Futures: Josh Allen

Futures: Josh Allen
Futures: Josh Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Derrik Klassen

Josh Allen burst onto the scene late during the 2016 college football season. In the midst of what many saw as a four-man quarterback class headlined by Deshaun Watson, Allen rose from nowhere to momentarily steal the spotlight. Allen went from being a complete unknown to a top-five player in some mock drafts and big boards across the media landscape. There was a sudden fascination with the tall, rocket-armed athlete from Wyoming. Nothing paved the way for Allen's arrival -- it just happened.

Despite the media craze at his back, Allen opted to stay in school for at least one more season. Allen returned to school for his redshirt junior season while four of his offensive teammates left for the NFL. With a depleted roster, Allen bet on himself to elevate the talent at Wyoming and solidify his status as a top-five pick. Surely Allen was looking for better results than those with which he ended up.

Wyoming's offense crumbled with new faces along the starting roster. Per S&P+, Wyoming's offense plummeted from 33rd in 2016 to 119th in 2017. More specifically, Wyoming's passing offense fell from 52nd to 119th. Allen's personal numbers took a hit, as well. Allen shaved nearly 2 yards off of his yards per attempt and dropped 17.1 points in passer rating. Aside from cutting down on interceptions, Allen had little to show for his return to Laramie.

Anticipation and an understanding of one's offensive system are supposed to be an area where a quarterback can showcase his development as a player. The longer a quarterback is in the system and is getting live reps, the better feel he should have for the flow of route concepts. Allen too often came up short when given the opportunity to show these next-level traits during his final season at Wyoming.

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In this example, Allen shows a poor understanding of timing, as well as discomfort in the pocket. The slot receiver at the top of the screen was open, but instead of being patient enough to stick with the route concept, Allen dropped his eyes at the first hint of pressure. He ultimately tripped over himself before he could pick up any yards on the scramble.

Allen should be ready to step up and deliver at this point in the play. Allen's eyes are shifting back toward the receiver heading down the seam and Allen should have a grasp of the coverage by now. As soon as Allen's eyes meet the receiver and he sees open grass (or blue turf), Allen should be hitching up to the clean area of the pocket and throwing.

Instead, Allen remains deep in the pocket and allows an edge rusher a path to him. The incoming pass-rusher does not necessarily signify pressure, but Allen allows it to. The edge rusher is hard committing to the outside rush path, meaning he has no immediate way back inside the pocket, where Allen has plenty of room with which to work. Rather than use the space allotted to buy time for the developing route, Allen drops his eyes, slides up, and looks for an escape route. Allen completely gives up on the route just as it was about to open up.

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Earlier in the same game, Allen mishandled this play and nearly cost his team a major turnover. Allen catches the snap and opens to his left. The tight end chips a pass-rusher before turning to run a flat route underneath the slot receiver, who is running a slant route. With the way Central Michigan is playing its man coverage, the defender covering the tight end would have to go over the top of the slant route or collide with it. The route combination creates a natural pick for the tight end to be open.

Allen, however, does not recognize that the defender covering the tight end can not make his way over in time. Allen holds onto the ball and turns to his right, now with a pass-rusher wrapped around his waist. Desperation sets in and Allen hurls the ball aimlessly as he goes down. With a better play from the Central Michigan defender, Allen would have left the field with another interception on his resume.

Quarterback prospects can also show maturity in how well they use their checkdown options. Throwing "hot" or to a checkdown is seldom the flashy play, but it is often the right one. The primary function of a quarterback is to keep the offense on schedule, and checkdowns make that easy when used appropriately.

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The running back is open as a checkdown option for most of this play. Allen begins his progression with the lone receiver to the right before redirecting his attention to the bunch formation on the left. As Allen redirects, he hitches up in the pocket. By this point, Allen should either be prepared to throw or accept the fate of the play and toss the ball to the running back. Neither option is exercised by Allen. Rather than taking the handful of yards, Allen holds the ball far too long and takes a sack, putting Wyoming's offense behind the sticks for a third-and-long.


What continues to fascinate about Allen is that his lack of tangible growth or success did not serve as a deterrent the way it normally would. Plenty of quarterbacks before Allen were preseason darlings before falling short in their final season and being phased out of the spotlight. With two years of film, a pro day, and an NFL Combine visit in the books, Allen still remains atop quarterback ranking lists. If Allen was ever going to stop being the flavor of the month, it would have happened by now.

Allen has skated past typical criticism because of the illusion of potential. Size, athleticism, and arm strength are the foundation of the illusion of potential, and Allen has all three traits in spades.

Allen measured in a hair under 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds at the NFL combine in February; almost identical to Carson Wentz. Much like Wentz, Allen dominated the workout drills. Allen scored in at least the 76th percentile in the broad jump, vertical jump, and 3-cone drill. Allen's 4.75-second 40-yard dash was not quite as impressive, but showed plenty enough speed for his massive frame.

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The poor state of Allen's offensive line too often left him running for his life, but Allen proved to be difficult to bring down. Allen has fantastic balance when shedding defenders in the pocket. When Allen makes a dedicated effort to be a playmaker, it is not until the third or fourth tackle attempt that Allen tends to finally go down. Allen has the athleticism and balance to survive tackle attempts from NFL defenders.

Allen's athleticism was also channeled by head coach Craig Bohl. Bohl did not waste Allen's hulking body frame and explosive athletic ability as a pure pocket passer. Inverted veer, option, and jet-read concepts can be found sprinkled throughout Allen's film catalog. Rollouts and moving pockets were common during Allen's time at Wyoming, as well.

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Allen is executing an inverted veer on this play. In short, the inverted veer is similar to a power concept, but with a read for the quarterback that allows him to keep the ball himself. Allen reads the play-side edge defender, keying on whether he presses inside or stays wide for the running back threat. In this instance, the edge player backs off and widens out for the running back, allowing Allen an alley right down the middle of the defense. Allen barrels through a sea of defenders at the second level before finally being corralled 17 yards down the field.

Allen's athletic ability accentuates what he is theoretically capable of as a passer. The ability to scramble, shake off defenders, and gash defenses as a rushing threat is secondary to the booming arm strength Allen possesses. Allen showcases elite velocity and peak ball placement. When things go right for Allen, there is not a quarterback in this class who can rival him.

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A majority of current NFL quarterbacks lack the juice to fit those airtight windows. To be able to rifle the ball down the seam and on deep corner routes between multiple defenders puts Allen in elite company. The likes of Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton can complete those throws consistently, but most any other NFL quarterback will only do so out of good fortune. Those throws are not supposed to be possible, but Allen has the caliber of arm to push beyond the boundaries.

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More impressive, Allen does not need perfect conditions in order to summon arm strength. Allen has a flexible upper body and an absolute terror of a throwing motion. No matter the platform, Allen can rip the ball down the field with ease and deliver where many quarterbacks would fall short.

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The conundrum with Allen is that these flashes -- the moments of pure brilliance -- come so few and far between. Allen dazzles once or twice a game with a play that feels impossible, only to look like a late-round pick for the remainder of his appearance. The inconsistency in Allen's play was supposed to be addressed by staying in school for another season, but that did not prove to be the case.

There is no comfort in betting on a quarterback prospect who does not consistently play to his skill set. Football Outsiders' own QBASE system projected Allen with more than a 60 percent chance to bust, due in large part to his inconsistent play breeding poor results on the stat sheet. Drafting Josh Allen is a commitment to developing a skill set that has yet to prove it can develop and does not have any tangible indicators to hint toward success. The gamble on Allen is too steep a price for the slim potential of a payoff.


14 comments, Last at 11 Apr 2018, 10:57am

#1 by Pat // Apr 04, 2018 - 3:12pm

In case anyone else is super-confused, the third play and the first two plays are against different teams (Central Michigan for the first two, Boise State for the third), both in Boise State's stadium, since Central Michigan was a bowl game there. When I got to the third play, I was like "wait, why are they suddenly wearing different uniforms?"

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#2 by bubqr // Apr 04, 2018 - 3:26pm

I was confused, so thanks! Note: still not as confused as I am when seeing Josh Allen projected as a top 5 pick.

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#7 by Dave Bernreuther // Apr 05, 2018 - 11:05am

Me too.

I mean, that first play should be a touchdown. Every time. Throw the ball as the slot receiver makes his move at the 40. That's an EASY touchdown. It's still a touchdown with a late but good throw. Instead, he takes a sack. If he can't do that against freaking Central Michigan, what gives anyone any hope he'll have the presence and decision making ability to do that against an NFL pass rush?

I'm not a big Bills fan, but I'm from that region, and on behalf of all the Bills fans I grew up with, I am TERRIFIED that he's their guy.

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#3 by Raiderjoe // Apr 04, 2018 - 3:29pm

qill read this when next drinking at home. see twitter account flooded with hot takers ripping allen left and right. unless guy goes to brobcos or chiefs will root for j. allen to prove people wrong. from what little I've sene guy does look to have accuracy issue and processing issue. can get discombobulated if pocker breaks down. saw part of bowl game Wyoming was in, some of Senior vbowl and coupekl random moments in two other Wyoming games in 2017. so again not much, . but saw times where he was being chased by defender and seemed to lose his cool rather than use athleticism to buy himself more tiem and look down the field better rather than just spotting brown hersey out fo corner of eye and throwing ball in general direction of it

conclusion is if guiy cannot be accurate with throws and not cool in pocket will be flop.

but,. man, epopel on twitter. Allen ripping goes overboard. won't mebntion these people's names (some I follow and they follwo me too abnd others are total randoms) but wouldnt' be surprised if allen puked in their cereal bowls one time abnd tghey are holding grudges. then they also sauy basically any team that takes Allen did not read their takes and the tema is clearly moronic

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#12 by kingwood kid // Apr 05, 2018 - 7:01pm

So many typos on everyday words, then out of nowhere, you nailed discombobulated. That's the most meta Josh Allen comment imaginable.

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#4 by A_Dederer // Apr 05, 2018 - 4:46am

So, the issue isn't whether to take him (if you think you can coach him up better than the Wyoming staff), it's at what draft position is he worth taking a chance on?

Maybe 2 to 1 he's a bust, but if he makes it, he'll be a top-flight franchise QB. How deep in the draft is that worth trying? Taking him top ten sounds like a terrible idea (for one, you'd have to pay so much you'll want to play him, and he needs work). Late first round to anytime first day, sounds like a good QB of the future. Problem is, potential is driving his likely position, which is likely to put him somewhere he'll never fulfill it..

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#5 by David // Apr 05, 2018 - 8:00am

"at what draft position is he worth taking a chance on?"

That's a really great way of phrasing it

Off the top of my head, I'd probably think about it in the following terms:

Every draft pick has a range of possibilities, from bust, to perennial All-Pro/Hall of Famer

That possibility, combined with the position, tells me something about the value of the player - Quarterbacks have more value to my team than Punters

I have a (relative) baseline of knowledge of what I can expect from any given pick - either in terms of probability (a player chosen with the first pick in the second round has x% chance of being a three year starter) or in total value (Chase Stuart's draft value chart)

So, we're all pretty sure that Allen's variability is a lot higher than most players, so when does being a QB balance that out?

This obviously can vary, but I think that QB is not only the most important individual player in terms of on the field value, but also in terms of career value (longer career than any other position except special teams) and value at peak

A great QB is (IMO) easily three times as valuable as the greatest defensive player over the course of their career - simply because of how long that peak value lasts

So, Allen would have to be three times as likely as any other player you would be considering to flame out, before you wouldn't take that risk.

That makes him a top ten pick, I think

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#6 by Noahrk // Apr 05, 2018 - 10:31am

Sounds like the typical QB teams fall in love with that never work out. But to put him in the best possible spot to succeed he'd need to go in the second half of the first round, twenties or later, where he might actually get a chance to sit for a year and work on mechanics and the mental side of things. Also, likely with a better OL.

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#8 by jtr // Apr 05, 2018 - 12:46pm

I kind of doubt he lasts that long. I feel like he's destined for the Bills. They pick low enough that the surer things will be gone, and based on the Tyrod Taylor situation I doubt they want Lamar Jackson. Plus, the Nate Peterman Experiment showed that the coaching staff has way too much confidence in themselves to coach a bad quarterback up into NFL form; that's exactly the kind of hubris that leads to drafting the guy with the cannon arm and believing you can totally rebuild the rest of his game.

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#9 by mehllageman56 // Apr 05, 2018 - 2:02pm

Even the Browns have someone he could sit behind, so he doesn't need to go later, just to a team that can 'coach' him up. Granted, I don't think that team exists, but whatever.

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#11 by mehllageman56 // Apr 05, 2018 - 2:07pm

Also, going by stats Nate Peterman was a much better prospect than Josh Allen. Peterman completed 60% in a system that Russell Wilson, Mike Glennon and Jacoby Brissett couldn't. Peterman was coached by the former NC State coach at Pittsburgh. If the Bills drafted Josh Allen, Peterman would probably still beat him out for the back-up spot.

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#13 by justanothersteve // Apr 09, 2018 - 12:36pm

It looks like Allen's draft prospects may be dropping some. Really good article in today's MMQB where both Gil Brandt and especially former punching bag Dan Orlovsky rip Allen's chances.

Gil Brandt: On his QB rankings: “Rosen, Darnold, Mayfield, Allen, Jackson.” “Josh Allen has everything you need to be a franchise QB, but he lacks accuracy, and you can’t complete 56 percent in the NFL.”

Dan Orlovsky: “The two things for me that are like major red flags … There’s a couple of times on tape in a game where he’ll get up to the line of scrimmage and he'll communicate with his offensive line. It looks like he's changing your protection or setting your protection one way … There’s a clip against Iowa where he changes a protection. The Will linebacker blitzes and everybody runs hot, and Josh Allen does not move until his third step of the drop. What were you thinking? What was going on? And that shows up way too much for me. And again, that stuff is not fixable. You think Dick LeBeau is easier to do it against? When he’s got Star Wars on the back end going on? … When the ball is snapped it's almost like, I don't know what's going on … ” The other red flag was badly staring down receivers.

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#14 by Raiderjoe // Apr 11, 2018 - 10:57am

yeah what I was writing about ealier d. orlovsky explained in mopre words.


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