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Josh Allen 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report

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An elite ceiling, but a low floor. Can a team groom Allen?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft is this week and Josh Allen is one of the top prospects, expected to be taken in the first three picks. With that in mind, here’s our complete scouting report on the former Wyoming Cowboys quarterback

Personal history

(By Will Kennedy)

Allen, 21, was born in California and grew up on a 3,000-acre farm in Firebaugh, a small town about 20 miles away from the nearest highway. Allen played quarterback for Firebaugh High School, but received no division I scholarship offers coming out of high school.

Allen’s small school didn’t compete in many 7-on-7 camps and he also didn’t attend many quarterback camps, resulting in less exposure. With no offers on the table, Allen decided to go to Reedly College, a Junior college in California.

While at Reedly, Allen grew two inches and put on muscle, putting him at 6’5/210lbs. Allen put up 25 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions for the season at Reedly. After the season he sent out a mass email to FBS coaches and only got offers from Wyoming and Eastern Michigan, eventually deciding to head to Wyoming.

At Wyoming, Allen studied communications like many athletes.

College statistics

(By Dylan Zadonwicz)

In his first year as a starter in 2016, Allen had a promising year and lead Wyoming to a bowl game. Over 14 games he completed 56% of his passes for 3203 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Those stats include a loss in their bowl game against BYU where Allen went 17-for-32 with 207 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. All-in-all, a promising year for Allen and the Cowboys for the 2017 season.

Allen wasn’t able to take the next step as a starter and he saw his numbers decline in 2017. In 11 games, Allen completed 56.3% of his passes for only 1812 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. Along with that, his yards per attempt average dropped almost two full yards to 6.7. The Cowboys faced Central Michigan in their bowl game and Allen had one of his better games of the year. He went 11-for-19 with 154 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

Film analysis

(By Dan Lavoie)

Raw talent

At 6’5” 237 pounds, Allen is a massive quarterback. His arm length and hand size wouldn’t look out of place on a tight end. He moves like one, too, with a 4.75 forty yard dash, and a vertical leap, broad jump, and three-cone drill all in the 76th percentile or better among quarterbacks. In addition, he wields a rocket arm that instantly ranks top-three in the NFL astride Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton. When he’s on his game, Allen will deliver the ball into minuscule throwing windows, 50+ yards downfield.

Mechanics

Allen has a good foundation for his mechanics, having played in a system that taught him how to take 3- 5- and 7-step drops from under center. He has a compact overhand throwing motion. Allen’s offense used plenty of bootlegs and moving pockets, so he’s comfortable rolling out to pass (arguably, his strongest suit is when he rolls out to the right and throws downfield).

He delivers a nice play-action fake, and uses a strong pump fake to freeze defenders.

Throwing precision

On a micro level, Allen has the tools to fit a camel through the eye of a needle. When his feet are lined up, and he’s not pressured, Allen will deliver incredible throws to the perfect point.

On a macro level, Allen’s play-to-play consistency is a huge problem. He’s never been generally accurate throughout the course of a game or season. His career completion percentage is 56.1. His best season only hit 56.3 percent. Who are the best quarterbacks who never completed 60 percent of throws in a college season? Josh McCown, Tyrod Taylor, Shaun Hill, Derek Anderson, Brian Hoyer, and Kyle Boller. Drop rate isn’t a factor here, either - just about every independent charting study of this year’s quarterback prospects only chalked Wyoming’s receivers up to 4-5 percent of passes, among the fewest drops in this year’s class.

Part of the issue is his flight instinct. Allen doesn’t have great pocket presence. When he senses pressure, he loves to escape the pocket (again, because he’s effective throwing on the move, rolling out). When his feet start moving, he loses his solid throwing platform, and easy throws start flying incomplete. Designed runs aren’t the same thing as throwing on a scramble.

The other issue is that Allen plays with an almost manic desire to deliver big plays, regardless of the situation. We’ll discuss that in the next section, but by trying to unlock a deep throw or forcing the ball to a closed window, Allen hurts the success rate of his offense.

Processing speed and decision-making

Allen’s game is filled with instances where he tries to extend the play, direct traffic, run the ball himself, and generally try to make magic happen on a moribund play. To a certain degree, it makes sense - you want your QB to be the playmaker of the offense, and when Allen’s most talented teammates graduated in 2016, he was forced to become the only focal point of the team.

Still, while a star needs to seize moments where he puts the team on his back and does things himself, he can’t do it on every play, or he’s not playing a team sport anymore. Allen will freelance when forced to break the pocket, and he’s not on the same page as his receivers, often throwing the ball closer to a defender than where his target thought it was going.

It’s an issue you see even more when he’s pressured in the pocket. Allen stops looking at coverage concepts while pressured, and starts just looking for colored jerseys. He hates going down for a sack, so he’ll reverse field, stiff-arm defenders, and do whatever it takes to try and throw the ball downfield. It’s admirable, but at the same time, there’s a time and a place to act outside the structure of a play, and it’s not every down.

Allen can read the full field, and is capable of getting through his progressions at a reasonable pace. He doesn’t anticipate players coming open, but will deliver the ball when he sees a player moving into space.

Occasionally Allen will misread the presnap coverage or miss a coverage rotation at the snap. This causes him to miss potential easy reads, as well as to accidentally lock onto covered receivers.

The case for and against Allen

The case for Allen

Any discussion of what Josh Allen can provide for an NFL team must start with his overwhelming physical abilities. He has an ideal NFL frame at 6’5”, 237 pounds and his hand size is above-average at 10 1/8 inches. That frame makes Allen a difficult quarterback for defenders to sack or tackle and his tape is full of examples of Allen bullying his way for a first down. Allen’s arm strength is phenomenal. That allows him to attempt and complete passes few quarterbacks can. NFL offensive coordinators would appreciate the scheme flexibility Allen’s arm can afford them. As Wyoming runs a largely pro-style scheme, Allen spent most of his time under center, utilizing pro-style concepts like full-field reads, play-action fakes and bootlegs. He also throws very well on the run, despite demonstrating poor mechanics in those instances.

Allen is a fit for the Erhardt-Perkins scheme that Bills coordinator Brian Daboll will be bringing to Buffalo. The E-P system utilizes play-action fakes and audibles, both things Allen has experience with. Allen also has the requisite athleticism to run the zone-read, something that Daboll was known for implementing at Alabama.

The case against Allen

As is frequently the case with strong-armed quarterbacks, Allen trusts his ability to fit passes into tight windows far too much. Often, Allen would attempt risky throws, when a checkdown would have been the smarter option. As such, he’s a streaky passer, with completions and incompletions coming in bunches. Allen’s aptitude at reading the field and diagnosing coverages post-snap is lacking. Although he flashed the ability to step up in the pocket, Allen’s inability to sense pressure often resulted in sacks or unnecessary rollouts. All these deficiencies resulted in a career completion percentage of 56 percent, well under the level considered acceptable for prospects coming out of college. As previously noted, Allen struggled when facing premier competition. The worst games of his career came against Nebraska, Iowa, and Oregon.

Conclusion

(By Dan Lavoie)

Allen is an extremely talented, highly-motivated kid, but he’s probably not prepared for what the NFL is going to do with him. There’s potential for him to turn into the next Jay Cutler, or even Ben Roethlisberger, a talented play-action QB, able to deliver to all levels of the field even while he’s being tackled by a defensive end. Just like Cardale Jones had that potential, and E.J. Manuel before him, and Jake Locker before him. These athletic “prototypical” quarterbacks rarely develop into the essence of a quarterback because 90 percent of the game is half mental.

Until Allen learns to contextualize his play, understanding that a four-yard gain on first-and-ten is appropriate, or a two-yard gain on third-and-five is preferable to a ten yard loss from a sack, he’s going to struggle to deliver a net positive to his offense. In addition, he has some developing to do on the mental side of the game (reportedly turning in a weak whiteboard session at the Combine), and that’s getting downplayed because of his prowess at street football.

Allen will play well in an offense that emphasizes play action, moving pockets, and deep passing. He’ll struggle if he starts right away, unless coaches simplify his reads and emphasize his option to check down. He should head to a team with an established veteran so he can learn the ropes, otherwise his potential may never manifest on Sundays.

Editor’s note: If you weren’t able to see the videos embedded in the article, click through from Apple News to the website.