clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2018 NFL Draft: Trying to make sense of Josh Allen

New, comments

There is some really, really good — and some really, really bad

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are facing a draft that could define their franchise for the next decade.

Stability has been the norm for more than a decade for Big Blue with Eli Manning under center. Since coming in to his own as a quarterback at the end of the 2007 season, the Giants have always felt that Eli has given them a chance to win. But all things eventually come to an end, and the Giants are now in the twilight years of the best quarterback they’ve ever had.

They started preparing for their quarterback transition in the 2017 draft, when they selected Davis Webb in the third round. But after a horrendous 2017 season that saw the team badly under-perform and be devastated by injury, they find themselves with the second overall pick.

That might be a silver lining to the pain of 2017, as the 2018 quarterback class has been hotly anticipated for well over a year now. Having the second overall selection opens the Giants up to a whole host of options which they could not have anticipated before the season began.

Keeping the significance of the Giants’ decision at the top of the draft in mind, we have been supplementing our usual draft coverage with deep dives on the players commonly held to be the Giants’ top options at quarterback — namely Davis Webb, Mason Rudolph, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold.

We have already looked at Webb [Deep Dive], and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph [Deep Dive]. This week we turn our attention to Wyoming’s Josh Allen, diving in to his film and all the credible information about him we can find.

Allen is a player about whom opinions vary wildly. Some believe that it’s impossible to pass on his impressive arm strength, size, and athleticism. Others look at his 2017 stats — 152-of-270 (56.3 percent), 1,812 yards, 16 touchdowns, 6 interceptions — and see a player who is reminiscent of Blaine Gabbart or Jake Locker.

Let’s see if we can make sense of who Allen is.

Measurables

Athleticism

Allen’s athleticism, particularly for his size, is one of the things that draws scouts and general managers like flies to honey. He is the second-most athletic of players we are considering as the Giants’ top options — just edging out Davis Webb [Davis Webb deep dive], but falling behind Lamar Jackson.

*At least on tape. Jackson did not do measurable drills at the combine in order to help quell the voices that he should move to wide receiver in the NFL. We don’t have the numbers to directly compare him to the other quarterbacks, but considering the tape, it is difficult to see him not delivering a spectacular performance.

Allen combines surprising agility to make would-be tacklers miss with impressive play strength that lets him shrug off defenders. His ability to escape certain sacks and extend the play is reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, or Andrew Luck.

Arm Talent

Arm Strength

Josh Allen’s arm strength is nothing short of prodigious. He is easily able to reach all areas of the field when he is able to set his feet, and still rivals most NFL quarterbacks when he isn’t throwing from a solid base.

Allen would have absolutely no problems driving deep play-action passes to the opposite side of the field in the Meadowlands’ swirling December winds, and he has the velocity to challenge tight (or closing) windows. It is that arm strength, even more than his athleticism, which draws in scouts and sets them to drooling — such as at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Arm strength is often overrated when it comes to scouting quarterbacks, but awe-inspiring throws are also one of the easiest things about which to get excited.

Mechanics

The issues with Allen begin to appear when you separate arm strength from mechanics. Despite his impressive arm strength, Allen’s throwing mechanics are often wildly inconsistent.

At times he flashes the ability to transfer his weight, use a compact, over-the-top arm slot, and deliver an on-target and well-placed touch throw.

Other times his arm slot might be unpredictable, he might fail to step into the throw and have the ball sail, or (as in this pass) make the throw with his hips a full 90 degrees off line.

Despite his experience in a “Pro Style” offense, Allen’s persistent (and more than occasionally maddening) mechanical inconsistencies will require a concerted effort from both the coaching staff and the quarterback himself. Fixing Allen’s mechanics is going to involve un-learning old habits and ingraining a consistent, repeatable movement pattern from the ground up. That sort of thing is not a quick or easy process, and he may fall back to old habits in the heat of a game.

Intangibles

Mental Processing

Allen’s mental processes can be as hit or miss as his mechanics. At times he quickly and accurately makes the correct read.

But more often, Allen’s process bogs down. It is something of a theme with strong-armed quarterbacks to trust their arm and wait until they see a receiver open before throwing the ball. They trust their arm strength to generate the velocity on the ball to beat defenders to the spot, rather than anticipating the throw so that the ball arrives when the receiver gets open.

Here, Allen executes a play-action pass while the outside receiver makes a quick pivot route. The deeper route from the slot receiver carries both defensive backs down the field, leaving the pivot route wide open as soon as Allen’s hits the top of his drop.

The ball could, should, be on its way to the receiver at that point, but instead he holds the ball long enough for the receiver to get several steps toward the sideline. He is still able to fit the ball in and pick up positive yardage, but had he made the quicker decision, the receiver could have had the first down.

That slowed mental clock occasionally shows up when Allen needs to make whole-field reads as well, but it is more noticeable when he waits on simple concept reads.

The other factor in Allen’s mental processes is his pocket presence, and that can be inconsistent as well.

He flashes the understanding of the defense to know when to take off and run, taking advantage of man coverage to pick up yards on his own, and we’ve already seen how he can scramble. However, there are also times where he will abandon a sound pocket too soon.

None of this is to say that Allen can’t handle the mental aspect of the game. He does, however, need more work and coaching in that area.

Character

As far as we know, Allen has no outstanding character concerns.

Playing at Wyoming, he might not be used to speaking with the media on a large scale or living in the limelight, but thus far he has handled himself well throughout the draft process. He is forthright when speaking, and seems to be self-aware as a quarterback. Speaking to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold at the Senior Bowl, he said:

“I know I’ve got a lot of flaws as a quarterback.” And when asked earlier this week about his 56.2 career completion percentage in three seasons with the Cowboys, he added: “I’ve been working on that; obviously 56 percent is not anywhere close to where it needs to be. You can go look at the tape … I’ve made a lot of strides from the year before.”

He also seems to have the requisite competitiveness (as evidenced by some of his decisions on the football field), saying at the Senior Bowl that he wants to be “the guy that turns around the Cleveland Browns.” All due respect to the Browns, but that is a daunting task and one you need a certain amount of fight in you to want to take on.

It is impossible to say how a prospect will react to being a top pick in a media fishbowl such as New York. But from the information available, Allen doesn’t seen as though he will give his team any problems in that regard.

Ask The Expert

Because of the importance of Giants’ decision regarding the second overall pick and the future of their quarterback position, I wanted a second opinion on these players.

I reached out to Mark Schofield of Inside The Pylon. Schofield is a former quarterback for Wesleyan University and provides expert, and excellent, film breakdowns for ITP. He was kind enough to consent to contributing his expert opinion to this series.

Here are his thoughts on Josh Allen:

Josh Allen has become perhaps the most polarizing quarterback prospect in recent history, and stands out for this reason in a class of quarterbacks, all of whom have some question marks. He has some traits that can translate to the next level. His athletic ability stands out. His arm strength is certainly a plus and at times it can bail him out of jams. He can make some throws and some splash plays that other quarterbacks in this group cannot make. But right now his mind gets him into jams that his right arm might not save him from in the nfl.

I’ve gone back and forth on comps for him. Last summer it was Nuke LaLoosh, the pitching phenom from “Bull Durham.” Million dollar arm, but needed to learn the finer aspects of pitching in the big leagues. To me that was Allen when I was studying him. Incredible raw talent, but he needs to learn the finer aspects of playing quarterback. I never truly saw that materialize this season. Sure he can throw the football through a brick wall, but when he needs to learn touch, timing, anticipation and placement, things can be a struggle.

Lately I’ve come to view Allen as one of those long distance golf drivers, the type you see late night on a Saturday evening on ESPN. Guys who can drill a driver 495 right down the middle of the driving range. That looks awesome and gets people excited, but take one of those guys off the range and drop him into the final round of the Masters, and you might not be taking home the green jacket, because the driver is just a small part of the overall approach to the game. It is the same thing for Allen. The arm talent is nice, but given that most offenses operate the vast majority of their passing game under 20 yards, he’ll need to learn the finer things eventually.

I said this recently to my cohost Nate Geary as part of our work on Intentional Scouting. If I’m drafting him, especially early, I want a clear plan in place. I want a strong coaching staff with a proven track record of QB development. I want a creative and open OC who will build an offense to suit him. I want a bridge-type QB who can start as long as necessary - perhaps the whole year. I want an ownership group that is patient with handling expectations, same for a fan base. If we are investing in him; it needs to be handled the right way. I don’t want to break him.

Summary

After all of this, what can we make of Josh Allen? Is he a diamond in the rough? A player who, with some work, could be the next Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Wentz?

Or Is he, as Schofield describes him, Nuke LaLoosh (or Ricky Vaughn of Major League) with an un-hittable fastball but little control, or the long-drive specialist who may or may not land the ball on the right golf course?

It is safest to say, I think, that he is a player with whom it is both incredibly easy to fall in love, or incredibly easy to fall out of love.

His highlight plays, both with his arm and legs, are attention grabbing. Allen is capable of producing the kind of plays that fans and front office personnel dream of seeing on SportsCenter the morning after a game. He has all the tools (size, athleticism, arm talent) to make scouts feel safe advocating for him, and for coaches to want to work with.

But on the other hand, watching his tape in its entirety reveals a player with significant issues. Allen is a player who is consistently inconsistent in his mechanics, processes, and decisions.

There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme nor reason to his inconsistencies. Allen could make a great throw with timing, anticipation, accuracy, and touch or drop a long play-action pass over the receiver’s shoulder on one play, then launch the ball over a running back’s head on a simple swing pass.

It is impossible to ignore Allen’s upside and athletic potential. There are legitimate flashes of an NFL quarterback in his play. That being said, whichever team drafts Allen has to figure out whether or not he will ever be more than just flashes of potential. Josh Allen is, perhaps, the ultimate lump of clay. He has all kinds of potential, but, as Schofield says, he needs a skilled craftsman to mold him into an NFL quarterback, and a long-term plan to build an environment which puts him in the best position to succeed.