Wyoming’s Josh Allen is one of the most polarizing quarterback prospects in this draft class. On one hand, he’s an athletic, big-framed quarterback with an elite arm. On the other, he regressed significantly his senior season, completing less than 57 percent of his passes and throwing for less than 2000 yards.
He participated in this year’s Senior Bowl, earning praise for his work in the practices, which took place in front of NFL talent evaluators. He worked directly with the coaching staff of the Denver Broncos, owners of the No. 5 overall pick and one of several teams entering the offseason in need of a quarterback. (Of course, the team could pursue Kirk Cousins in free agency.)
What is it about Allen, who was recently placed with the Browns at the No. 1 overall pick in ESPN expert Mel Kiper’s mock draft, that makes him a potential top choice? And what are the risks that come with his selection? Let’s take a look.
The thing that is immediately noticeable when watching Allen is his arm strength. He has a cannon arm and can make any throw from multiple arm slots and varying bases.
This is a perfect example of his arm strength. Allen sells a play-action fake before taking a few hitch steps up into the pocket and firing a rocket to his receiver in the end zone. Allen is roughly 30 yards away from his receiver, but he manages to get the ball to him before the safety, who starts in the middle of the field, is able to get back outside.
Having that type of arm strength is a huge advantage at the next level, as throwing windows are much tighter. But unlike some quarterbacks, he doesn’t need to be completely set to show off his arm. He’s a good thrower on the run, too.
Here, Allen fakes the handoff inside before rolling out to his right. Instead of just dumping the ball off to the flat, as many quarterbacks probably would, Allen works to the second level and makes a difficult throw on the run look incredibly easy as he finds his receiver on the sideline for a first down.
We got a glimpse of his mobility on that play. While Allen is a big-bodied quarterback, he’s very mobile. He’s in the mold of Andrew Luck and Cam Newton from a frame and athleticism standpoint. He is a threat to run, but what’s most impressive is his ability to go off-script and avoid rushers.
On this play, the left guard loses his block early. Allen begins to scramble to his right, but as the defensive tackle closes down on him, Allen quickly rolls back to his left. With the immediate danger avoided, Allen gets his eyes down the field and finds a target. He resets himself and makes the throw as the rest of the defense surrounds him.
These types of plays demonstrating his arm and his elusiveness occur regularly when watching Allen. But one subtle detail of his play that can be easily overlooked is his command of the offense at the line of scrimmage. Allen will confidently make changes at the line of scrimmage without the need to look to the sideline for help from the coaches.
As Allen is set to signal the snap, he spots a corner blitzing from the right side. He walks up to the line of scrimmage and changes his protection to slide to the blitzing corner. When Allen does snap the ball, the protection call works perfectly, with every rusher accounted for. Unfortunately, his center gets driven back into him and he’s forced into an early checkdown, but the protection adjustment was still the correct one.
Identifying blitzes and adjusting protections is something that not many college quarterbacks are asked to do, and it’s usually one of the biggest adjustments they have to make at the next level. It shows that Allen has a good football IQ, which coaches will love.
While Allen will make some incredible throws, he can also be extremely frustrating. For as much talent as he has, he misses too many easy throws.
Here, Allen attempts a simple checkdown to the flat. However, as he prepares to throw, he doesn’t correctly set his feet toward his target. Instead of a simple dump-off to the flat, he throws it way over the receiver’s head.
This is another similar example. Allen attempts to throw a quick screen to his receiver to the left. But like on the previous play, Allen fires his pass over the head of the intended target.
While the big downfield throws and the entertaining scramble drill plays are spectacular, not many quarterbacks are able to sustain an offense with those. These types of throws should be easy for any quarterback. Allen misses these far too often, especially for a player of his talent level. Part of the reason for these is footwork. Another issue is that he appears to lack touch on his throws, or at least an understanding of when to take some speed off the ball. On the second throw, he attempted to gun it over to his receiver on the quick screen and ended up sailing it over his head. With his arm strength, he can afford to take something off and be a little more precise with his ball placement without any trouble.
Understanding what each throw requires is something Allen will need to work on. We’ve also seen him use too much touch in situations that require more velocity on the pass.
Here, Wyoming attempt a double move. The tight end runs a stick-and-nod up the seam, getting his defender to bite on the stick. There is a window for Allen to fit the ball into. It’s the type of throw that Allen should excel at because he has the arm to fit that ball in without much of an arc. But instead, he opts to take something off the pass, allowing the free safety time to get over and make the interception.
Allen appears likely to land in the top half of the first round of this year’s draft, possibly even No. 1 overall. What will be critical during the draft process is that he can show teams that he can execute the shorter, simpler throws required of an NFL quarterback on a consistent basis. If that happens, chances are good that his arm strength, athleticism and football IQ will impress teams as they decide whether to make him their franchise quarterback.
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