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Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen will go high in the NFL draft, perhaps even first overall, and we all know why.
Allen is a prototype. His physical skill set and overall traits are high level. He has the desired combination of arm strength and athleticism with the ability to move in the pocket and make plays. His size, at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, is what NFL teams want.
The physical traits jump off the tape. That much is clear. But when you watch his tape, it’s also clear Allen needs to be coached hard and requires a pass game system that defines his reads and throws — like you’ll see in the offensive schemes of Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay or San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
Allen is one of the more complicated players to evaluate in this draft because of the obvious physical traits, and the work he still needs. Let’s look at his strengths and weaknesses:
The skills that will make Josh Allen an early first-round pick
Allen has big-time arm strength. He can make any throw at any level of the defense. A quarterback needs to be able to do that in the NFL.
A good example of Allen’s arm strength came against Iowa. Allen fired a “Cover 2” hole shot into the small void in the zone defense for a completion. You see a throw like this, and you understand why NFL teams would be excited.
Allen is a very easy thrower. He has a power arm, and can sit on his back foot and drive the football. You can see Allen’s impressive arm on a few of his best throws during the Potato Bowl at the end of last season:
Allen has more than just a big arm. He flashed comfortable pocket movement with the ability to work through progressions. There’s a second-reaction playmaking dimension to his game, both running and passing with outstanding athleticism and movement. He consistently showed the strength and agility to shake off sacks and extend plays.
Allen also can throw without an ideal pocket. He has the ability to make throws from different platforms and arm angles. He threw the ball well on the move, both off designed boot action and second reaction. He also has a good feel for back-shoulder throws, both outside and from the slot.
Wyoming also had designed runs with Allen — he can bring that dimension to a pro offense too, with some zone read plays and perhaps some designed runs like quarterback power or sweep. There were times Wyoming looked like the Carolina Panthers’ offense, which has a lot of runs designed for Cam Newton.
The major questions about Allen’s game
There are many necessary traits for an NFL quarterback other than a strong arm. Allen didn’t consistently show a lot of those traits.
Allen is not a naturally accurate passer. He has ball-placement issues and scattershot tendencies. He’s also not a natural anticipation thrower, or a touch thrower. There are questions about how well he sees the field. He needs a lot of work eliminating what’s not there, because of the defense’s coverage, and isolating what the defense will give him. There were too many snaps in which Allen saw everything, and saw nothing at the same time. That’s why I say he’ll need to be in an offense, at least early on, in which his reads are well defined.
Something I always note with quarterbacks is how they react to pressure, because NFL quarterbacks have a lot of bodies around them in the pocket. There were snaps in which Allen climbed the pocket and kept his eyes downfield, which is what a quarterback needs to do. There were other snaps in which Allen dropped his eyes in response to pressure. Sometimes he was perceiving pressure that wasn’t even there.
Here’s an example of Allen moving prematurely and delivering the ball late, which is a big problem in the NFL. This play against Iowa resulted in an interception. Allen dropped back, then broke down and started to leave the pocket even though there was no pressure. There were times you could see that he was too focused on the rush and broke down prematurely in the pocket, and that’s not going to lead to success in the NFL.
Allen can be a little too reckless making undefined throws out of the pocket. On this play in the 2016 Mountain West championship game against San Diego State, he made a wild throw back across the field without any definition and it was easily picked off.
Allen’s NFL team will have to work on his mechanics a bit. He needs work on his lower body mechanics, especially moving his feet with his eyes to step into his throws. He tended to flick the ball with his strong arm and not get his lower body involved in the throw. He has a tendency to be unbalanced in the pocket, which is another reason his footwork needs refinement. One reason he had off-balance inaccurate throws is he would drift at the top of his drop without setting and planting.
Whichever team drafts Allen, it will know he has a lot of things to work on.
Allen’s transition to the NFL
What’s easy to see is the big-time throws Allen can make. It’s harder to see the throws that were there and he did not make. There were plenty of throws he didn’t make, because he needs to develop a better feel for seeing the field with clarity. He has to become quicker mentally to develop into a quality NFL quarterback.
What you’re getting with Allen is a player with undeniable physical skills, but a quarterback who is unrefined and inconsistent in his execution and production. There’s a lack of structured discipline to his game that resulted in a lack of timing and rhythm throws. He has to develop more touch and pace as a passer to reach the consistency that is demanded in the NFL.
It’s pretty obvious what Allen can do. The question becomes, can his NFL team coach him hard and develop him into a quarterback who can get the most out of those physical skills?
GREG COSELL’S PREVIOUS DRAFT BREAKDOWNS
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Before the NFL draft, Cosell will join Yahoo Sports to share his observations on some of the top prospects.