Leading up to the 2017 college football season, the CFB Film Room Scouting Dept. is putting together a summer scouting series. We’re focusing on the top draft-eligible prospects entering the 2017 season and will be reviewing their strengths and weaknesses from an NFL scouting perspective.
The most talked-about prospect of the 2017 college football season might come from an unexpected program this year.
Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen looks like a prototypical NFL quarterback, standing at 6’5″, possession a rocket arm and impressive mobility for his size. His raw tools will generate some lofty comparisons to NFL greats, but it’s important to dive a little deeper into the scouting report to determine just how prepared he is to jump from Wyoming into the NFL.
As part of our summer scouting series, here’s a look at a few key areas in Allen’s game, focusing on both the strengths which make him a fascinating prospect and the flaws which need to be improved before he’s ready to take the next step.
You’re going to hear a lot about Josh Allen’s “arm talent” over the course of the next 12 months, and all of the praise is deserved. He can make every throw on the field, and he makes them look easy.
Not only does Allen have a remarkable arm, but he has the athleticism and coordination to throw on the move as well. This is the type of throw Allen makes outside the pocket that catches our attention and will certainly endear him to NFL scouts:
Keep in mind, arm strength is about so much more than launching the ball 40 yards downfield. Those deep bombs are rare plays, but being able to roll out and throw a 15-yard out route on a rope—that’s functional arm strength that sets Allen apart from other prospects.
You can’t teach this type arm strength, which always elevates prospects who can launch the ball downfield. Even though Allen has some other deficiencies in his game right now, these types of throws give him an incredibly high ceiling and set the lofty expectations for his junior year.
Allen’s arm strength jumps out immediately, but it doesn’t take long to notice his inability to locate those passes down the field.
You can put together a highlight reel of throws which make Allen look like the next John Elway, but the full resume is littered with overthrows and underthrows on even some of the easiest passes.
It’s hard to point to one mechanical error Allen makes which leads to his errant throws because his mistakes come on a wide variety of attempts. Ultimately, it all boils down to an inconsistent release point which causes his throws to veer off path in every direction.
Predictably, Allen is most erratic on the deep ball. This throw against Boise State, slightly rushed due to a collapsing pocket, is wildly overthrown and gives his receiver no chance to make the play.
Overthrows on the deep ball are mildly concerning, but also a common area in which young quarterbacks struggle. 2016 was Allen’s first full year as a starter at the FBS level, so we shouldn’t expect perfection.
What’s more concerning about Allen’s throws, however, is the range in which he misfires. Consistently overthrowing the deep ball would lead us to believe there was one specific issue he was struggling with—maybe timing, maybe a minor mechanical error. But Allen’s throws are scattershot, which makes identifying the underlying problem much more complicated.
Take this throw against Northern Illinois, for example. His wide receiver gets over the top of the defense and Allen easily has the arm strength to lead him into the end zone—but his throw comes up short, nearly resulting in an interception.
Allen’s inconsistency on the deep ball is worrisome, but it’s an issue that can be overcome. Even if it remains a flaw in his game, it’s not the type of issue that will completely derail a career. However, that’s not the only area in which Allen struggles.
Timing routes are consistently an issue for Allen, as he really struggled to hit his receivers in stride.
This throw against Nebraska in an inexcusable miss—he won’t find many receivers this wide open in the NFL—but he can’t handle getting the ball out quickly to his receiver down the seam in stride.
Just a couple plays later Allen makes another ugly throw and his receiver pays the price. Veteran NFL receivers are not going to be pleased with a young quarterback coming in and hanging them out to dry with high throws in traffic like this—it’s simply an inexcusable misfire that could get his receiver seriously hurt.
Allen’s inconsistent ball placement at all levels of the field demonstrates the difference between having the arm to make every throw, and actually being able to complete passes at all levels of the field. While Allen’s arm gives him an elite ceiling, his accuracy is holding him back right now. This is definitely an area that should be monitored through the 2017 season and needs to improve in order for him to solidify his status as one of the top quarterbacks on the draft board.
Pocket Awareness & Decision Making
Allen isn’t afraid to hang in the pocket and complete a pass under pressure. In 2016, he attempted multiple throws while staring down a closing defender and willingly accepted the hit. That’s an encouraging trait to see from a young quarterback, especially one with the athleticism to leave the pocket.
While he’s a threat on the run, leaving the pocket isn’t Allen’s automatic response, which bodes well for his ability to continue to develop his decision making skills in the pocket.
He wasn’t asked to do anything too difficult last season at Wyoming, however, so it’s difficult to judge his ability to read the field at this stage of his career. Wyoming used a high percentage of one-read throws—mostly quick slants to Tanner Gentry or go routes down the field to a variety of receivers.
As a result, we haven’t seen Allen stand in the pocket and work through his progressions. But this also doesn’t mean he can’t do it. Hopefully the Wyoming coaching staff puts more on his shoulder this season and we’re able to evaluate him on throws that more closely resemble what will be asked of him in the NFL.
Pick any one of Allen’s games from the 2016 season and you’ll see a handful of throws which prove he’s a future NFL quarterback. It’s impossible not to be impressed by these passes, and any scout who is inclined to evaluate based on a player’s ceiling will fall head over heels in love with Allen’s game.
But a deeper look at his game clearly shows some deeper issues that need to be improved.
Keep in mind, we’re pointing these flaws out not to say he doesn’t deserve to be considered an elite prospect, or that he won’t be future star in the NFL—but rather, to highlight the areas Allen needs to work on and show improvement during the 2017 season.
As long as Allen shows progress and gives NFL evaluators reason to believe he can continue to grow with more experience and coaching, he will likely be a high pick in the 2017 NFL draft.