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Josh Allen scouting report: 2018 NFL Draft film analysis

The riskiest player in this draft has the most raw talent.

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No player in this draft is as polarizing as quarterback Josh Allen (aside from another quarterback to be profiled later in this series). While reports suggest that Allen is a candidate for Cleveland’s first overall pick, some analysts feel like he’s a bust waiting to happen. Let’s dive into the film and talk about what Allen offers.

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.


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.

Final word

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.

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