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2018 Senior Bowl: Josh Allen vs. Baker Mayfield - What do top QBs need to show?

Will the star quarterbacks be able to answer the NFL’s questions about them?

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl-North Practice Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Allen vs. Baker Mayfield. This is the matchup everyone at the 2018 Reese's Senior Bowl wants to see. The two quarterbacks are in the top four at their position and in the conversation to be drafted in the first ten picks of April's draft. One potential landing spot for either player could be the New York Giants as they prepare for life after Eli Manning.

While both quarterbacks are highly regarded by teams and scouts, this week of practices, and this Saturday’s game are very important for both — but for very different reasons.

Let’s take a closer look at each and why the Senior Bowl is so important to them.

Josh Allen (Wyoming)

Allen was, simply put, one of the stars of weigh-ins. Measuring 6 feet, 4 7/8 inches, 237 pounds with 10 1/8 inch hands, he looks like an NFL team ordered him out of a catalog. And when he got on the field in practice he showed the ability to maneuver in the pocket and avoid rushers while slinging the ball all over the field.

But everyone already knew that about him, and those traits are why he is being talked about as, potentially, the top pick in the draft.

What Allen needs to show is that he is a better quarterback than his career statistics at Wyoming suggest.

via Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy)

What Allen has done, as they say, is done. There isn’t anything he can do to go back and change his numbers from Wyoming. There is an argument, however, that his tape, the context to those numbers, tells a different story. Generally speaking, Allen’s college tape is a roller coaster ride from “Franchise Quarterback” highs:

To scary lows:

With Allen’s size, arm talent, and athleticism, it is easy to see how NFL evaluators and coaches can look at him and believe that they can smooth over the rough patches in his game and teach him how to be an NFL quarterback. His physical talent is simply rare, and there are few people walking the Earth who can do what he does.

History, however, is against him and his goal in the remaining practice and Saturday’s game is to show that, at the very least, he can take NFL coaching and improve.

Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner doesn’t have the concerns that Allen does with regards to his accuracy and consistency. Over the last two seasons, he completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 8,592 yards, and 83 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.

(via Ian Wharton, @NFLFilmStudy)

Mayfield’s ability to deliver the football quickly and accurately while frustrating defenses is well documented.

Instead, his questions are three-fold and only one of which can be answered on the practice field.

Can he play under center?

Like many other spread offenses, Oklahoma’s scheme simply never asked Mayfield to play from under center. Despite the proliferation of spread concepts in the NFL, the ability to smoothly take a snap and play from under center is still a cornerstone of quarterback play in the NFL, and a transition every spread QB must make.

How big is he?

The second question is regarding Mayfield’s size. He missed the regular weigh-ins (more on that in a bit) but was weighed and measured after Tuesday’s practice.

Mayfield measured somewhere between bigger than some expected and roughly in line with the expectations of others.

Whether or not those measurements are satisfactory are up to NFL teams.

For some teams that have rigid thresholds, Mayfield’s height will either knock him down their boards or take him off completely.

However, he isn’t out of line with several NFL quarterbacks, such as Drew Brees (6 feet, 0 1/8 inches, 213 pounds, 10.5” hands), Michael Vick (6 feet, 0 inches, 210 pounds, 8.5”), Russell Wilson (5’11”, 204, 10.25”) or Case Keenum (6’1”, 208, 9 1/8”).

What is his character like?

As I already mentioned, Mayfield created a stir by arriving late to the Senior Bowl. Some quickly speculated that he was trying to game the game and hide his height and weight. It was revealed that Mayfield’s late arrival was due to a family issue (he said later that his mother is ill and in the hospital).

He was only open to that speculation, however, because of questions regarding his character. Some of which stem from a March 2017 arrest for public intoxication (to which he plead guilty, as well as to disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest). There are other are concerns about his on-field demeanor, such as his response to Kansas’ captains refusing to shake hands before their game this year (ie: the now-infamous crotch grab, among other things).

Mayfield quickly apologized and accepted his half-game benching for that particular incident, but NFL GMs will need to answer their own questions as to whether or not he would be a good face for their franchise. Those questions can, and will, only be answered in interviews this week, at the NFL Scouting Combine at the end of February, and in private meetings throughout the final stretch of the draft process.

Final thoughts

This week is incredibly important for both Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Both are talented players and certainly in the running to be drafted highly at the end of April. However, they are both far from perfect prospects, and each has several questions that teams will need to answer.

The Senior Bowl — both the week of practices and meetings that precede it and the game itself — is their first chance to directly address those questions in front of the NFL. And in some ways, it gives them a leg up on USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who have questions themselves but don’t get this opportunity.

All eyes are on Mayfield and Allen this week, they’ll need to take advantage of the opportunity.