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Josh Allen is a big NFL draft risk but still a super fun college QB to watch

NFL guys like him because he’s tall. If you watch him play, you’ll see plenty of good (and plenty of bad).

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Air Force
Josh Allen: Russell Wilson in disguise? Deep disguise.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, some quarterback prospect from a smaller school shoots way up the draft boards and has all the “anonymous” scouts drooling.

Every scout thinks he’s the first guy to know about how good these less-publicized players are, and they need to tell you about it, because deep down everyone is a hipster.

“Uhh ya, I’ve been watching tapes of Paxton Lynch for a while now. Have you not been?” or “I knew about Derek Carr when he was still David Carr’s younger brother” or “I liked New Edition before the BET biopic.” That last one has nothing to do with quarterbacks but is something that actually came out of my mouth recently.

This is what happened last offseason to Josh Allen, the No. 1 Hipster Quarterback Prospect, out of Wyoming. “Oh, you haven’t heard of this big, tall quarterback who can sling the rock? Oh, you were too busy watching your Alabamas and your Ohio States to watch Wyoming vs. Air Force?” The Hipster Quarterback is a real thing. Unfortunately, it rarely works out.

The 2017 Hipster Quarterback big board:

  1. Josh Allen
  2. Some guy you’ve never heard of
  3. Blake Bortles?

There is pretty much only one reason anybody outside the Mountain West has heard of Allen: He’s tall. People who coach or evaluate quarterbacks get so enamored by height because it generally means a lot of power (read: ARM TALENT). We don’t care if you can actually play the darn position, because we are so full of ourselves we think we can fix you. If we can just harness this strength, we’ve found the next Tom Brady. Again, this rarely works out.

NFL teams have always loved the guys who can throw it a mile over the guys who actually complete passes. This is why people like Ryan Tannehill get drafted ahead of people like Russell Wilson. Tall men get chosen for jobs at a higher rate than shorter men, and the NFL is no different.

OK, but what about Allen specifically? Can he play?

The first thing I did was look at his raw production. Here’s 2016:

Five interceptions against Nebraska. That’s not good. A 45 percent completion percentage against San Diego State. Again, no bueno. Those were big games — one against a Power 5 school and the other in the Mountain West Championship. There were three games under 50 percent completion percentage and three more just a tad passed 50 percent. There were 27 sacks. His completion percentage ranked him eighth … in the Mountain West. His “adjusted passing yards per attempt” put him fourth in the Mountain West.

All right, well, he was just a sophomore. Let’s see what he did with another year under his belt. Here’s 2017:

He played two Power 5 teams (Iowa and Oregon) and went a combined 50 percent completion percentage with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Hmmm. Against Boise State, he was 12 of 27 and added another two interceptions. His completion percentage ranked him eighth … in the Mountain West. His adjusted passing yards per attempt put him ninth in the Mountain West.

The numbers are bad, and in the context of quarterbacks who were drafted that had similar college numbers, it’s almost cringe-worthy:

(If that’s too small to read, it shows many of his numbers lag behind Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder.)

And here he is compared to the other quarterbacks in the 2018 class:

(Way behind Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Rosen.)

If you just look at the numbers, there is no way he’s a first-round quarterback. There has to be some semblance of production in college to justify some a lofty draft ranking, even if you’re playing with a talent disadvantage around you. If you can’t complete passes in college, why should we believe that you can complete them in the NFL? It’s the same sport.

In the real world, we would just end the story of Allen here: an average mid-major quarterback who had led his team to some big wins in 2016 but couldn’t follow it up in 2017. Next. Unfortunately, we can’t, because some NFL team will fall in love with him and draft him much higher than he should. Because of that, we’re going to have to ...

*puts on sunglasses*

*makes bulletproof coffee*

*opens up Internet Explorer*

FIRE. UP. THE. GAME. TAPE.

The funny thing about our boy Allen? He’s actually super fun to watch. His offensive line is not very good (it’s similar to what Jackson has in front of him at Louisville), so he has to make all sorts of exciting plays, running around for his life. He makes plays like *gasp* Wilson. I’m not saying he’s anywhere close to Wilson’s ability (Wilson completed tons of passes); I’m saying he looks like him when he’s running around out there:

I wanted to touch on his mechanics a bit. I think overall, they are pretty good. His biggest issue (and this is true for a lot of quarterbacks) is with his hip rotation. He doesn’t fire his front hip out to create a sort of sling shot action with the following upper half of his body. This causes him to lean a bit as he throws.

Most guys don’t end up fixing this. You can look at Matt Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger as prime examples of that. It’s harder to be accurate when your spine is crooked. Other than that, he creates good ground force from his back leg. There’s not a lot of wasted motion when he starts his release. His elbow gets high enough. That’s all good stuff.

He has such a powerful arm that he can often make killer throws without his lower body getting involved:

Like, what is this even?

He can, functionally, make all those “NFL” throws. Those deep comebacks and far-hash, out-breaking routes. The strength is there:

That’s a great throw. Clean five-step drop and then a hitch to throw in rhythm to his receiver, who drops the ball. These types of throws are a prerequisite to playing in the NFL.

His above-average running ability reminds me some of the 2017 class: DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes, and Mitchell Trubisky. None of them were elite runners, but they could get the job done outside the pocket. Allen ran a ton of inverted veer plays and was elusive in the open field. His escapability in the pocket was *chef’s kiss* bellissimo. This is where I’d compare him to Wilson. He had some incredible scrambles game after game:

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad that goes with Allen’s game.

Here’s a bad interception from the Boise State game this year:

Wyoming has Boise here, running double-move stop-and-go from the slot receiver to the top of the screen. The outside receiver runs a hitch route at 6 yards to hold the corner. He’ll be Allen’s outlet if it’s Cover 3. Boise State ends up rotating to a Cover 1 (man) look postsnap.

The double move is great against man coverage, and you can see the Boise defender bite on the fake hook. The slot is now wide open in the seam. Seam throws can’t be thrown with a lot of arc, and they need to be thrown slightly more outside. With the Broncos in man coverage, there is a lot of room outside to throw this ball. Allen has to throw it in between the numbers and the Alberstons logo. Instead, he throws it inside the Albertsons logo, and most Cover 1 safeties are going to make that play.

His accuracy on short wide receiver screen throws often left a lot to be desired:

That happened a bit too much for my liking.

No one can guarantee Allen will or won’t become a good NFL quarterback

I think his statistical output makes him a stretch for that “QB1” spot. There are signs of an NFL quarterback when you *whispers* put on the game film, but it doesn’t show up every snap. Every NFL quarterback can complete a nice ball here and there, but the good ones do it consistently.

Look, whatever Allen is, his college highlight film is fire, and we’ll always have that.

This, my friends, is just stupid: