When recent mock drafts and power rankings were released by some of the most well-respected draftniks in the industry, Josh Allen’s name kept appearing early and often. In fact, ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked the Wyoming product first overall to the Cleveland Browns and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has him rated over fellow quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson.
The questions are why does Allen have all this hype surrounding him after a less than stellar college career and does the 21-year-old deserve this sort of praise?
Let’s talk about this hype train, which started as a well-oiled machine in 2016, spun off the tracks and managed to right itself but with half the cars missing. Prior to the 2017 season, fans and scouts alike were drooling over the potential of the 6’5, 235 pound prospect. They had every right to, as well. Allen was coming off a 36 touchdown season for the Cowboys, including seven on the ground and one as a receiver. A season like that, especially with the obvious physical ability he displayed, meant that things should only go up for Allen. That’s where the problems began to crop up.
Allen’s 2016 season showcased his potential, but many scouts wanted to see improved mechanics, ball placements, accuracy, better pocket awareness and decision making. When a quarterback only completes 56 percent of his passes and throws 15 interceptions, questions will need to be answered on the field. Some of the questions were answered, just not how many were expecting.
Statistically, the only improvement in Allen’s 2017 play was his interception numbers, which dropped from 15 to six. Allen’s statistical drop-off continued into his passing touchdowns, where he has 12 fewer than 2016 and his yards per attempt, which dropped nearly two yards.
The improvements many expected or hoped to see just never happened, but why was that the case? Some of the blame can be placed on the supporting cast at Wyoming, where Allen’s top receivers from 2017 only had a combined 32 catches between them prior to the start of the season, according to Sports Reference. The Cowboy’s running game was also non-existent, as Allen had as many touchdowns on the ground as the two halfbacks he shared the backfield with. With all of those deficiencies, an improvement on a very impressive 2016 should not have been expected, but Allen didn’t help his cause on the field either.
Wyoming’s first loss of the season came against Iowa, a tough matchup for any Mountain West team. Allen was matched up against another player that may go early in the draft, cornerback Joshua Jackson. The game plan was to spread the ball out against Iowa’s defense and attack them with bubble, flat, stick and hitch routes. Often, Allen was having major issues when his first read wasn’t open in this game and he succumbed the pressure the Hawkeyes brought on a consistent basis. Jackson baited him into an easy interception late in the game and he ended up with only 174 passing yards on 40 attempts.
The loss to Iowa served as a microcosm of the issues Allen’s game includes. Not only were his mechanics dreadful, even in a clean pocket, but it caused him to miss wide open targets and erase a handful of potential plays that would have put Wyoming back in the game.
Based on that performance alone, Allen could have fallen out of the first round all together, but he did redeem himself later in 2017.
New Mexico had a much harder time containing Allen than Iowa did, to the point that he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter in the blowout victory. On the first play from scrimmage, Allen threw a bomb down the sideline that was initially called a touchdown. The play came back, but it just showed how much arm talent the raw quarterback has when his mechanics aren’t wild.
That was the biggest take away from the New Mexico game; Allen can throw with proper mechanics but just doesn’t do it on a consistent basis. The ball came out of his hand very clean and he was able to hit deep passes down the field all game. Allen’s mobility was also on full display, even though he caused some of the pressure with a bad feel for the pocket.
The difference in quality his tape shows is a major reason on why opinions are so divided regarding his draft stock. 12 of Allen’s 16 touchdown passes came in four games last year, in the other seven he threw one or zero touchdown passes. There really was no in between in 2017, even in victories. In a win against Hawaii, who had the 114th ranked defense of 129 FBS teams, Allen only completed nine of his 19 pass attempts for fewer than 100 yards. Against Colorado State, who had the 97th ranked total defense in the country, he only completed ten of his 20 attempts for 138 yards and no scores.
A popular excuse for Allen’s lack of production was the lack of talent around him, and that is a very valid point. However, some of the games he was at his absolute worst in were against teams devoid of defensive talent. Outside of Iowa, the best overall defense he played against was Oregon, who had a similarly dominant performance against him. Their defense, which could be considered average since they ranked in the mid-40s, held him to a 37.5 percent completion rate and 64 passing yards.
The only game that Allen played well in against a top 50 defensive opponent was in Wyoming’s bowl game against Central Michigan. It was probably the only game that Allen looked like his 2016 counterpart, even though he still only threw for 154 yards and completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes. Allen’s three touchdown passes in the first quarter showed why teams may consider him a top quarterback prospect this year. The first, which was a dart in a tight window from 23 yards away, was a display of top tier arm strength. On the second touchdown pass, Allen avoided pressure and juked out a defender before throwing into another tight window. The third, which probably has teams the most excited, was a 45 yard score that travelled 55 yards in the air and hit his receiver in perfect stride.
Central Michigan answered the question as to why Allen has the hype, and the majority of his other games answer if he deserves it or not. The simple answer is probably not, but he will still get drafted very early anyway.
Quarterbacks that Allen apologists consistently compare him to are Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Wentz. These are fair comparisons, as both of these NFL stars have similar physical traits and went to small colleges that faced an inferior level of competition. Let’s start with Roethlisberger, who would probably be the first overall pick if he were coming out of college this year. Ben started three seasons at Miami of Ohio, with his best numbers coming as a junior. Without throwing out a bunch of statistics, Allen was worse in every category. Specifically, Roethlisberger completed over 13 percent more of his passes than Allen and had 21 more touchdown passes in his junior year alone. Wentz, even though he was injured and played in four fewer games in his final year at North Dakota State, threw more touchdown passes, had a six percent higher completion rate and averaged a full yard per attempt more per pass.
Neither Roethlisberger nor Wentz were the first picks or even first quarterbacks selected in their respective draft classes. The thought of a quarterback like Roethlisberger falling all the way to 11th overall is ludicrous by today’s standards. Obviously, times have changed and quarterback evaluation has evolved in large part because of Roethlisberger, Wentz and former UCF Knight, Daunte Culpepper.
The scouting process, however, puts Josh Allen out of this category. With rough mechanics, poor ball placement, middling accuracy and a tendency to not step up in the pocket to deliver the football, Allen is a far inferior prospect to each of the quarterbacks mentioned. Now, this can change and he can definitely improve with proper coaching and the right teammates around him. There just seems to be a lack of acknowledgement regarding his major flaws from the draftnik community, including the aforementioned Mayock and Kiper. To place him over the polished Mayfield or the raw but even more talented Sam Darnold is a reckless projection of something that hasn’t been shown on the field at any point. The Senior Bowl was Allen’s opportunity to show it was more the fault of his teammates than his own for the lack of consistency, but he just reaffirmed the fact that he isn’t able to put it all together in practice or games.
Again, that is not to say Allen won’t surpass these other players at some point in his career, but nothing he has done indicates that their careers are trending in that direction. The lack of accuracy and mechanics alone could quickly put Allen in Paxton Lynch or Jake Locker territory, a monster but not a quarterback. To me, that shows that right now he is nothing but a hype train that is going to come crashing down at an NFL team’s expense.