Josh Allen didn’t have a great year in 2017, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. still thinks the Wyoming passer is the early favorite to be the first player taken in the 2018 NFL draft.
“My evaluations on this quarterback class are really close,” Kiper wrote. “I’ve gone back and forth a few times on Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Allen, but I just moved Allen up to my No. 1 quarterback. His numbers aren’t impressive, I know. But the NFL is all about projection, and he has a high ceiling. Coaches want to work with the 6’5 Allen because he has all of the tools.”
Allen finished his junior season with an unimpressive 16 touchdowns and six interceptions in 11 games, as well as five rushing touchdowns. But the NFL has a tendency to fall in love with any tall, strong-armed quarterback who coaches tell themselves can be molded into an elite passer, despite subpar college careers. Looking at you, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker.
If the Browns hope Allen can be developed into something special, it’ll likely take a while for him to get there. A year ago, Cleveland took a similarly raw player in DeShone Kizer and tossed him into the flames to disastrous results.
Mel Kiper Jr. asked about Josh Allen's completion percentage: "Stats are for losers in my opinion. The guy won."— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) January 18, 2018
Wyoming went 8-6 in 2016 with a loss in the Poinsettia Bowl and 8-5 in 2017 with a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Here are a few of the most notable parts of Kiper’s first mock draft of 2018:
There was just one more quarterback after the top five
Allen, Rosen, and Darnold are the three contending to be the top pick in Kiper’s mind, and it doesn’t seem like any other passer is close to getting in that mix. The only other quarterback to even land in the first round was Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield who was slated No. 13 to Washington.
It would depend on whether or not the team can retain Kirk Cousins, but if Washington doesn’t, it will likely be in the market for a quarterback. Still, it doesn’t sound like Kiper thinks Mayfield has a chance at going too much higher than No. 13.
“Don’t count out the Heisman Trophy winner being taken this high,” Kiper wrote. “He is going to get a chance to impress scouts at the Senior Bowl, and I know they’re interested in seeing how he performs.”
Senior Bowl practices begin Jan. 23 and will be headlined by Allen and Mayfield at quarterback.
The notable absence at quarterback in Kiper’s mock draft is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. He landed at No. 17 in Dan Kadar’s latest mock draft — four spots ahead of Allen — although there are varying opinions on Jackson’s viability as an NFL passer.
Offensive linemen are back
Last year, just two offensive linemen were picked in the first round and none went off the board until the Broncos picked Garett Bolles at No. 20 overall.
It was a historically low number, but Kiper doesn’t think that will carry into 2018. In his mock draft there are six offensive linemen, including a guard in the top 10.
After that is Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey to the Miami Dolphins at No. 11 and four more offensive linemen before the end of the round.
Pass rushers take a while to come off the board
If Kiper’s mock draft came true, it’d be the first time since 2005 that there weren’t at least two defensive linemen picked in the first 13 picks. The first defensive tackle doesn’t even go until the back half of the first round with Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne to the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 17.
Among the notable pass rushers who don’t appear in the first round of Kiper’s mock draft is LSU’s Arden Key — a two-time First Team All-SEC selection who had a down year in 2017 but opted to forgo his senior season anyway.
Kiper’s mock draft is likely to change a lot in the next three months. His first attempt last year was relatively accurate, though, with Myles Garrett and Mitchell Trubisky projected to be the first two picks in the draft and other players like Jamal Adams, Mike Williams, Marshon Lattimore, Leonard Fournette, and Solomon Thomas all landing in the top 10.