Is Josh Allen's Offseason Improvement Enough to Solidify Spot as Draft's Top QB?

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 3, 2018

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Allen stands at the 15-yard line in Lucas Oil Field. He simulates a snap, takes a five-step drop and launches a nearly 70-yard bomb to Texas A&M's Christian Kirk. The pass is perfect—it spins with a tight spiral, has a perfect arc and lands over the shoulder of the streaking wide receiver. And in one throw, Allen woke up the sleepy and hungover scouts in Indianapolis.

Allen is an impressive prospect with a 6'5", 237-pound frame and the best arm many scouts (myself included) have ever seen, but he also completed just 56.2 percent of his passes over the last two seasons at Wyoming. Allen and his quarterback coach, Jordan Palmer, wanted to show his development in his footwork and ball placement at the combine—to build on the strong showing at the 2018 Senior Bowl.

In an eye-opening field workout, Allen did that. 

What were scouts looking for, you ask?

Many of Allen's misses occurred when he overstepped with his front foot—called over-striding—which throws off his balance and arm angle and causes the ball to sail. Allen showed up in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl with a cleaner step and improved accuracy. Through three days of practices and capping it off with a strong showing in the game, Allen's stock went up.

Fast-forward to the combine, and it's more of the same. Allen was sharp in drills, showing off not only a top-tier arm but also a clean, balanced, athletic base when throwing. Sure, he's passing in shorts against air, but for a prospect who so many criticized for poor foot mechanics, this matters.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

With top-tier quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen also looking good in drills (Sam Darnold chose not to throw), Allen needed to have a strong showing to keep himself in the conversation to be the top pick. He succeeded on the field Saturday and, according to multiple NFL scouts I spoke to this week, backed it up in private interviews.

Those who like Allen will see the progress from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the Senior Bowl and from then until now and be encouraged by his improved footwork. A former general manager told me once that the most important time of year for quarterback evaluation is January until late April—when teams get access to players via the all-star games and workouts. That's when teams get a chance to meet players, put them through mental exercises and vet their personalities. Allen checks those boxes.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen throws during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns, owners of the first and fourth picks overall, have to look long and hard at Allen as a perfect fit physically and mentally in the AFC North. If general manager John Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson believe the progress Allen has already made will carry over to the league, he has to be in the running for the top quarterback spot—or at the very least an option with the fourth pick should they go in a different direction at No. 1.

It's too early to say Allen has solidified himself as the top passer—there are still almost two months to go until the draft—but he can't be discounted as a possibility to leap the other top quarterbacks in this class if evaluators treat the predraft process as fluid. No quarterback has shown better improvement from the end of the season until now. That might be enough for the Browns to bet on the upside of the 21-year-old quarterback and make him the first chosen in this year's draft.

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