Quarterback is the most important position in football. It’s arguably the most important position in any team sport. So it’s understandable that when there’s an outstanding prospect at the position, they get the lion’s share of the media attention. The 2018 NFL Draft class is certainly no exception to that, with guys like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson commanding headlines left and right.
However, the most gifted of the 2018 quarterback class may not be any of those names. On the contrary, the best quarterback in the nation just might hail from a tiny school in the Mountain West Conference. On paper, Wyoming’s Josh Allen has everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He’s got prototypical NFL size. He has a cannon for an arm. And, like most successful quarterbacks in today’s game, he’s more than capable on the move.
However, as is often the case, with talent comes flaws. Allen is far from a finished product. Allen had considered entering last year’s draft, and likely would have been a high selection had he chosen to do so. However, the decision to come back and play one more year should prove to be a great one. Allen has some mechanical flaws and poor decision making that scouts are going to want to see corrected in what is likely to be Allen’s last year in Laramie. How does Allen stack up against the big names in the class? Let’s look at his evaluation.
Class: Redshirt Junior
Weight: 233 pounds
Traits and Scores
Arm Talent Grade: 14/15
Accuracy Grade: 8/15
Placement/Touch Grade: 10/15
Delivery/Mechanics Grade: 10/15
Pocket Presence Grade: 10/15
System Grade: 4/5
Progressions Grade: 2/5
Timing Grade: 3/5
Leadership Grade: 4/5
Athleticism Grade: 4/5
Ball Security: -1
First thing’s first, if you’ve followed my two previous scouting reports — Allen Lazard and Akrum Wadley — you’ll notice that I’m using yet another new scoring system. This scoring system has been developed by our fearless leader, Jon, in an attempt to get some consistency among our writers when it comes to these reports. Now, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the nuts and bolts.
When you watch Josh Allen play, three things pop off the screen at you almost immediately: Size, Athletic ability, and Arm talent. At 6’5” and 230+ pounds, Allen is the very definition of ‘prototypical size’ at the quarterback position. Being a short guy myself, I always root for undersized quarterbacks, but you can’t ignore the fact that only 3 starting quarterbacks in 2016 came in at 6’1” or shorter. Teams look for size, and Allen has it in spades.
Being out here in Iowa, and without ESPN Gameplay or the like, it’s rare that I catch a Wyoming football game live. In fact, I don’t know that I ever have as long as I’ve been watching college football. So I didn’t really know what to expect when I fired up the tape on Josh Allen from an athletic standpoint. I knew all about his arm talent from it being plastered all over everywhere, but I was anticipating a much more stationary, statuesque player.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, and pleasantly surprised. Allen’s athleticism jumped off the screen at me almost as much as his incredible arm talent. No one is going to confuse Allen for the Lamar Jackson’s of the world, but Allen’s legs are definitely a weapon. And one that he uses very effectively. Allen is absolutely a ‘pass first’ quarterback, but when he makes the decision to break the pocket, he’s going to make the most of it. He has very nice speed for the position, especially for someone of his size. Mobility is a very big checkmark in Allen’s favor.
Easily his most impressive trait; however, is the arm talent that Allen possesses. For my money, Allen has far and away the strongest arm of any QB likely to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Probably in all of college football. There isn’t a throw on the field that Allen doesn’t have the arm to make. Which can be both a blessing and a curse for Allen, as I’ll discuss more in-depth shortly. When Allen stays solid in his mechanics and decision making, he can absolutely pick you apart with his arm.
Teams are going to fall in love with the positives that Allen has. His arm strength alone is going to be enough to pique the interest of pro scouts everywhere. When you throw in his athleticism and that he is playing in the same system that produced #2 overall pick Carson Wentz, and you have the recipe for a potential top-five selection. But that’s not to say that Allen is without faults.
One thing that I noticed about Allen that continually bothered me is that he will occasionally get really sloppy with his mechanics. Often times he won’t fully rotate his hips, failing to follow through fully on his throws. This leads him to strong-arm a lot of throws, which causes the ball to sail on him quite often. This breakdown in mechanics can go a long ways towards explaining Allen’s poor completion percentage. Though his receivers dropping the ball on him has just as much, if not more, to do with that poor number as any mechanical flaws.
There is a silver lining with Allen’s mechanical issues, though. To a scout, those issues can signify that Allen isn’t a finished product yet. There is room to grow. Every year around the draft we hear ad nauseam about ceilings and whether or not a kid has reached his full potential. Guys are drafted every year on the promise of their ceiling, and Allen should be no exception.
The thing that plagues Allen the most is the same thing that plagues every young, strong-armed quarterback: Confidence. As a quarterback, you need to be the most confident player each and every time you step on a football field. But you can’t let that confidence goad you into making mistakes, and that’s the biggest aspect of the game that Allen needs to learn.
Allen has a cannon for an arm, and he knows it. Far too often; however, he trusts that cannon more than he should. He truly believes that he can make any throw in any situation. And he very nearly can. But that confidence leads him to take unnecessary risks with the football, as the above play shows. Where a quarterback with lesser arm talent would simply throw the ball away and live to play another down, Allen trusts his arm to bail him out of an ill-advised throw.
If the coaches at Wyoming can reign Allen in just a hair and convince him to throw the ball away when nothing is there, Allen could vault into the discussion for first quarterback off the board come next April.