The 2016 Senior Bowl, in all of its fanfare, is an amazing and complicated resource for NFL scouts to evaluate prospects. As is true throughout the process, evaluating quarterbacks is especially unique, where every measurable is thoroughly discussed, and every throw is heavily scrutinized.
For Brandon Allen, the NFL draft process is still in its infancy. But after just a few short days in Mobile, Alabama, NFL teams have already learned so much about the Arkansas quarterback, both good and bad.
After starting 37 of Arkansas’s last 38 games and finishing his senior season with a 30-touchdown and eight-interception performance, Allen’s college career can be looked back on with optimism for an NFL future.
A strong-armed passer who helmed an offense that worked through its running game, play-action passing and utilizing his tight end (Hunter Henry) and running back (Alex Collins) in the passing game, Allen’s college film offers plenty for NFL teams to extract NFL readiness and tools to further develop at the pro level.
But scouting quarterbacks for many NFL evaluators start off as a meeting of thresholds. Across the NFL scouting industry, there are a handful of key measurable minimums that prospects need to meet to prevent size from harming their draft value. For quarterbacks, there are two key numbers: height, in which 6’2" is generally the preferred minimum and hand size, in which 9 ½" is the general threshold.
Arkansas’s Brandon Allen didn’t meet either one of those thresholds at the 2016 Senior Bowl weigh-ins. Allen measured in at 6’1 ½" tall, the second-shortest quarterback in Mobile, and with 8 ½-inch hands, he was the smallest of any passer in the three major all-star games.
Hand size has become a buzzword in the scouting industry, especially each year around Senior Bowl week. And while college team fans and supporters of a prospect's college career will try to dismiss it, hand size can be a key indicator of a quarterback’s ability to gather the ball off the snap quickly, control it throughout their release and possess overall ball security at a position that touches the ball on each and every play.
For Brandon Allen, it’ll be a question he’ll have to answer to NFL teams throughout the process, and even then, it might not be enough to quell concerns from decision-makers when it comes time to finalize their draft boards.
But on film, Allen's hand size is simply not a problem. Allen received his fair share of quick snap-to-throw situations, spun a consistently tight pass with ample velocity and didn’t have fumble issues at Arkansas. Allen seems ready to prove to NFL teams that his hand size won’t be an issue.
“I’ve never had a problem during my college career,” Allen stated in an interview during the Senior Bowl’s annual Media Night. “I think part of that is my baseball background. Growing up, I always worked on grip strength for both baseball and football. I’ve never had an issue with fumbling or anything throughout my career, and I think I can actually throw tighter passes and control the ball better than most quarterbacks with bigger hands here [at the Senior Bowl]."
Based off just a day of practice, Allen appears to be living up to that. On a South roster that features North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Alabama’s Jacob Coker, Allen clearly displayed the most velocity of any of the quarterbacks. He spun the most consistently tight passes and finished quick throws with plus placement and control throughout practice.
While developing chemistry with receivers in a few snaps is next to impossible, Allen seemed to be the most comfortable of the four passers in anticipating route breaks and delivering high-velocity yet catchable passes to his weeklong teammates.
Building off a successful first day, Allen should continue to impress as the week progresses. Along with having the best velocity of the group, Allen appears to be the most natural passer of the group, adjusting his mechanics for different types of throws and working off the move effectively. He does possess a slightly sidearm release from the pocket, something scouts will have to determine if that’s a detriment at all or, more importantly, if he uses that to better control the ball in his release.
Like in college, Allen should display efficiency in his placement on interior and quicker outside throws, while really taking advantage in team drills and on game day with vertically stretching opportunities. He’ll be one of the favorites to finish the Senior Bowl as game MVP, especially considering how quickly he’s become comfortable with the receivers on the South roster.
Height and hand size will be the two-buzzword phrases that Allen will be battling for the next three-and-a-half months. And to make matters worse, there aren’t a whole lot of quarterbacks with smaller hands who haven’t had fumbling problems to some extent in the NFL.
But in today’s NFL, quarterbacks who have ample velocity and can step in early in their career and play efficiently have become highly valued. Unlike quarterbacks such as Dak Prescott and Jacoby Brissett, Allen doesn’t need more time to develop before an NFL team can feel comfortable throwing him into the fire.
Allen's NFL readiness is a huge plus in a draft class in which most of the top passers appear to need a full year before any team can genuinely trust them to lead its offense.
Brandon Allen didn’t meet the measurable thresholds that NFL teams covet, but in a quarterback-driven league where adequacy at the position has begun to grow few and far between, Allen can provide that and more. His performance as a passer during the process, at the NFL Scouting Combine and in film reviews for NFL teams should build toward a mid-round draft selection.
Compared to some of the other quarterbacks in Mobile, Allen is playing a bit of catch-up, recouping his draft value on the field rather than the measuring stick. It only takes one NFL team to overlook measurable numbers and give Allen a chance to be his team’s key backup quarterback and allow him to develop.
A strong Senior Bowl performance could do wonders to ease decision-makers’ concerns moving forward and land him as an early to mid-round drafted quarterback.