College QB Prospects – Part I: Allen vs. Darnold

College QB Prospects – Part I: Allen vs. Darnold

The final year before a quarterback enters the NFL draft is the most crucial. Scouts will pull tape from previous years but, in a league that is all about the last game, the emphasis is severely weighted towards the last year on campus.

In 2010, Cam Newton stormed onto the scene at Auburn riding a sensational season to the first pick in the 2011 draft. This honorable distinction was earned in large part due to his on-field prowess, but the door was opened by Andrew Luck’s decision to return to Stanford for his junior season. Luck was a lock to be the Panthers selection following a 2-14 season in 2010. Electing to return to college, Luck was made the first pick the following year by a tanking Indianapolis Colts organization.

A pair of University of Southern California quarterbacks weren’t as fortunate as Luck. In 2005, Matt Leinart was coming off a Heisman Trophy winning-season, a National Championship and entered the off-season as the favorite to be the first pick in the draft ahead of Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers. Choosing to return to school, Leinart fell to the 11th pick of the 2006 NFL Draft costing him millions in the process.

Falling 10 spots is bad, but fellow Trojan, Matt Barkley, fell from sure-fire first round pick all the way to the fourth round of the 2013 draft going from a multi-million-dollar contract and solidified starting gig to a career backup with a contract paying him six figures annually.

Clearly eligibility doesn’t coincide with declaring for the NFL. Five months shy of making that all-important decision, these are the top quarterbacks to keep an eye on in the 2017 college football season.

*all player measurements are taken from the school’s athletic website

#17 Josh Allen – Wyoming

6-foot-5, 233 pounds

Biggest 2017 Test: 9/2 @ Iowa

 

Polished: Whomever drafts Josh Allen can open the entire playbook. His elite level arm talent, plus-athleticism, attention to detail and escape-ability generate a variety big plays. He can pull the football on a zone read and pick up yards with his legs. He can drive the ball to the boundary on deep outs and comebacks. He can throw down the seam with touch.

Allen doesn’t have Lamar Jackson speed, but he’s shifty enough to maneuver around defenders. He favors the right side when he escapes pressure and is at his most lethal from this position. He’s willing to drop his shoulder and has the frame to take the punishment the NFL offers.

With a natural feel for the rush, Allen can navigate around a crowded pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. Eye discipline is a strength as he shows the ability to hold defenders before snapping his head to his primary target just before the throw. Allen excels at shaking off potential sacks, resetting into a throwing position and he has a quick trigger. He doesn’t lose velocity when his arm angle is altered and can flip it 40 yards with a flick of the wrist.

Needs Work: His mechanics can be affected in adverse conditions. Against Nebraska, things didn’t go his way and he started forcing the issue by throwing off his back foot and trying to beat tight coverage too often. He will throw passes with both feet off the ground and, although he doesn’t need to be set to drive the ball, he did float some passes that were picked off.

Allen doesn’t have issues taking snaps from under center, but his three-step drop causes some accuracy issues. As he spends the majority of his time on boots and rollouts from under center, this is something that will get cleaned up with experience.

Potential Landing Spots: Top 3 picks of the draft. New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills.

2017 Preview Conclusion: Josh Allen going to go at the top of the draft. The combination of size, arm-talent and athleticism will cause general managers to salivate. He isn’t a completely polished project and doesn’t come from a power-five conference, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where his skill set doesn’t translate to the NFL. He will run whatever offense is laid in front of him with a variety of ways to torch opposing defenses.

The Good

Throwing on the move:

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Accuracy and touch:

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Arm strength:

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The run reel:

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Pocket Presence:

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Eye manipulation (holds the 2-deep safety to open the fade route):

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The Bad:

There’s not a lot. Two batted balls due to a low release point, one very poor decision when his team was getting handled by a Power 5 school and some bad mechanics on two GIFs.

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#14 Sam Darnold – USC

6-foot-4, 225 pounds

Biggest 2017 Test: 10/14 vs Utah

 

Polished: His arm-talent is what drew the buzz among GMs at this year’s combine despite the fact that Darnold wasn’t draft eligible. He can push the ball to the boundary from the far hash, rip it down the seam and jam it into a tight window against zone-coverage. His velocity and spin are certainly of the ilk of a first round quarterback.

Darnold has natural instincts for the game – he feels the rush and escapes pressure well. His anticipation is normally at an NFL level save for a few occasions.

He’s not an electrifying athlete, but he can scramble for some yardage. He’s a deadly thrower while on the move and can whip it from any platform. Moving left, moving right, throwing back against the grain, these are all natural commodities for Darnold.

Needs Work: The delivery is too long too often. He does have an innate ability to quickly get it out on occasion but that seems to happen more when he’s playing on instinct and not on-script. He rushes his mechanics and they often get sloppy. He drops the football too long on the wind-up and it causes his touch passes to float as well as some other (over linebacker/under safety, most notably.)

He makes a number of head scratching decisions where he doesn’t account for the defender. He hasn’t seen a lot of defensive variations only going into sophomore season, but he needs to spend more time in the film-room.

Potential Landing Spots: Top 3 picks of the draft. New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills.

2017 Preview Conclusion: It’s clear why he’s regarded as a potential first overall pick with arm-talent and natural instincts for the position. If he cleans up the couple of flaws in his game this season, there’s no reason to return to school – if not, he has two more years of eligibility after 2017.

 

The Good:

Quick Release:

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Escape Ability/On the Move:

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Extending Plays and Creating a Throwing Platform:

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Arm strength (NFL windows/patience to let routes develop):

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The Bad:

Poor Decisions:

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Poor Mechanics:

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Go to part II

@WingfieldNFL

 

2 Comments
  • Shaun Esfandiary
    Posted at 14:44h, 29 August Reply

    Well done.

    The kid is raw but he makes throws that I can’t recall anyone else making, outside of a young Elway. I am a big Cutler guy (people ask why in anger/confusion; I really don’t have an answer for them, ha) and he reminds me a little of Jay due to the gunslinger mentality. That being said, I was a big fan of Jake Locker coming out of Washington and we saw how that all turned out. Yeah, he was injury prone and didn’t have the desire I guess, but all the draftniks were worried about his accuracy issues/low completion percentage in college – and they were right as it never improved in his few years in the NFL. Any concern there with Josh and his 56% comp percentage? Disclaimer – I have only seen one Wyoming game (Against BYU in the bowl) and like 30 minutes of Youtube clips, so I could be totally off here.

    I will be watching all Wyoming games this year and look forward to more of your analysis.

  • College QB Prospects - Part II: Luke Falk and Josh Rosen - Third and 10
    Posted at 15:18h, 30 August Reply

    […] Go to part 1: Darnold vs. Allen […]

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