Biomechanical Review: 2019 Draft Part 2

(to read part 1 of the 2019 draft review click here)

Dalton Risner is an anterior dominant lineman, favoring his medial areas.  Risner shows high levels of efficiency in his anterior thoracic and lumbar areas, particularly medially.  And for an anterior dominant player, Risner shows high levels of medial posterior efficiency, particularly in his thoracic areas.  While Risner does favor his medial areas, he does not appear to borrow from lateral areas- in fact there is very little apparent borrowing system-wise except perhaps between posterior cervical and thoracic areas.  Risner’s posterior lumbar areas are perhaps a bit underdeveloped, but for an anterior dominant player, he nevertheless shows reasonably high posterior lumbar efficiency. Overall, Risner appears very well balanced between anterior medial and lateral areas, and generally well balanced between anterior and posterior areas (again, for an anterior dominant player).

Risner looks very likely to be a top guard for Denver.  He moves very well, both forward and laterally. He shows good balance and can keep his feet under him even under duress.  He isn’t necessarily going to blow people off the ball, but for an anterior dominant player, he shows good strength and can hold his own in one-on-one situations.  Given that Denver appears to be shifting back to a wide-zone scheme, Risner’s movement skills combined with his balance and strength should allow him to play at a very high level right out of the gate.  This one looks to be an easy call- great pick by Denver.

Posterior Dominant Draft Picks

Noah Fant is a posterior dominant tight end, favoring his lateral areas.  His lateral posterior efficiency in both thoracic and lumbar areas is notably high.  In addition, his lateral anterior thoracic efficiency is reasonably high for a posterior dominant player.  Fant’s posterior lumbar efficiency is reasonably high in his lateral areas, but he clearly favors his thoracic areas over his lumbar ones.  Fant’s medial posterior thoracic efficiency is reasonably high, but Fant is strongly balanced towards the lateral in both posterior and anterior areas.  Fant’s anterior lumbar areas are fairly tight and appear to be borrowed against towards Fant’s anterior thoracic areas. Fant generally appears somewhat underdeveloped along the medial anterior, with tight anterior mechanics and borrowing across his anterior thoracic/ lumbar areas.  Overall, Fant favors thoracic over lumbar, lateral over medial, and posterior over anterior efficiency.

Fant looks to have the frame to develop into a top tight end.  His speed is excellent, due to his posterior lumbar efficiency.  In addition, Fant shows soft hands, albeit only within a relatively short range from his body- at full extension, Fant’s somewhat under-developed medial anterior areas appear to lead to stiff fingers.  Although Fant’s speed is noteworthy, his initial quickness off the line is somewhat lacking, due to compromised anterior efficiency. Fant is a fairly strong blocker for his size, particularly down the field- once he gets himself moving (again somewhat slowly due to his under-developed anterior mechanics), Fant’s lateral strength allows him to redirect blockers very effectively.  The issue with his blocking is the same as with his route-running: Fant lacks quick burst due to his under-developed anterior (particularly medially). However, Fant has the baseline strength/ speed/ lateral movement skills to develop into a consistent playmaker when/ if his anterior areas fully develop. Likely an early-career move-specialist utilizing straight-line speed, Fant may develop into a top all-around threat when/ if he can further develop his anterior areas.

Since I’ve already written quite a few words about Drew Lock’s biomechanics (which are re-posted below), I’ll instead tell a little personal anecdote to help explain why I’m bullish about Lock’s prospects in Denver.

When I was starting as a freshman at music conservatory, I thought I was the bees knees.  I had spent the last few summers before college playing concerts with some very accomplished musicians (including a then-famous piano prodigy), had won several music competitions, and was recruited at several top conservatories (and given a generous scholarship at the school I attended).  My first week at conservatory, I was the only freshman/ sophomore cellist (and one of four in the entire school) placed in the upper junior/ senior orchestra. My head was uncomfortably swollen.

So what did my cello professor (a man I respect tremendously, now and then) do with this “hot shit” cellist?  He forbade me from entering any competitions or playing any concerts that weren’t directly required by my degree/ summer festivals, took me off of any challenging music repertoire, and assigned me nothing but technical studies and fundamental exercises.  And it was the best thing that could have happened to me as a cellist.

Drew Lock had the exact opposite college experience.  As a freshman, he was expected to sit and learn, but was instead thrown into the starting lineup by injury midway through the year.  He then started all 4 years, playing against SEC defenses, with new offensive coordinators (and systems) each season. He was given no time to learn fundamentals, instead being expected to perform at the highest level while carrying an undermanned team and learning new offenses each year. 

For me, that would’ve been like immediately entering the toughest competitions in the world while learning new repertoire with a new cello teacher every year.  These conditions are simply not conducive to mechanical learning. Learning mechanics involves slow repetitions, with focus on basic movements (which can then slowly be chained together into advanced ones). It’s a long, slow process that requires patience and time away from the spotlight.

Drew lock appears to finally have the time and space to focus on mechanical learning.  It’s been extremely encouraging for me to hear Elway/ Fangio consistently emphasize that Lock is expected to sit and learn for the forseable future.  This is exactly what he needs. And if he gets the time and space to shore up his fundamentals, I think we’ll all be happy with the results. After all, even with being thrown into the fire too soon, Lock managed to increase his completion percentage every year he played- from 49% to 55% to 58% to 63%. Imagine what he could do with some real learning time?

Here’s what I wrote about Lock pre-draft-

Drew Lock is a posterior dominant QB, favoring his lateral areas.  Lock shows very high levels of lateral posterior thoracic efficiency, as well as good levels of lateral posterior lumbar efficiency.  Lock also shows independence between his posterior cervical and thoracic areas, as well as independence between his lateral posterior lumbar and thoracic areas . Along the anterior, Lock shows reasonably high levels of lateral thoracic efficiency, but subpar levels of efficiency in the medial lumbar area and little independence between cervical and thoracic areas.  Lock’s anterior thoracic efficiency appears to be borrowed from lumbar areas.

In practical terms, Lock shows excellent arm strength and ability to arc the ball in to his receivers (due to high levels of lateral posterior thoracic efficiency).  Lock’s running ability is also reasonably strong given his lateral posterior lumbar efficiency. While on the run, Lock can make accurate passes when he draws from his lateral posterior lumbar areas- otherwise his accuracy suffers on such passes.  Lock’s posterior cervical independence means that Lock throws very accurate intermediate/ deep passes when he has time/ space to work through his release. Lock’s stiff anterior areas mean that when he is caught off-guard (such as by pressure) he loses control easily and can fumble/ run into trouble.  In addition, his lacking anterior efficiency lowers his release point, so that his balls may be more easily tipped. Finally, his seeming lack of anterior cervical efficiency means that he can be slow to scan the field, and is not always able to easily gauge pressure in the pocket.

If thrown onto an NFL field tomorrow, it seems likely that Lock would sink rather than swim.  His anterior areas are simply too stiff/ inefficient for him to handle NFL pressure, and he does not appear to read defenses well enough to avoid putting himself in harm’s way.  However, in my experience, posterior dominant QBs are much better able to generate anterior efficiency over time (particularly before age 25) than anterior dominant QBs are able to generate posterior efficiency.  Dak Prescott made such gains incredibly quickly, while Jared Goff, Mitchell Trubisky, and Drew Brees took a couple years but were able to make the necessary adjustments. And when I compare tape of Lock in 2017 to tape from 2018, the gains in efficiency he displays are enormous (as reflected in his rapidly rising completion percentage)- he seems to be still on the sharp side of his growth curve.  

As for a potential fit in Denver, Lock’s closest NFL analog is Joe Flacco.  They both show high levels of lateral posterior efficiency, they both show somewhat compromised anterior systems, and they both share some of the same weaknesses regarding quick-reading/ quick-throwing.  So if, as I argued in this article, Flacco is an excellent fit in the system Rich Scangarello is presumably designing, then so too is Drew Lock. Lock could presumably sit behind Flacco for 1-2 years and learn a tremendous amount about playing in this system, while working on developing/ refining his anterior system.”

“Lock shows some top-level traits, is still improving very quickly in his areas of weakness, and is a perfect fit for the offensive system preferred by the Denver coaches (a system which highlights Denver’s inherent altitude advantage by forcing defenses to run maximal distances per first down).  Lock would theoretically have the luxury of sitting for 1-2 years behind a QB from whom he could learn a tremendous amount, given their biomechanical similarities. Overall, he would be entering a situation seemingly designed specifically to maximize his chances of NFL success. So while it requires some projection to envision Lock succeeding at an NFL level (given his need to continue developing his anterior thoracic/ lumbar efficiency), it seems as likely as not that Lock would eventually find success if drafted by Denver.”


I think Denver really nailed it this year. For one, I was very happy to see Denver finally take some posterior dominant players high in the draft (Fant and Lock). Fant needs to develop (like most rookie TEs), but shows the
baseline physical talent to grow into a top TE. Risner is one pick that seemingly everyone can agree was spot-on. Lock shows high-level potential at a premium position. Dre’Mont Jones is likely a player with limited physical strength, but his one elite skill (rushing the passer from the DT position) is extremely valuable. As for the later round picks, one should at least be a strong contributor on special teams and may also become an effective nickel OLB (Hollins), and the other shows tremendous upside if he can stay healthy (Winfree). Overall, a seemingly great draft by Elway.