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Josh Allen Is His Own Hype Man, and Also the Most Polarizing Player in the 2018 NFL Draft

On his Senior Bowl press tour, the Wyoming quarterback has been building himself up while his stats have been tearing him down

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season is very nearly over, and the last chance to prevent the Patriots from winning yet another Super Bowl is just around the corner. But first comes a weekend without competitive NFL action, when the only football on the schedule — besides an exhibition game that no one cares about — is the Senior Bowl. That means that this weekend will mark the beginning of NFL draft season, or, as it will soon come to be known, Josh Allen argument season.

Allen has emerged as the most polarizing prospect in the 2018 draft class. On the same day that ESPN’s Mel Kiper slotted Allen as his top overall pick in a mock draft, Pro Football Focus’s Steve Palazzolo didn’t even project Allen being taken in the first round. Allen is either a strong-armed, mobile gunslinger with all the potential in the world, or a mediocre, inaccurate passer who won’t be able to overcome his drawbacks. It just depends on which draftnik you ask.

The Wyoming senior doesn’t just have one of the strongest arms in this upcoming draft — he has one of the strongest arms in recent draft history. He can flick the football downfield without engaging his lower body at all:

He can make textbook NFL throws, like this out route:

And he’s mobile enough to keep plays alive and make magic happen:

But at Wyoming those moments often amounted to just that — moments. In his two seasons as the starter in Laramie, Allen was a monument to inconsistency. All too often, he missed wide-open targets:

I mean, wide open:

This type of eye-popping inaccuracy was reflected in Allen’s overall stats. In his final season, he completed only 56.3 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns, six interceptions, and just 6.7 yards per attempt. Though no one should scout quarterbacks by looking at box scores alone, Allen’s passer rating (127.8) and adjusted QBR (52.6) last season were lower than those of Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph, and Luke Falk — the other quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class who are projected to be taken in the first few rounds. His accuracy has been an issue, even in Senior Bowl practices:

But as Allen told Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan this week, “stats are for losers.” The one thing Allen doesn’t lack, after his cannon for an arm, is confidence. He continued: “While at Wyoming, we won games and I definitely think that’s how quarterbacks are judged in the NFL.” Allen went 16–9 in his last two seasons at Wyoming and didn’t win a single game of much importance. But the dude’s Senior Bowl press tour has been a delight.

In that same interview, Allen said he has “qualities that Aaron Rodgers has,” and that at Wyoming, “I had to put everybody on my back.” He compared his gunslinger mentality to Brett Favre’s and said he wants “to be the guy that turns around the Cleveland Browns.”

That last quote was in response to a question every quarterback in the draft will be asked over the next few months, as Cleveland holds the first and fourth picks in 2018. Allen’s answer wouldn’t be a story, except that the Browns just completed the worst two-year stretch in NFL history and retained the head coach who yanked rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in and out of the lineup and questioned whether his then-21-year-old passer “will ever get it.” How the top quarterback prospects feel about the Browns will be particularly scrutinized since Rosen implied in December that he may not want to play in Cleveland, saying that he’d “rather be a lower pick at the right team than higher at the wrong team.”

Rosen may very well emerge as a safer and higher pick than Allen, though it’s hard to make sense of a crowded quarterback field with the draft still so far out. But right now, no one other than Mayfield can match Allen’s fearlessness. He’ll have a chance to prove himself on the field at Saturday’s Senior Bowl — then it will be off to the combine, pro days, and a million other opportunities to deliver more ear-popping quotes touting his own abilities and self-confidence before April’s draft. I can’t wait.