Josh Allen is going to be one of the most divisive quarterback prospects to come through the NFL Draft process in awhile, and the contrast and debate between Allen and Baker Mayfield will also be something to watch over the next six months. Mel Kiper has Josh Allen ranked 3rd, just ahead of Mayfield (and behind Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold) on his early rankings, but when asked this week on ESPN who would end up as the best QB out of this group, said “I’ll say Josh Allen. I’ll add to the hype.”
That hype is coming despite what might be generously described as a poor season for Allen with Wyoming. He has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury (he is expected to play in the bowl game) and before that, he was averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, and had thrown only 13 touchdown passes in 10 games. Against Iowa, Oregon, and Boise State, the three toughest games on the Wyoming schedule, Allen went 44 of 91 (48%) for 369 yards (4.1 YPA), 1 TD and 4 INT.
This comes with any decline, but yes, Wyoming lost some good players after last year’s 8-6 season. Running back Brian Hill was drafted by Cincinnati in the 5th round. Center Chase Roullier was taken by the Redskins in the 6th round. And the Cowboys’ leading receiver in 2016, Tanner Gentry, is now an undrafted free agent with the Bears.
But the lack of production this year has to be a concern. Here is every FBS-level quarterback drafted in the 1st or 2nd round of the NFL Draft who averaged 7.0 yards per attempt or worse in their final season before turning pro.
Allen would tie Patrick Ramsey and Marques Tuiasosopo for the lowest yards per attempt. Only two players in the group could be considered successes (Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler) and both played in tougher conferences on teams that could be considered at a competitive disadvantage within the conference at the time they played (Boston College-ACC and Vanderbilt-SEC, respectively). Ryan also threw 31 touchdown passes in his final year. The most similar seasons among highly drafted quarterbacks to Allen’s numbers (yards per attempt, touchdowns, and interceptions) are names like Gabbert, Stanton, Henne, Locker, and Hackenberg.
There are, of course, risks regardless of college production. Scouting and a game production should work together to exclude candidates, to say which players that put up big numbers in college are system products and lack the tools to succeed. But avoiding the least productive college players thought to be top prospects would have more than doubled team chances of finding a quarterback.
And if you point to how much better he was in 2016, well, many of the guys on the above list were much better two years before being drafted as well. Drew Stanton went from 8.7 yards per attempt to 6.7. Blaine Gabbert went from 8.1 to 6.7 after losing leading receiver Danario Alexander (who had his NFL career shortened by knee injuries). Christian Ponder dropped from 8.2 yards per attempt to 6.8, and Rex Grossman went from 9.9 yards per attempt to 6.8 when Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell left for the NFL.
If we limit it to all guys that played in FBS outside the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10/12, and SEC, where production should be a little higher due to defensive competition, we get the following for yards per attempt in final season, over the last 20 years.
If you cut that list in half, the top half largely proved to be successful (depending on your standard). The bottom half has Derek Carr and Colin Kaepernick. Josh Allen is way below almost everyone on the list.
Josh Allen has the physical tools (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) that make scouts drool. But when someone looks good getting off the bus but not as good on the field in games, teams need to more seriously evaluate the risks. Scouting and production are best when they work together. Allen has high bust potential because he was not productive this year, and teams should be very careful in justifying why it went wrong.