How Drew Lock is working to pull attention away from Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins at NFL Combine

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — This is the dead period Jordan Palmer relishes.

Known more these days as one of the top quarterback draft preppers – as opposed to being Carson Palmer’s brother or a former Texas-El Paso quarterback — Jordan Palmer thrives during this January-to-April interval when he trains top quarterbacks for the NFL Draft in a relative vacuum.

“It is the only time period in a quarterback’s entire life, for three months, they’re going to have nothing else but personal development,” Palmer said. “When you finish college and go to the NFL, it’s this three-month period where they have no teammates, none of their friends are trying to get them to go out at night … girlfriends aren’t around. There are no marketing deals.

“For three months, it’s the only time period where they are actually all-in on themselves. It hasn’t happened [before], and it won’t happen again.”

It is in this moment where Missouri’s Drew Lock and his career currently resides training with Palmer. If these three months are the most solitary of his football career, this week just might be the most important.

The NFL Combine has become an event in itself. The so-called Underwear Olympics hold so much weight with coaches and general managers that this week in Indianapolis can more than impact draft position. It can make or break careers.

Fair or not, that’s the way of the world. Lock has already been through somewhat of a junior version of the combine — last month’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

“I didn’t realize it was quite that big a stage,” his father Andy told CBS Sports. “There’s a million media members, there’s a million scouts, there’s a million GMs. The really learn a lot about you down there. It’s really feast or famine.”

Andy Lock was with his son the week of the Senior Bowl. Three nights in a row, after practice and rounds of interviews with NFL teams, Drew got home near midnight.

“The Dolphins wanted to meet with him,” Andy said. “He walked in there, there were 11 people. They were all asking questions. Dan Marino was in the room. No way I could deal with that.”

Since the Senior Bowl, Drew Lock has resided in Southern California working with Palmer and Justin Hoover, his quarterback coach from back home in Kansas City, Missouri. Last year, Palmer agreed to take on Mizzou’s quarterback under his wing after a 44-touchdown season in 2017.

For now, Lock lives in a Dana Point, California, apartment with Hoover and Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson, a fellow Palmer client.

Palmer is a managing partner in Orange County at Common Thread Collective — a digital marketing agency that is growing daily. The Common Thread building near the John Wayne Airport is a snapshot of California chic and promise. Employees buzz through a modern building where brands can be launched with the wave of a hand. Last year, Gordon Hayward rehabbed in an adjoining court.

“That’s our freaking building,” Palmer said.

Palmer has found more success teaching quarterbacks than actually playing the position. That means he has assembled a football posse in his growing football business — in the best possible sense. Lock is training with Jackson and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

“When you’re with guys as much as we are, it just kind of bleeds over,” Hoover said. “This is just going to happen organically. The whole thing — living with Drew and Tyree — the dishes don’t always get done. I feel like I’m in college again. But it’s the little lessons.”

There is already enough draft speculation about Lock to fill several mock drafts. In general, he is projected anywhere from top 10 overall (second QB taken behind Dwayne Haskins) to a floor of early second round.

Palmer says Lock’s arm is “elite.”

“Everybody else is mobile or immobile,” he continued. “Drew is on the top end of mobile.”

Lock is no Baker Mayfield, but there seems to be a growing fondness about his athleticism. As a guard at Lee’s Summit North High School, he could have played Division I college basketball.

“He is a fluid, athletic baller,” Palmer said. “He scored 1,900 points in high school. … He could have been drafted high last year … but he’s so much more prepared for the NFL now.”

After coming back for his senior season, Lock threw for 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns for the best Missouri team (8-5) since 2014. All of it makes him one of the top QBs available in the draft: a solid 6-foot-4, 230-pound gunslinger who has gone from playing in a spread to being familiar with RPO concepts.

That kind of background seems to be a plus for NFL signal callers these days.

“The thing with [starting] early [in the NFL] is you have to extend the play,” Palmer said, “because there’s no way to know all the things, know all the intricacies, know all the veteran stuff.”

From here on, top prospects like Lock will exist to be torn down.

“You’re one of two types of people,” Palmer advised Lock. “You already don’t care or you can be neutral and treat it for what it is. It’s a person who is paid to have an opinion. They may have the right opinion most of the time, but that has nothing to do with the actual outcome.”

The Denver Post already has dedicated a sports front to Lock.

Hoover said Lock is that guy who can be the face of a program. Two sources for this story said Elite 11 director Trent Dilfer thought so much of Lock that Dilfer tried to set the passer up with his daughter.

“Think about that as a compliment,” Palmer said.

The intense scrutiny began a while ago. Yes, Lock will throw at the NFL Combine and at Missouri’s pro day on March 21. Lock had fun describing a grilling by Raiders coach Jon Gruden at the Senior Bowl.

“Kind of mid-conversation, he kind of says, ‘Hey Lock, let’s talk about that pick you threw at Alabama. What were you doing there?’ It was an ugly play. … It was another example of why I should have stayed that last year. [If not,] my eyes would have been like this,” Locke said, opening his eyes wide and flashing a confused look.

Given a chance, Missouri coach Barry Odom gushed about his former quarterback.

“He’s as Mizzou as a person you can get. He cares about his teammates to a level I haven’t seen many times. Hang out with the offensive line? He did it. He cared deeply about wanting to win,” Odom said.

That offensive line bond was so strong it became a Thursday night tradition with Lock and his boys. After practice, they hit local steakhouse. On the way back, they removed their shirts and sang along to Scottish music turned up loud in Lock’s GMC truck.

The circle of Palmer clients includes USC’s J.T. Daniels, the Jets’ Sam Darnold, the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Panthers’ Kyle Allen. Training specialist Ryan Flaherty developed an algorithm that essentially predicts 40 times. Flaherty was so successful he is now a senior director of performance at Nike — and still works with Palmer.

“I’ve been doing it 15 years. I can pretty quickly see who the guys are and who aren’t the ones players gravitate toward,” Flaherty said. “[Lock has] got a vibe to him. Low key, not a screamer. He’s very confident in himself.”

Without being cocky, Flaherty isn’t much on the combine being a deal breaker, but he does predict Lock breaking the event’s three-cone drill record for quarterbacks (6.55 seconds).

“I have a unique perspective on it,” Palmer said. “I was a scrub who had to keep clawing my way. And then I know exactly what my brother went through. Nobody knows what a No. 1 franchise Heisman guy went through like me.”

The whole idea of his quarterback business, he says, is to get to that second NFL contract.

“That’s how GMs keep their jobs,” Palmer said. “I don’t think anybody has as much information on quarterbacks as I do. No scouts, no GMs — except John Elway — really understand what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.”

Is Lock the next one?  

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