Every spring, heading into the NFL draft, college fans are surprised to discover which quarterbacks have won the pros' hearts. Ryan Tannehill over Russell Wilson, huh? Mitch Trubisky over Deshaun Watson, huh? Jared Goff over ... any of these other guys, huh?
I'm not saying we're always right. The NFL knows more about what it's looking for than we do. It's just not easy to predict which seemingly random QB the NFL will decide is much better than college fans ever would've guessed.
For the 2018 draft, NFL media has already decided on its out-of-nowhere guy, almost a year ahead of schedule. For months now, Wyoming QB Josh Allen has been called a likely top-10 pick, ranking alongside former five-star Josh Rosen of UCLA and Rose Bowl winner Sam Darnold of USC, and ahead of big-number producers like Louisville's Lamar Jackson, Washington State's Luke Falk, and Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph.
A Yahoo! story calls Allen one of "the big three," along with Rosen and Darnold. SB Nation's first mock draft predicted him at No. 3. At one point, Bleacher Report had Allen at No. 3 in 2017, let alone 2018. Adam Schefter reported 12 months in advance that Allen's earning No. 1 buzz.
What do we know about Allen?
- He's tall (6'5) with a big frame. The average NFL QB is about 6'2, and while height is by no means a guarantor, it could be considered a prereq for all but the most talented QBs, and folks, he's got a lot of it.
- He plays for Craig Bohl, a defensive-minded head coach whose offense produced Carson Wentz at North Dakota State. It's one of the more "pro-style" offenses you'll find in modern college football.
- He doesn't have the traditional late-bloomer background. In high school, he was 6'3 as a multi-sport QB near Fresno (which sounds like a relatively easy place to spot a future pro QB), then became a three-star JUCO before landing at Wyo.
- Nothing about his stats jumps off the page. In 2016, his passer rating against FBS teams ranked No. 35 in the country, behind eight fellow underclassmen (including two fellow Mountain West sophomores). NFL folks often say completion percentage is one college stat they can glean meaning from, and Allen ranked No. 84 vs. FBS teams there. Due to injury, he didn't play much as a freshman.
- That last part adds to the mystery of Allen's NFL hype. In one year, he's topped two years' of comparable performances by Washington's Jake Browning (who's faced much tougher defenses, albeit with much more talented teammates), Boise State's Brett Rypien, Toledo's Logan Woodside, and Colorado State's Nick Stevens, plus some of those bigger names? Allen is two or three inches taller than these guys, at least.
- As a mid-major QB, he's faced only one Power 5 team, throwing five picks at Nebraska in his fourth start. Boise State, San Diego State, SDSU again, and BYU could be considered P5-quality, however, and his numbers slightly exceeded the average opponent for three of those (the exception, BYU, was in bad weather, FWIW).
- A fuller review of his play shows he can improvise, he's got a big arm, and he can scoot, all in an offense that doesn't go out of its way to oversimplify for its QB.
- In 2017, Allen loses roughly his entire starting skill corps, but returns four starting offensive linemen.
None of this is meant to trash Allen or predict failure for him, by any means. He's an impressive athlete who, in his first full year, led his team to a surprise division title. If NFL folks have correctly identified a non-power QB as a future Pro Bowler this far in advance, then hats off.
Mainly, it's just been interesting to see the consensus form this early around a quarterback from a school that's had one QB pick, a seventh-rounder, in almost 40 years. If he's Wyoming's first top QB pick, then that's wonderful; if not, let's enjoy the oddity of Wyoming soaking up preseason hype.