Josh Allen is the most interesting prospect in the 2018 draft

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Josh Allen is the most polarizing prospect in the 2018 NFL draft. The Wyoming quarterback is being mocked by ESPN’s Mel Kiper to be the #1 pick in the draft, while many others believe he shouldn’t even be selected in the top 10. He measured at 6’5, 233 lbs at the NFL combine and that combination of size and his athleticism make him a scouts dream. On the other hand, the quarterback was statistically awful last season in a weak Mountain West conference. Allen completed 56% of his passes and threw 16 touchdowns compared to six interceptions. His best games all came against lower level teams, such as Gardner Webb and Texas State. He only played against 2 power five teams in 2017, Oregon and Iowa, and combined for a 50% completion rate, a touchdown and three interceptions in his teams biggest games.

When looking at his game splits you can see how badly Allen struggled when playing against quality opponents. Outside of a great bowl game performance against Central Michigan, he was awful against winning teams. One thing to consider, though, is how bad the rest of the Wyoming roster is. Allen sat out the last game of the Cowboys regular season against a terrible San Jose St. team and a 7 win Wyoming team fell to their lesser foes.

Allen notably told reporters “stats are for losers” at a senior bowl press conference referring to his poor numbers not matching up to his draft stock. While I do not agree, stats can be misleading especially in college football where the talent discrepancy between teams is larger than ever.

And that’s why we are here.

Stats can lie to us, film can’t.

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Allen can do things that no other quarterback in this draft can. He has a cannon for an arm and the confidence that he can make every throw.

Even when he is off balance he can manage to draw enough power to let it rip for a huge gain. His form at times fails him and he does not properly step into passes, but he can still complete passes downfield using his arm alone. Allen is coming out of college as a similar prospect to Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech last season. The Wyoming quarterback just happens to be bigger, faster, stronger and have an even bigger cannon for an arm.

Poor form and his over-willingness to throw off of his backfoot costs him at times, though. He doesn’t step into his throws as well as he should even when he has space too. This leads to passes often sailing on him or falling at the feet of his receivers.

As much as many would love to blame Allen’s teammates for his low completion percentage, the main reason he couldn’t complete passes in college was because of his own inaccuracy. Bad form leads to bad passes and it is legitimately concerning how often he over throws receivers.

Beyond just incompletions, some of Allen’s completions are also passes that he could do much better on. Wyoming’s offensive scheme focuses mainly on their receivers running a lot of comeback and curl routes. Majority of passes that Allen threw last season were on those routes where his target would have their back facing the end zone. The proper way to throw these passes is to either place it towards the receiver’s stomach, so they can secure the pass while they potentially get hit from behind, or just in front of them, so they can step up into the catch and quickly whip around to run after the catch. Placing passes high and above a receiver’s chest area forces them to expose their body to a hit they can not see as they try to make the grab.

He also at times throws the pass to far in front of his target, forcing them to come to far forward for the catch. This can cause a 10 yard route to only gain 6 yards and put the receiver in a tricky spot after they make a catch.

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Allen’s confidence sometimes gets the best of him as well. He throws terrible passes at times when he really does not need to. The quarterback does not always go all the way through his progressions and can get in trouble passing to a blanketed receiver despite having no pressure in the pocket. He zeroes in on guys and stares them down at times. Occasionally he will just rip the ball towards a receivers feet for absolutely no reason.

Another knock on Allen comes before he even releases the ball. While he is mobile and can take a hit, his pocket awareness is lacking. Occasionally as rushers close in on him he will not even notice their presence until it is too late.

Allowing rushers to get with him so easily allows unnecessary sacks, and also leaves him more vulnerable to being strip-sacked as he is not tucking the ball away to brace for impact.

Allen often gets put into motion in the Wyoming offense. They run a variety of read option plays and bootleg’s that roll him out of the pocket. His awareness will fail him in some of these situations as well. The quarterback often runs himself into defenders, taking an unneeded sack when he can either throw the ball away or just run in a different direction.

The quarterback does not give himself up often either. He allows himself to take unnecessary hits instead of surrendering himself at the end of runs. While this does speak to his immense toughness and confidence, it leaves him extremely vulnerable to big hits and fumbles.

Wyoming did not have the greatest offensive line last season. Allen was under pressure often and had the terrible habit of trying to escape the pocket backward. This leaves him less of an escape route, costs him more yardage in case he gets sacked and leaves him more vulnerable to an intentional grounding call.

While he does occasionally run himself into bad situations, Allen is still an exceptional runner. Wyoming relied on his ability as a runner a lot last season. He never looked scared to keep the ball himself, put his shoulder down and become a power runner similar to Cam Newton. He has decent speed and agility for his size as well and can beat teams running off the edge.

His ability to run combined with his size can also lead to some wild plays, like this (eventual) sack against Iowa.

It can also lead to some spectacular, hard to believe passes. This touchdown against Boise State shows how special of a player he truly is.

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So what can we expect from Allen at the next level?

Of the top five QB prospects, Allen possibly has the highest ceiling. He is the biggest, strongest and probably has the best arm of the group. At his peak, I could see him be a better Matthew Stafford.

Unfortunately, he also has the lowest floor. He is currently the least accurate of the group. His football instincts are lacking, and he seems to rely way too much on his physical gifts rather than proper football form. I could say that this works on a college level but won’t in the NFL, but it didn’t even work at the college level.

Allen did not play on a very good team but he did not seem like he was enough to tip the scales against mid-tier opposition. He was awful against both Oregon and Iowa, and Boise State managed to keep him uncomfortable all night when they met. It would be hard to argue that Wyoming had any quality wins last season. His floor is lower than any of the other prospects, and there is a very real chance that he just never picks up on some of the mental skills needed to play quarterback in the NFL.

I would grade him as a day two pick. Based on positional value alone, though, he will most likely be picked in the top 20. Whoever drafts him will have to be patient and realize that he may need a few years to really get up to speed. Within the top 20, I believe the Baltimore Ravens are the ideal landing spot. Baltimore is still stuck in an awful Joe Flacco contract for at least two more years. Their offense is in rebuilding mode and John Harbaugh can begin to groom the successor to Flacco.

Where ever he goes, the team that selects Allen might hit on a future hall of fame, but it also can prove to be a costly investment.


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Is Jarrad Davis the Lions answer at linebacker?

Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

As the Lions first round pick in the 2017 draft, Jarrad Davis is heading to Detroit with all kinds of expectations surrounding him. The linebacker is joining what was the worst defense in the NFL in 2016, and he’ll be expected to contribute immediately. Detroit parted ways with long time linebacker DeAndre Levy at the beginning of free agency, leaving the rookie with big shoes to fill.

Linebacker is the biggest point of concern for the Lions entering 2017. The unit was depleted by injuries last season, and the linebackers that were on the field were awful. Detroit elected not to chase any big name free agents, and instead used the draft to fill the team’s biggest need.

Davis will have a lot of pressure on him to succeed from day one in Detroit. It was already announced last week that he will most likely be the team’s starting middle linebacker come fall. This means he will be one of the most important players on the Lions roster.

So does Davis have what it takes to be the player the Lions need?

One big point of concern for the Lions defense last season was their awful run defense. Their front seven was weak between the non-existent linebacking corps and a defensive line that disappeared consistently. Opposing running backs, especially power backs, got to the second level with ease. They weren’t burned for huge yardage that often last season, but consistently allowing six or seven yard carries took its toll over time.

Jarrad Davis excels at defending against the run. He has great vision and anticipation from the backfield. He plugs up gaps, and knows how to read the offense to stay a step ahead.

On this goal line play during the Florida Gators match up against Ole Miss in 2015, he saves touchdown by stuffing a running back in the back field.

He uses the first second after the ball is snapped to read the offense. Davis quickly sees the gap right up the middle and jumps it to stuff the ball carrier in the backfield.

His ability to shed off blocks is even more valuable than his vision, though. Davis is strong in the trenches, and can easily create separation between himself and a blocker. Even when he doesn’t get a clean run into the backfield, which is rare in the NFL, he can break a play up.

During the Gators 2016 match up against UMass Davis displayed his ability to shed blocks on this play. He reads the offense and puts himself in position to make a stop on the ball carrier. The guard gets in front of him though. He quickly dispatches the offensive lineman, and bursts into the hole for the stop. UMass isn’t prime opposition, but he made big plays like this against even the best of teams.

That right there is Jarrad Davis stuffing Leonard Fournette at the line of scrimmage and shoving him back a few yards. Fournette, who already is one of the more terrifying running backs in the NFL only days after being drafted. Davis is strong.  Combine his strength with his vision, and you have a potential elite run defender.

He made plays like these all season for Florida, and if his talent translates into the NFL the Lions may revive their amazing rush defense from only a few years ago.

His anticipation doesn’t only help at the line of scrimmage. Davis has a knack for sniffing plays out and breaking them up before they get going. The most impressive example is how quick he is to screens.

On this play against Vanderbilt in 2016, Davis takes a second at the snap to digest what is happening in front of him. He treads to the side a bit, but doesn’t not commit to the play until he is sure to what is happening. The linebacker see’s the screen developing in front of him and manages to get to the running back as the ball does. He takes down the runner at the line of scrimmage and forces a third and long.

His natural instincts and vision allow him to sniff out play actions. In the 2015 SEC championship against Alabama, he reads the play action into a reverse and chases down the receiver on the sideline. Just like the previous plays, he takes a second at the snap to just watch what’s happening. His patience allows him to stand pat when the ball is faked to the running back. He then see’s the reverse and quickly reacts. His acceleration allows him to break to the sideline fist and make a tackle for minimal gain.

Davis made a name for himself making quick reads from the linebacker position, and breaking up plays before they could truly get going. It’s a skill vital to a middle linebacker in todays NFL, and allows him to serve the same role DeAndre Levy did on the Lions previously. This was not always the case though, as we will see later.

Instincts fail Davis at times, though. Sometimes he isn’t as patient as he should be reading a play, and makes costly, embarrassing, errors.

On this play against LSU in 2015, Davis tries to make a similar play to the one he made against Ole Miss above. He tries to shoot the gap at the goal line and stuff the runner in the backfield. Fournette beats him to the spot, though, and waltz’s around the corner for the easy touchdown. If Davis had instead taken a step back then treaded towards his left he would meet Fournette at the goal line. Trying to take down Fournette at the goal line is tough, but it’s better then letting him walk by you for an easy score.

His struggles against LSU didn’t end there. He fails to sniff out a screen on this play and ends up in no man’s land.

Davis reads the screen, and positions himself well. There are blockers in front of him, though, so he guesses which way the runner will go. He goes the wrong way and get stuck on the wrong side of the play. If he had stayed in position he could have stopped the play for medium gain. Instead LSU got by Florida’s first defender and the rest of the defense had clean up the play.

The one benefit from Davis’s move, though, was it kept the ball carrier away from the side line. He cut off the corner and forced him towards the inside.

Davis’s tendency to sometimes get to far ahead of a play really hurts on play action. On this play against UMass, he gets a clear run into the backfield, and the quarterback. He falls for the play action and decks the empty-handed running back while the quarterback runs by him.

He times the snap perfectly and should have had an easy tackle for loss. His instincts fail him, though, and he makes an embarrassing error.

Play action is something Davis struggled with a lot during him time at Florida. He tries to over anticipate plays, and finds himself turned around chasing a ghost while the play continues behind him.

Davis has a knack for over committing. His mistakes on play action plays are not the only times over commitment burns him.  His issues with over anticipation also lead to him whiffing on tackles. He will chase down a runner at full speed, then get his ankles broken trying to make a tackle.

Against UMass last season, he was juked out by the Minutemen’s QB, and allowed a preventable touchdown.

Davis knows where the QB is running, and tries to beat him to the spot. The UMass QB sees him coming and hesitates. The small hesitation sends Davis flying by and the Gators give up a touchdown.

Against Alabama in the 2015 SEC title game, he misses out on a sack due to an over commitment.

The play breaks down and Davis manages to chase down the quarterback. That should have been a sack for a huge loss, but instead Davis is left grasping the air. Luckily, his teammates cover him and his error only costed Florida five yards.

Still, there is no reason for him to miss the tackle.

Davis struggled with open field tackles against Ole Miss in 2015 as well.

Neither of these misses were that costly, in the second one he still technically made the tackle. But the Lions play Aaron Rodgers twice a year. Rodgers will make a team pay for whiffing on sacks.

Both issues are coachable so Lions fans should not have too much to worry about surrounding their new first round linebacker entering the season.

The key to everything Davis does, whether it’s the good like stuffing an RB and the goal line or the bad, like bursting into the backfield to tackle the wrong guy, is his speed.

Davis fly’s around the defensive backfield to make plays all around the field.

On this play against Alabama he partially redeems himself. Davis quickly closes on the quarterback as he leaves the pocket. He gets into the backfield fast when the play breaks down and doesn’t make any errors tackling the quarterback. The play is ruled an incompletion as the ball was quickly thrown out of bounds, but his chase stopped the Tide from converting on an easy check down.

Against Vanderbilt he again forced an incompletion with his blazing speed into the backfield.

He erupts through the line after the snap. Davis shoves off a blocker in the backfield then goes full steam ahead towards the quarterback. He forces a bad pass and an incompletion despite still being a few yards away. Just his speed and presence his scary for an opposing quarterback.

All year his speed was the most important factor to his game, he was everywhere at once and always happened to be at the right place at the right time. He had the ability to take a second to scan a play because he knew he was fast enough to get to the spot he needed to be.

Davis is an exciting prospect for the Lions and will fill their biggest need this season. He makes a few errors at times, but he is a pro ready player with potential to hold down the middle linebacker spot for years down the line.

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