the second round, the Raiders have the flexibility to secure another top 15 pick if they’re interested in Lock. How about swapping that No. 24 pick and a later selection to Cincinnati at No. 11 or Green Bay at No. 12?
Then there’s Washington (No. 15). A year ago the Redskins had just acquired Alex Smith, but he suffered a severe leg injury last season and the franchise badly need a young option behind center. That explains why Redskins quarterback Tim Rattay was on hand for Lock’s pro day two weeks ago. Rattay spent a while chatting with Mizzou coordinator Derek Dooley and likely weren’t swapping war stories from their days at Louisiana Tech. Here are the healthy quarterbacks for Jay Gruden’s Washington roster: Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. Either can hold down the job for a while, but a rookie QB makes sense for the long term.
The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted Monday that Lock will visit Washington on Tuesday, followed by another NFC East team this week.
Here’s a fun draft-day scenario: One Gruden brother (Jon) frantically making trade offers to move back into the top 15 to outmaneuver another Gruden brother (Jay) for the right to land Lock.
Lastly in this category there’s Green Bay (No. 12, 30), another team with multiple first-round picks thanks to a trade with New Orleans. Aaron Rodgers just turned 35 but is still among the league’s elite quarterbacks. The Packers are under new leadership in Matt LaFleur, a 39-year-old QB guru. It seems too soon to start developing Rodgers’ successor — even if Lock likes to say he patterns his game after Rodgers — and the Pack have enough greater needs it seems misguided to draft a QB only to stash him on the bench for a couple years.
Could be looking
These teams return a veteran but might need a younger upgrade, starting with Jacksonville (No. 7), which just dumped Blake Bortles but signed former Super Bowl winner Nick Foles to a four-year contract worth $88 million, with $50 million guaranteed. If you’re the Jaguars can you justify paying Foles all that money AND spending a top-10 pick on another quarterback?
What about Dallas? The Cowboys are trying to negotiate a long-term contract with Dak Prescott and don’t have a pick until No. 58 overall in the second round. Pass.
A year ago, it was fair to wonder if Indianapolis (No. 26) should enter the quarterback market, but Andrew Luck came back from his shoulder injury and looked more like a future Hall of Famer with a strong 2018. Pass.
Tampa Bay (No. 5) returns Jameis Winston, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2015 but hasn’t made that next step. Bruce Arians is now in charge and just signed former Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert as a backup option. Are the Bucs prepared to start over with a new franchise quarterback or would a pass rusher or offensive lineman make more sense?
Starters getting gray
These five teams have quarterbacks headed to Canton and could use a successor, some sooner than others.
After missing the playoffs last year, Pittsburgh (No. 20) has more immediate needs than Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement.
Father Time will eventually take down Drew Brees, but New Orleans doesn’t pick until No. 68 in the second round. It would take some crafty trading to get the Saints in contention for a top QB prospect.
That’s not true for the Los Angeles Chargers (No. 28), who pick late in the first round and have a selection in every other round to package for an earlier pick to grab Phillip Rivers’ heir. Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt attended Lock’s pro day and spent most of the day visiting with the QB and his team.
Don’t sleep on New England (No. 32). The champs have the pick arsenal to move up from the last selection in the first round, owning five picks between No. 56 and 101 in the second and third rounds. Tom Brady will have to retire at some point, but pity the player who’s put in position to replace the six-time champion.
Nobody’s had a more confusing offseason than the New York Giants (No. 6, 17), who figure to use one of their two first-rounders on a quarterback to either challenge or replace 38-year-old Eli Manning. Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula attended Lock’s pro day and then held a private meeting with the QB. If it’s not Haskins, then Lock seems like a logical target for New York at No. 6.
These three teams could have drafted a quarterback last year in the first round and are (still) positioned to upgrade the position this year.
Miami (No. 13) has moved on from Ryan Tannehill and enters the draft with the following QBs on the roster: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Rudock, Luke Falk. Translation: The Fins need a quarterback. Now. Miami has been linked to Lock for weeks, for good reason.
When will Cincinnati (No. 11) call it quits with Andy Dalton? He’s been a Pro Bowl quarterback but has yet to lead the Bengals to a playoff victory in four chances. Cincinnati’s new head coach, Zac Taylor, is a young QB specialist who doesn’t have a young QB on the roster, at least not a projected franchise QB.
Then there’s Denver (No. 10), the team that created a buzz in November when GM John Elway and senior personnel adviser Gary Kubiak attended Lock’s final home game. (Kubiak has since left the franchise.) The Broncos cooled some of the Lock love when they traded for Joe Flacco but that shouldn’t rule out taking a quarterback in the first round. Flacco’s deal is relatively team friendly, and Elway could be enticed to play the veteran in 2019 to protect his job security then turn over the controls to a second-year QB in 2020. Call it the Mahomes Model.
So, where are the most likely landing spots? Let’s go with, in order, a first tier of Miami, Denver, Washington, New York Giants, Oakland and Cincinnati. Second tier? Let’s go with Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Chargers. Third tier: Green Bay and New England.
TIGERS DOMINANT ON THE HILL
It’s time to start talking about the job Fred Corral is doing with Missouri’s pitching staff. The Tigers had an odd 1-1-1 weekend at No. 11 Texas A&M, and in five games over the entire week the pitching staff struck out 48 batters and held opponents to a .215 batting average. Junior lefthander T.J. Sikkema allowed six hits and didn’t give up an earned run in eight innings against the Aggies, including a shutout inning in Saturday’s 15-inning marathon win — he got the save — then seven more scoreless frames a day later in Sunday’s 2-2 tie. Sophomore righthander Ian Bedell pitched four scoreless innings Saturday (four Ks, no walks) while opponents hit just .091 against him in two scoreless appearances for the week. Here’s what Mizzou’s weekend starters have done so far this season:
Sikkema: 2-2 with a 1.05 ERA and two saves, 43 strikeouts and just 13 walks and only three extra base-hits in 42.1 innings.
Tyler LaPlante: 1-1 with 2.70 ERA, 28 strikeouts and seven walks.
Jacob Cantleberry: 3-1 with 2.75 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 15 walks.
And then there’s Bedell, who in nine relief appearances has a 1.37 ERA with 18 strikeouts to just two walks. Cameron Dulle, with a team-best three saves, sports a 2.20 ERA.
The Tigers are 3-5-1 in the SEC and their RPI has climbed from No. 46 to No. 27 in one week - with two enormous home series next on the schedule, this weekend against Kentucky (16-12, 1-8) and the following weekend against LSU (19-9, 6-3). First, though, the SLU Billikens at home on Tuesday.
Why the tie on Sunday? It was Mizzou’s getaway day and the SEC has a rule that if games go late on the visiting team’s travel day the visitors cannot stay overnight on Sundays during the regular season.
The Missouri men’s swimming team finished tied for 11th at the NCAA Championships, the program’s fourth finish in the top 11, all of which took place in the last five years. Mizzou earned All-American honors in the 400-medley relay, while Jordan O’Brien (100 breast) and Mikel Schreuders (200 free) earned individual AA honors. The Tigers competed for the bulk of the season with coach Greg Rhodenbaugh suspended by the university. … Sophia Rivera now holds the women’s javelin record at two schools. Rivera, from Brentwood High, set the record at Wisconsin in 2018 and on Saturday set the Mizzou record at the Texas Relays with a throw of 175 feet, 4 inches. Rivera was an eight-time state champ at Brentwood and transferred to Mizzou last summer. … Mizzou’s softball team split Sunday’s doubleheader against No. 5 Tennessee and wraps up the series at 6 p.m. Monday. …
Lastly, a huge honor for Mizzou golfer Jessica Yuen, who will compete in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur this week in Augusta, Ga. She’ll be part of an international field of 72 amateurs with the first 36 holes set for the Champions Retreat Golf Club Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a round at Augusta National on Friday with the top 30 playing in the final round Saturday at Augusta National. Yuen was initially an alternate and joined the field as an injury replacement. “I was in complete shock when they said they were inviting me to play,” said Yuen. “I knew I was on their radar when the field was set back in January, but I’d honestly assumed it wasn’t a possibility any more.”