From the moment the Buffalo Bills dealt away the 12th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, along with two second-round picks (53rd and 56th overall) to land Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen at No. 7 overall, Bills fans envisioned Allen as THE franchise quarterback who will make them forget all about former “franchise quarterbacks” like J.P. Losman, EJ Manuel, and Trent Edwards, who like Allen were drafted by Buffalo to provide stability at QB, but who ultimately fell far short of meeting the lofty label of franchise quarterback.
Allen, a 6-foot-5, 237-pound signal-caller, appears to have all the physical tools to step up and become Buffalo’s most successful quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
Back in June, second-year head coach Sean McDermott and second-year general manager Brandon Beane discussed their strategy for developing Allen, who must find a way to deal with the sky-high expectations that come with being an heir apparent to Kelly.
“There’s a lot of different ways to do it,” McDermott told a collection of reporters back in June. “It’s about bringing him along the right way. You go back and look at all the failed ways. ‘They waited’ [or] ‘They didn’t wait.’ So, it’s all about where he is in his development. We’re not going to put him out there unless we feel like he’s ready and that’s the important part of this, that we develop a nice foundation of strong fundamentals and football knowledge so that he can go out there and execute. Doesn’t mean he’s not going to have growing pains -- he will.”
Allen possesses a big, strong (albeit sometimes inaccurate) arm that made scouts salivate and fans dream of his leading the Bills to new heights. During the two years he started for Wyoming, Allen threw for 5,051 yards with 44 touchdowns compared to 21 interceptions while completing 56.1 percent of his passes.
A dual-threat, Allen is no slouch as a runner, accumulating 767 rushing yards and 12 rushing TDs.
Much was made of Allen’s big hands (he led all quarterbacks at the Combine with a 10 1/8-inch hand size), and the fact that the inclement weather he played and starred in at Wyoming should serve him well in the unpredictable climate of Orchard Park.
One of the biggest concerns over Allen was his low completion percentage, by far the lowest of Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, and Mason Rudolph, Allen’s fellow quarterbacks from the Class of 2018.
While completing 56 percent of your passes simply isn’t going to cut it, the Bills brass did their homework when breaking down game film on Allen.
Wyoming, which operated under a pro-style offense, didn’t utilize many screen passes, something that helped Allen’s peers compile higher completion percentages at their schools. Instead, Wyoming’s attack relied more on deep throws — as Beane called them, “no gimme throws,” something that kept Allen’s completion percentage down.
Another criticism was Allen’s footwork, which at times appeared sloppy and rigid, a fact that Allen focused on through his offseason work with his quarterback coach, Jordan Palmer.
On the whole, while Beane and McDermott certainly heard the criticisms of Allen, nothing prevented them from using the highest pick in franchise history on a quarterback.
“The most positive thing I saw [was] when he was at the Senior Bowl, his feet were in a much better position that week,” Beane said. “He was much more accurate, not only during the week, but even in the game.”
Expectations certainly are high for Allen, who has the luxury of easing into his Bills career behind AJ McCarron and 2017 fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman.
While there certainly are questions marks surrounding Allen, give the Bills coaching staff credit for doing their homework on Allen.
In private workouts the team held with every quarterback prospect they considered drafting, new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll drew up 42 plays, but kept the script a secret from the prospects.
Afterwards, Beane said Buffalo’s coaches left the pre-draft workout feeling “very confident” in Allen’s ability to grasp and execute the playbook.
“But I think, too, whether [Allen] plays zero games or 16 games, we’re going to put out the guy that gives us the best chance to win each Sunday,” Beane said.
The quarterback competition should be a hotly-contested battle once the Bills open camp at St. John Fisher College July 26.