The NFL's future at quarterback won't come in the form of Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Louisville's Lamar Jackson.
Instead, a once-overlooked JUCO transfer at the University of Wyoming will have NFL scouts and decision-makers salivating over the next four to 16 months.
The Cowboys' Josh Allen fits the prototype. At 6'5" and 222 pounds with an elite arm, functional athleticism and experience in a pro-style system, Allen displays No. 1 overall potential.
"He's a big ol' kid with a big arm, and he's pretty athletic, too," said one AFC executive, per The MMQB's Albert Breer. "We gotta learn more about him, but the tools are there."
Considering the NFL is looking at a 2017 draft class filled with underclassmen who are developmental talents, Wyoming's redshirt sophomore could be the first quarterback selected in the 2017, '18 or '19 draft.
The NFL is so desperate for franchise signal-callers, it's prepared to anoint Trubisky its top prospect at the game's most important position after 13 collegiate starts and fewer than 600 pass attempts, per several mock drafts, including B/R's Matt Miller.
The North Carolina quarterback's emergence caused, according to one NFL evaluator, per The MMQB's Emily Kaplan, "the biggest mid-year scramble I've seen in a while."
Trubisky is one example. Kizer, Watson and Miami's Brad Kaaya are all intriguing yet unpolished prospects. As underclassmen, each could use another year of seasoning.
Allen has similar concerns as a one-year starter, yet his traits pop off the screen when one watches the talented gunslinger.
His performance against the BYU Cougars in the Poinsettia Bowl displayed the good and bad of the nation's most intriguing quarterback prospect.
The sophomore struggled to operate during a first-half downpour at Qualcomm Stadium. His second-half performance was much better. Allen completed 11 of 16 passes with a pair of touchdowns to cut his team's deficit to three points. However, the Cowboys fell short when the quarterback forced a pass into triple coverage.
This is the give-and-take associated with Allen. He can be spectacular for stretches and make throws other quarterbacks wouldn't even attempt. But he'll make mistakes by trying to do too much.
What's surprising about Allen's skyrocketing status is every major program overlooked the Firebaugh, California, native during the recruiting process.
Like this year's No. 2 overall pick, Carson Wentz, Allen proved to be a late bloomer. Physically, his body matured after high school when he added approximately 40 pounds.
His talent was evident at the prep level, though.
"He was doing things with a 6'3", 180-pound body that if he ever gets to 220, he's going to be the most dangerous QB on the planet. … I wasn't trying to sell [recruiters] anything. I was telling them what I actually believed he could do," said Allen's high school coach, Bill Magnusson, per the Casper Star-Tribune's Brandon Foster.
Allen grew up a multisport athlete. Unlike many of today's young signal-callers, he didn't attend every quarterback camp or seven-on-seven session. Instead, he pitched on his baseball team and guided the high school basketball squad as the starting point guard.
"In California, there's a quarterback circuit," Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen explained, per Foster. "And he was not a part of that."
Recruiting tends to feed on itself as teams swarm toward the hottest young talents. Plus, top programs expedite a quarterback's process. Young men who aren't considered elite recruits by their junior seasons often fall through the cracks as Allen did.
"The size that Josh Allen is right now, the size that makes him an NFL prototype guy, he didn't have going into his senior year (of high school)," former Wyoming assistant David Brown said of discovering Allen at the JUCO level, per the Fresno Bee's Marek Warszawski. "There was a significant difference."
As such, the growing signal-caller needed to spend a year at Reedley Community College before receiving two scholarship offers from FBS programs—Wyoming and Eastern Michigan.
"[Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl] looked at me right in the eye and said, 'Your son is going to be the face of my program for the next three years,'" Allen's father, Joel, said, per Warszawski. "It was such an emotional moment. My wife and I were in tears. How do you say no to that?"
As a redshirt freshman, Allen was expected to become the program's full-time starter until he broke his collarbone during the team's second contest. This year proved to be far more productive. The Cowboys improved from 2-10 to 8-6 with appearances in the Mountain West Championship Game and the Poinsettia Bowl. Allen threw for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns.
His stats aren't overwhelming, but quarterback evaluations are less about production and far more about transferable traits. What characteristics does the young man display to make him a viable starting option in the NFL? For Allen, his arm, mobility, experience and competitive nature all fall in his favor.
Certain quarterbacks are described as "easy throwers." This boils down to an ability to make all of the throws without limitations.
Allen is an easy thrower.
While his passes aren't on the same level as Michael Vick's flick-of-the-wrist rockets or the explosive throws coming out of Matthew Stafford's hand, Wyoming's quarterback shoots lasers courtesy of a compact delivery and over-the-top release.
Ty Wurth provided a snippet of Allen's cannon from the pocket:
What's more impressive about the above throw is Allen released the ball before the wide receiver cleared the underneath coverage. This provides a glimpse of his potential as an anticipatory passer.
Instances of the Wyoming signal-caller's throwing downfield on the run can be found as well. ESPN's Warren Sharp furnished video displaying Allen's ability to make a difficult throw even when flushed from the pocket.
"Probably the most impressive thing is the way he scrambles—keeps plays alive and then makes just unbelievable throws off the run from scramble situations," New Mexico head coach Bob Davie said, per Warszawski. "It really is impressive to watch."
Arm strength can be subjective. It's why NFL scouting personnel and front office executives prefer to see quarterbacks in person before making a final evaluation. They want to see how the ball comes out of the prospect's hand.
For Allen, it's clear the ball jumps out of his hand, and he can make the type of throws necessary for the NFL. This fact alone makes him one of the more intriguing prospects.
Everyone will hear the same cliche as the draft nears: "Arm strength is overrated." Yet it's still valued and more important than ever due to the speed in defensive secondaries. Passing windows close quickly. Accuracy and anticipation are vital, but arm strength provides a quarterback with more leeway even if he makes a mistake.
Allen is a point guard trapped in a forward's body. His previous experience running the court manifests on the gridiron.
He finished second on the team with 523 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
"You don't really expect a guy to put a move on you that's my size," Allen said, per Foster.
He's faster than a speeding defensive lineman with an arm more powerful than a cannon and can leap a defender in a single bound, as Wurth relayed:
Mobility isn't just the ability to gain yards on the ground. True mobility extends to pocket movement and creating when everything else breaks down. Allen displays both traits, yet he needs to walk the fine line between moving off his platform to extend a play and running at the first sign of trouble. It's a delicate balance many athletic quarterbacks struggle to achieve.
Allen showed the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage while moving, particularly to his right, via Wurth:
These types of highlights were common throughout the season. This is why it's easy to get excited about Allen's potential. His next step is to build an understanding that he has to stay in the pocket instead of creating.
He'll stand in the pocket and take shots from defensive linemen when delivering a pass, but he'll also take the easy way out if a running lane opens.
A quarterback's primary goal should be to keep his eyes downfield as long as possible and then get any available yards once a pass is no longer an option.
Wyoming doesn't deploy Allen like most collegiate quarterbacks.
Watson and Trubisky, for example, operate out of simplistic offenses where their teams can exploit their abilities as runners. Yes, Allen will run the football, and the zone read is sprinkled into the play-calling, but it's not a staple.
Instead, Wyoming's offense is a pro-style scheme from the same minds that gave the NFL Wentz.
Prior to his arrival in Laramie, Bohl started North Dakota State's recent string of championship success and recruited Wentz. Vigen shaped the Bison's offense as both Wentz and Brock Jensen's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Scouts who evaluated this year's No. 2 overall pick will find a lot of similarities in how the staff uses Allen.
Wyoming's offense isn't in shotgun 100 percent of the time. Instead, Allen operates from under center and is asked to make three-, five- and seven-step drops. The scheme does include spread concepts like smoke routes, jet sweeps and run-pass options, but everything is present for the NFL to evaluate.
While these are available for everyone to see, certain parts of the evaluation aren't.
There's a little Tom Brady in Allen. No, the young man isn't destined to become the NFL's greatest quarterback, but he carries a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder. It drives him after he received little interest from teams around major college football.
"It was very frustrating having coaches overlook you, and it still fuels me every day that multiple coaches have done that," Allen said, per Foster. "I come out every game with the same mentality: 'I don't like your team. You didn't recruit me.'"
The Brady 6 drive the four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Allen likely won't experience the same wait as Brady—a sixth-round pick—did on draft day, but he views himself as having been slighted because he wasn't considered a top quarterback coming out of high school.
His competitive nature extends to the field, where coaches have to take him out of the game when he shows any sign of injury.
"If he's limping or something, come game time he just seems to forget," said Alex Gutierrez—Allen's high school baseball coach and quarterbacks coach, per Foster. "He just loves to compete, and that's something that I wouldn't want anyone to take away from him in any way, because that's what makes him who he is."
Allen's competitiveness helped drive Wyoming's success after it won only 15 games during the previous four seasons. In 2016, the Cowboys bested a then-nationally ranked Boise State and even beat the San Diego State Aztecs in regular-season play before falling to them in the Mountain West Championship Game.
Whether it's football, baseball or basketball, Allen wants the ball in his hands.
With 1:34 remaining in the Poinsettia Bowl, the Cowboys had a chance to tie or win the contest during their final drive. Trailing 24-21, Allen made a bone-headed mistake by rolling to his right and throwing across his body 30 yards downfield into the waiting arms of BYU defensive back Kai Nacua.
What makes the mistake inexcusable is Allen wasn't cognizant of the situation. The interception came on first down. He didn't need to force anything, yet he did.
Allen is so talented that he got away with those types of throws more times than not. In a bowl setting, those bad habits came to the forefront and proved to be Wyoming's downfall.
He doesn't seem willing to give up on a play. As such, his decision-making can and should be questioned. He's only started one full season, and despite all of his physical ability, these types of mistakes can't manifest in crucial situations.
Furthermore, Allen can improve in other areas. Long-limbed quarterbacks are generally required to speed up their footwork as they prepare for the NFL. Allen isn't any different. Also, the type of progressions he's asked to make in the Cowboys' system need to happen at a more rapid pace.
For example, there are times when Allen sees a receiver break late, causing him to rush through his mechanics instead of showing the quick eyes necessary to become an elite passer. According to Pro Football Focus, Allen is ranked fourth-worst in average time from snap until release. His accuracy and ball placement can be drastically affected as a result.
A 56 completion percentage isn't good enough. Yet his potential is obvious.
"He's a sophomore and doesn't shave yet," Bohl said, per Foster. "There's something to be said for that. His trajectory looks really good."
A Big Decision Looms
Due to his problem areas, Allen's best recourse is a return to Laramie for polishing.
However, rumblings he's considering a jump to the professional ranks already started, per 104.7 FM Denver's Benjamin Allbright:
Allen's raw ability can't be denied. He owns college football's best arm, moves exceptionally well and possesses a drive that helped make Wyoming a winning program. These things will define him.
But the nuances in his game need improvement. If Allen does advance in these areas, he can overtake every other quarterback prospect to become the highest-selected signal-caller in the 2018 or '19 draft. He still has the potential to do so for the upcoming draft. However, the odds aren't in his favor after a poor ending to his sophomore campaign.
The NFL should be willing to wait to get its hands on the nation's best quarterback prospect.