Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
21. Wyoming QB Josh Allen
6-foot-5, 237 pounds
Key stats: Even though Allen improved his interception percentage from 4.0 in 2016 to 2.2 in 2017, his yards per attempt dropped from 8.6 to 6.7, respectively.
The skinny: Allen was largely ignored during the recruiting process coming out of high school, so he landed at Reedley Community College (Calif.), averaging 285 pass yards and 66 rushing yards per game in 2014. Allen transferred to Wyoming before the 2015 season and saw time in two games, completing 4-of-6 passes for 51 yards and running three times for 40 yards before suffering a season-ending broken clavicle on his right side.
Allen was granted a medical redshirt in 2015, and in 2016 he started all 14 games. That season he helped lead the Cowboys to the Mountain West championship game, completing 209-of-373 passes (56.0 percent) for 3,203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also ran 142 times for 523 yards with seven TDs and caught a 4-yard TD reception.
In 2017, Allen started 11 games (missing two with a sprained AC joint) in his shoulder. He completed 152-of-270 passes (56.3 percent) for 1,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran 92 times for 204 yards and five scores. He missed the final two regular-season games with the injury but returned for the bowl game against Central Michigan.
A redshirt junior, Allen declared for the draft and was eligible to participate in the Senior Bowl after finishing his degree.
Upside: Blessed with physical tools that most quarterbacks could only dream of — rocket arm, outstanding height and frame, great athletic gifts. Highlight reel shows some jaw-dropping throws. Absolute Howitzer that allows the whole field to be in play. Can drill the back-shoulder fade downfield. Throws from variety of arm angles and can deliver the ball without feet planted. Keeps plays alive with light feet and strong athletic ability. Can manipulate defenses with his eyes and good, hard pump fakes. Will go through his reads when he has the proper time and survey the entire field.
Shrugs off sack attempts and can throw on the move from awkward body positions. Has some Houdini in him — ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat when things break down. Here’s a fairly miraculous play (that could go under both the “Upside” and “Downside” sections) against New Mexico that displays Allen’s rare playmaking instinct and toughness, even though it’s not the kind of thing he’s going to be able to get away with regularly in the NFL:
Later on that same drive, Allen makes a far more impressive play against the Lobos, drilling a pass along the sideline against tight coverage — a truly NFL-caliber throw 25 yards on a rope under duress. This is the type of play you watch and understand why some evaluators might be excited about his ability to be a high-end starter with the right development:
Operated in same system that produced Carson Wentz. Lost four primary contributors on offense after 2016 season, all of whom spent time in the NFL last season (starting wideout, tight end, running back and center). Performed in snow, sleet, rain and wind. Able to cut through the elements with his velocity and hold up in less-than-ideal conditions. Started slowly but seemed to improve by noticeable bounds with each day during Senior Bowl practices.
Downside: Drops and lack of playmaking talent don’t account fully for his 56-percent completions in two seasons of starting. Way too scattershot a passer right now. Touch throws are very inconsistent. Velocity is great, but he needs to develop a better changeup to drop passes into the bucket. Will miss — sometimes badly — on higher-percentage checkdowns and screens. Forgets to reset his feet when he has time to do so.
Has a long way to go vs. pressure — gets skittish at times and doesn’t operate all that well with a dirty pocket. Overreacts to the first sign of pressure and bails out. Lacks proper sense of timing and needs to speed up his drops. Won’t always take the easy yards defenses will give him. Doesn’t consistently climb the pocket when the edges are collapsing. Comes off his first read too fast when plays don’t develop instantaneously.
Tries to hit the long ball when it’s not there. Falls in love with his arm talent. Will force passes unnecessarily and give up points by making shaky decisions. Tries to extend plays too long instead of throwing balls away and living to fight another day. Sometimes believes too much in his ability to evade pressure and will take sacks he shouldn’t. Football awareness can be questionable at times. Whiteboard work with NFL teams has been mixed. Likely needs to keep studying protections and mastering NFL concepts before he’s ready to face live bullets with even shorter windows to process information.
Two plays vs. Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl are good examples of where he comes up short at times. First, watch here as Allen and the Cowboys have a chance to add to a three-score lead following a turnover. It’s 3rd-and-10 at the Central Michigan 29-yard line — in field-goal range for kicker Cooper Rothe, who had a long make of 49 and had only missed one attempt since the fourth game. Allen tries to extend the play and go for a kill shot downfield. What are you doing? Throw the ball away and take the three they tried to gift you. Instead, Allen is sacked trying to do too much and they have to punt, giving the Chippewas more than a minute to score before halftime:
Later in the game, only up two scores now late in the third quarter, Allen faces a 3rd-and-4 and has a good play call and the coverage they want — single coverage outside with a deep safety over the top on the wide side of the field. The receiver runs a slant against off coverage and Allen initially looks that way before quickly going away from it. Why? (Watch on the bottom right as the slant opens up for what would be an easy first down.)
This is the type of play I’d throw up on the video and ask Allen to talk me through — what was his decision-making process here? Because to the naked eye it makes no sense. Allen’s drop is too slow, his feet aren’t set, he can’t pull the trigger in time and he ends up bailing — and stumbling on his scramble — which results in another Cowboys punt:
Faced lower level of competition in the Mountain West and performed poorly in most steps up in class against defenses with more NFL-caliber talent. Multiple injuries on his throwing-arm side must be fully vetted.
Best-suited destination: Fit will be absolutely crucial to Allen’s success in the NFL. If he’s forced into the lineup too soon or asked to play in a highly rigid, overly analytical system that’s not conducive to his skill set, he could fail. If, however, he’s allowed to develop and digest NFL concepts more and given the proper time to develop with great teachers — a QB coach, an offensive coordinator, a head coach, or better yet all three — Allen truly could be a dangerous playmaker in the league.
Among the teams that appear to have shown the highest level of interest in him include the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. All three teams have talented offensive coordinators who might be able to tailor their pro-style systems to Allen’s skills, which would fit best in a heavy play-action vertical passing game.
Quotable: “There are differences. Carson [Wentz] has made that transition to the NFL almost seamless. Some of those things did not surprise me. His football aptitude is off the charts, and Josh is a smart guy as well. You’re right, the comparison in their sizes … it’s uncanny. They run about the same 40 speed; some of those things are similar. Josh can improvise a little bit more. I think Carson is a little bit more analytic. The best comparison is, you’ve got one that’s more like Peyton Manning and one’s more like Brett Favre.” — Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to NFL Network at the Cowboys’ pro day, comparing Wentz (whom he recruited at North Dakota State) and Allen
Player comp: Blake Bortles
Expected draft range: Top-five pick
50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
36. Stanford S Justin Reid
35. Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby
34. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
33. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
32. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
31. Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
30. Texas A and M WR Christian Kirk
29. Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
28. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
27. Michigan DT Maurice Hurst
26. Texas OT Connor Williams
25. Georgia RB Sony Michel
24. LSU RB Derrius Guice
23. Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
22. Florida DT Taven Bryan